International Journal for Intersectional Feminist Studies, Volume 4, Issue 1 & 2, September 2018, ISSN
Gayle Kimball. Brave: Young Women’s Global Revolution (in two volumes, Vol. 1: Global Themes & Vol. 2: Regional Activism). [Equality Press], 2017. With introduction, b/w photographs and notes. x, 373 pp & xiv, 643 pp.
Finally, we hear the authentic voices of girls and young women from around the globe, from the traditional to the radical. Encompassing interviews and fieldwork from 88 countries, sociologist Gayle Kimball brings together over a decade of original research on female youth. Such research is sorely lacking, as most other works of this kind are regional and/or discuss youth without including their voices. Kimball goes beyond standardized internet surveys of middle-class youth, with in-depth video interviews available on the companion blog, https://globalyouthbook.wordpress.com, of young women from the favelas of Brazil to the upper-class in Saudi Arabia. Some of the interviews and contacts went on for over a decade as the young women moved into adulthood, and Kimball traveled for much of the research.
A monumental piece of research and analysis from Feminist Standpoint Theory, Kimball includes and compares other notable surveys of youth and women’s issues in the two volumes. Don’t expect to hear only feminist voices—traditional young women speak clearly in these pages as well. A good history of feminism and what it means today to young women is part of the essential reading in Brave. Both volumes discuss the impact of neo-liberal policies, war, non-violent resistance, and upheavals.
Consumerism and media are addressed in depth, as well as organizing in the Internet Age. Discussion questions are included following each chapter and the endnotes are a rich source of further information.
While there is heavy coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings, the two works go far beyond the Middle East to report on women making change in other countries (Volume 2, Regional Activism, covers The West, Latin America, Africa, MENA, Russia, China, and India).
This work includes many references to important figures in various movements, related source materials, and films. It could be improved with the addition of an index, bibliography, and filmography for easier access and further research. A link to the core survey questions and most frequent answers is included.
International Journal for Intersectional Feminist Studies, Volume 4, Issue 1 & 2, September 2018, ISSN
Great reading for anyone interested in what girls and young women really think politically. Especially useful for courses in Women’s Studies, Youth Studies, Girl Studies, Political Science, and Global Studies, this is a record of the otherwise unnamed young women who have changed our century.
NOTE: This work is part of a series of books based on the longitudinal international survey work of Dr. Kimball. Other books in the series include Ageism in Youth Studies: Generation Maligned (Cambridge Scholars, 2017); How Global Youth Values Will Transform Our Future (Cambridge Scholars, 2018); Resist! Goals and Tactics for Changemakers (forthcoming, 2018); and Democracy Uprisings Led by Global Youth (forthcoming).
Dr. Kimball welcomes you to critique upcoming drafts. Contact the author at GKimball@csuchico.edu
Morgan Brynnan is a mother, librarian, and unabashed feminist living in the United States. With activist roots going back to the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice at The Seneca Army Depot and ACT-UP, she writes from a life lived fully. Currently, she reads and writes on women and youth issues while raising her eleven year old daughter in a small Northern California farming town. She holds degrees in Librarianship, Spanish, and in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. You can reach her via email at email@example.com.
Morgan Brynnan, 2018
2018, by Morgan Brynnan. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0
“Turkey’s directorate of religious affairs has declared that Islamic law allows girls to marry at age 9, prompting outrage on social media and calls for a parliamentary inquiry from the country’s main opposition party. The Diyanet, a government body that employs all of the country’s imams, provides Quranic training for children, and drafts weekly sermons that are delivered at the country’s 85,000 mosques, had issued a statement on its website claiming that Islamic law dictates that adolescence begins for girls at age 9 — and that girls who had reached the age of adolescence had the right to marry.
The Diyanet has claimed that its intention was merely to define a contentious point of Islamic law and that the declaration would not change the country’s minimum age of marriage — typically 17 years of age, although exceptions can be granted for those who are age 16. Secular critics, however, have suggested that the move is clearly intended to encourage child marriage by pointing to the widespread use of unofficial religious weddings that often involve underage participants, the recent passage of a law that allows Muslim clerics to conduct civil marriages, and the grim reality that an estimated third of all legal marriages in the country already involve girls under the age of 18.”
An HBO series about four young women several years out of college, inspired by Sex in the City (1998 to 2004), Girls (began in 2012) strengthens the narcissistic side of the debate, a devolution away from the confidence and humor of the older friends show. (Another spin off of Sex in the City by the same writer was a prequel launched in 2012 called The Carrie Diaries about the fashionable star as a high school student in the early 1980s.) The creator and writer of Girls and lead actor, Lena Dunham, stated in an NPR radio interview, “each character is a piece of me or someone close to me.”[i] Dunham described the character she plays as a brat who usually makes the wrong decisions, as when Hannah bombs a job interview by making a joke that the rape rate went up after the interviewer entered his university and drinks opium tea and then passes out while trying to convince her parents to continue supporting her two years after graduation. The narcissistic wrong decisions continue in Season 3 when Hannah gets fired from a writing job at GQ magazine and springs news on Adam just before his Broadway debut as an actor that she may leave NYC, Shoshanna fails a college class so she can’t graduate, Marnie has sex with Shoshanna’s ex-boyfriend (who Shoshanna wants back) and flirts with a musician who is in a committed relationship. Hannah says the last four years of her life were “a total wash.” More examples of self-absorbed and foolish characters from Girls are on the book website.[ii]
Another HBO series that began in 2014 features equally self-involved men about the same age as Girls. Three techie geeks live in Silicon Valley in the “Hacker Hostel” home of a more experienced app creator, Erlich, who gets 10% of what his tenants sell. Jared, another partner in their startup Pied Piper lives elsewhere. Erlich is arrogant and insulting. The guys are socially awkward, struggle with masculinity, amazed if a dozen girls show up at a party and that they always end up together at one side of the room. Only one of them has a girlfriend. Richard programmed the algorithm that created Pied Piper; he has anxiety attacks and vomits. One woman is an assistant to her boss, but we don’t see other employed women. Youth is valued: the guys call in a high school boy to help them with their cloud technology. He scornfully asks how old Richard is, as if 25 if over the hill. The teen relies on the ADHD drug Adderall to stay alert, and says half the kids in Palo Alto are similar. To keep him going, Erlich threatens to kill a boy’s mother unless he gets six pills and he complies. Another value is “disruption,” the theme of a conference on the show. Shows are available online.[iii]
A similar focus on foolish buddies who have recently graduated from college, a popular Indian film called Dill Chatham Hay (2001) tells the story of their relationships with each other and with the women in their life. Twelve years later, some Indian Speak Out students mentioned to me they wanted to change their Chita Hay attitude, meaning being too carefree and irresponsible. The three friends live with their wealthy parents in Mumbai and are respectful to elders. The most sensitive of the guys, painter Siddhartha falls in love with Tara, an older divorced alcoholic woman, although it’s impossible to show their love because of their families. She tells him, “The trouble with your generation is they think anything is possible.”
In the usual Bollywood style the friends dance with lots of hip trusts and sing: “We are unaware of fear” and “Our paths are full of glory” as they reach for the stars. In a more realistic vein, the lyrics also note, “Everyone seems to be lost,” and “We’re a little crazy.” Also typical of Bollywood films, we don’t see any physical contact between men and women, but the guys hug each other. Akashi limits his romances to two weeks because he doesn’t believe in love—until he did fall in love but risked losing her to another man because of his reluctance to act. Samper is foolishly romantic, often falling in love as with a Western girl who robs him while the guys are on vacation in Goa. He next falls in love with a girl his parents introduce him to for an arranged marriage. The pair initially agreed they wanted a love marriage and were not going to have an arranged marriage to each other. After Tara dies of liver failure, Sid meets a woman at a Goa reunion two years later and all three guys are shown eating in a restaurant with their girlfriends, presumably ready to begin responsible adult life.
The US and Indian film characters illustrate Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett’s description of a new emerging life stage in between adolescence and adulthood, as when Dunham said about her Girls characters, “There’s no such thing as age-appropriate behavior.” When Jenna got married, Hannah asked her, “Do you feel like a real adult now?” Like the character she plays, Dunham is dependent on her parents—living with them half the time. Another character, Ray, observed, “its not adult life if your parents still pay for your Blackberry.”
In 2005 and 2006, Jessica Taft interviewed a total of 75 girls in Vancouver (British Columbia), San Francisco, Mexico City, Caracas and Buenos Aires. They consider themselves leftist activists, seeing the global struggle against neoliberalism as the background for their work. Some of them participated in “pink blocs” at global protests, starting with demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank in Prague in 2000. Queer youth are visible in a “silver bloc.” Thousands of high school students walked out of classes around the world in 2003 to protest the US invasion of Iraq. [i] Taft found that Latin American girls are more aware of this kind of history of youth activism while North Americans tended to be unaware of a tradition of youth activism.
Most of the girls focus on local issues, including school governance. Taft reports that her interviewees identify as girl activists, seeing themselves as different from adults in their organizing, and often critical of adults who either try to dominate them, patronize them, or ignore them in “adultism.” Many of the girls organize their activism without adult involvement. Like the activists interviewed in Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas (2013), the girls don’t want to be treated as future leaders but as equal partners. They also see themselves as different than their male peers, who may try to dominate discussions, not be good listeners, and aren’t as interested in creating group bonding and fun. The common pattern in girls’ organizing is they favor horizontal organizing, positive and optimistic feeling in their groups, and emphasize ongoing learning and discovery. Their groups often provide them with a network of friendship and support especially when other girls are not interested in activism. Consumer media portrays the ideal girl as loving to shop, her identity expressed by being fashionista. The “can-do” girl in the “treacherous neoliberal terrain of the new girlhoods,” is an individual achiever.[ii] In contrast, Taft’s interviewees work together to create social change and express their style with Che Guevara T-shirts and political music.