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Young Writers Project: I Need Feminism

Credit, Susan Reid, Young Writers Project
Emma Bauer, a 15-year-old student from Strafford, writes about feminism and her experiences growing up as a girl.

Why I Need Feminism
By Emma Bauer, Age 15, Strafford, VT

I am a 15-year-old girl, and I am constantly in danger because of it. I live in a world where my gender defines me, even though it shouldn't. My gender defines what opportunities I get in life. My gender defines what schools I get into, what profession I can have, how much I get paid, what I can wear to school, what times I can be by myself and not get attacked, how I need to look, how I'm expected to talk, how I'm expected to behave, how many sexual partners I'm "allowed" to have, how much I'm able to speak up for myself.    
   And that makes me angry.
   I live in a world where every single aspect of my life must be catered to the expectations of the male gender. I live in a world where I will always be pigeon-holed into a ridiculous double-standard. I live in a world where if I even say one word about this, there will always be someone there who disapproves of what I say.
   There will always be someone there who insists that there is nothing wrong with the world that I live in, yet even the fact that they are saying that continues the horrible sexism that exists.
   I would do anything to change that.
   Teenage girls, especially, live in a world where they can't do anything right. If they decide to do anything, there's always going to be some stereotype that counts against them that makes them feel like they shouldn't make the decision that they really want to do for their own enjoyment. There will always be at least three people for every teenage girl that pops into their mind that creates a fear in them like no other that makes them want to give up.
   That is not okay.
   In order to get any sort of confidence in themselves, teenage girls need to be perfect. They need to have perfect hair all the time. They need to have perfectly straight and white teeth. Their makeup needs to be perfect. They need to have perfect eyebrows. They need to have a perfectly flat stomach. They need to have perfectly smooth skin.
   They need to dress perfectly. They need to have perfect legs, thigh gap and all. They can't have any imperfections anywhere on their body, and if they do, they will focus only on that, and it makes their confidence in themselves implode.
While I'm on that subject, another thing: for some reason, it's not considered okay for teenage girls to have confidence in themselves, because "it's not attractive."
   If a teenage girl were to have confidence in herself, she would be too forward, too slutty, too demanding.
   It's not considered okay for teenage girls to not have sex with anyone, because they'll be a prude. It's not considered okay for teenage girls to have sex with anyone, because they'll be a slut.  
   It's not considered okay for a teenage girl to like wearing pretty dresses and makeup, because they'll be too girly.
   It's not considered okay for teenage girls to only like wearing pants and not care about their appearance, because then they'll be too butch, too masculine.
   Girls can't be girly, and girls can't be like guys.
    What are we supposed to be?
   Teenage girls can't be smart because it's too intimidating for guys, like if we are superior to them in any way, then the whole world will collapse in on itself.
   Every single standard that teenage girls have to follow is based on teenage boys: what we wear, how we talk, how much we talk, what we eat, how much we eat, what activities we do, what interests we have, and most especially what we look like.
   Boys have a privilege so deeply etched into our society that no one seems to notice anymore.
   When I get dressed every day for school, I need to think about dress code. At the surface, a dress code seems like a good idea: let's make it so no student wears anything inappropriate. Great idea, right?
   Dig a little deeper: wrong! Dress codes are a basic example of male privilege.
   You may say this is ridiculous. Boys have to follow dress codes too, after all. But really, they don't affect them.
   It is so much simpler for a guy to follow a dress code, and even when he doesn't follow it, he has much less of a chance to be dress-coded for it.
   Girls, on the other hand, have it much more difficult. You need to cover everywhere: no butts, no breasts, even no shoulders. I can get dress-coded just because my bra straps are showing, even though it's a strip of fabric, just because it might be distracting for boys.
   Here's where we really get into the thick of it.
   Girls need to be taken out of class because of dress code, so the boys aren't distracted. Let reiterate that last part: so the boys aren't distracted.
   Since when was it decided that a guy's education was more important than mine?
   Since when was it decided that the way I present my body to the world decides just how much I get to further my education that day?
   Since when was it decided that these standards are more than acceptable in today's society?
   Male privilege is so blatantly obvious everywhere that you barely have to look for it. And yet, whenever you call it out, someone is always there to sweep it under the rug.
   You ask me what I would advocate for if I could, and women's rights is what I'm going to answer.
I'm only 15 years old, and yet I can already feel the pressure of the tight box that I'm going to be pushed into for the rest of my life.
   I'm not going to be paid the same as the rest of my male counterparts in my career. When applying for a job, a male much less experienced than me will get the job, just because he is a male. When I go out, I need to be careful with what I wear, because I might get raped, and if I do, the only thing that will explain it is how I dress, not the behavior of the man who raped me. When I go out, I need to lock my car doors as soon as I get in, and drive away quickly, because otherwise I will get abducted and sold as a sex slave.
   When I advocate for my rights, I need to be careful with what I say, because if I say something upsetting, it might get me assaulted.
   And it's not just me. Women everywhere need to fear for their safety every day because of their gender. Women in the Middle East are being married to their rapists because they have no choice in the matter. Women in many countries still can't even vote. Hispanic women are marginalized. African-American women are marginalized. Asian women are marginalized.
Asexual women are being raped daily so that they will "learn" to like sex. Gay women are being fetishised and disrespected. Trans women are assaulted daily, and no one says anything about it.
   Every single woman in this world deserves more respect and privilege and rights than she will get, and that's what I will advocate for until the day I die. Feminism is needed in this world, and no one seems to see it. Male privilege is everywhere, and yet no one seems to see it.
   I am entering a future that everyone seems to say is bright, and yet I am afraid, because I am a woman. That needs to change. We need more activism for women's rights, and that is the truth.

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