It's a refrain we're sick and tired of hearing: Feminism doesn't speak to young women. Girls just aren't interested in feminism. Self-proclaimed feminists lament it; non-feminists think it proves that feminism is not only unimportant, but outdated. This simplification of the concerns of girls may make for a good sound bite, but it begs for some serious examination.
The fact is, young women are interested in feminism—or, if not in "feminism" as it has been defined to them, certainly in being able to move in the teen world free of gender-based judgments and restraints. Girls like Ariel Schrag and Ariel Fox, baby dyke cartoonist and budding entrepreneur, respectively, show through their own words and actions, as well as the success of each of their endeavors, that those who doubt feminism's relevance to the young just aren't looking in the right places (see pages 10 and 44).
Puberty sucks, as any of us who've been there know all too well, and it's a time when even a little dose of female-powered inspiration goes a long way. Pubescence and adolescence are the years when girls most need feminism's support—as if we haven't heard enough about the falling self-esteem and slowed academic progress that can be as much a part of a girl's growing up as her first period. But it doesn't have to be that way. Feminism—in the form of girl-positive media, high-achieving and happy-to-be-female role models, and honest explorations of what gender can mean in young women's lives—can be a vital force for both social change and personal comfort. Sources of all these may be way too few and far between, but they can help girls realize that they matter, and help give them the tools to realize why sometimes they think they don't. (By the way, this works at any age.)
So go out and pick up a book by Norma Klein (see page 27) or Nancy Garden (see page 15), or a cd-rom from Theresa Duncan (see page 40). Find the voices that encourage you, that echo your own thoughts, that make you realize you're normal after all. Then pass them along to a 12-year-old in your life. —The Editors