My experience working in public high schools has caused me to shake my head in dismay and declare that feminism is dead. I've seen too many girls who wear skirts so short their rear ends hang out and blouses whose necklines dart precariously toward their belly buttons. I've also known teen girls whose entire lives seem to revolve around their boyfriends, and when their relationships end, they trot like lemmings to the next guy who will have them.
Fortunately, not all girls are like that. Many of them fly under the radar because their lives are not sensationalized and they actually have self respect. Recently I had the pleasure of doing an email interview with one of them, 12-year-old Alyssa Dodd, the daughter of one of my very dear friends. Here is our exchange, my questions in bold and hers in regular font:
Based on what your mother has told me, conversations with you, and your online presence, you seem to be very interested in feminism. So I was wondering, what is your impression of feminism as a twelve year old? In other words, what does feminism mean to you?
To me, feminism is fighting for female human rights. No matter what skin color, sexual interests, or religion a person has.
Why do you think that females need someone to fight for them? Do you see examples in your own life (or in other places) where females' rights are compromised (i.e. abused)?
I think every female should fight for herself, but not all women think they need to. I do see examples in my life where women are oppressed. For example, a friend of mine who is a girl, wanted to help a teacher move some desks, but the teacher wouldn’t let her and chose boys. She is actually bigger and stronger than the boys chosen.
In 5th grade, the teachers took all the girls in my class aside and told them that they were causing problems by being so dramatic and that the boys never caused similar problems, which was not true.
What has influenced your views on feminism?
My main influences on my views of feminism are my mom and social media. I follow people on Instagram who share my interests and inspire me and I talk about everything with my mom.
What are your mother's views on feminism? How has she influenced your views?
She thinks girls shouldn’t have to prove themselves and that they should get the same respect boys do.
She has taught me a lot about sexism and what to do about it.
What do you see in social media regarding feminism?
I see all kinds of things on social media, things against racism, sexism, self-harm, beauty standards and more things.
What do your peers (your friends and classmates) think about feminism?
My peers strongly disagree with feminism. Mostly because they think some of it is against the bible.
In what ways do your peers think that feminism is against the Bible? Do you agree that it is against the Bible?
They think that feminism is against the bible because it also regards gay rights. I do not think that feminism is against the bible, because the bible also says to love all people, not hate and disrespect them.
What do your peers think about your ideas on feminism?
My peers do not like my ideas of feminism, mostly because they believe it is a movement for gay people’s rights too.
Why do they associate feminism with gay rights? I don't get it.
The reason they associate it with feminism is because it is for all women, not just straight women.
Do you think feminism is also a movement for gay rights?
I think a small part of feminism is also gay rights, but feminism is made up of a lot of things.
Why are they against gay rights?
I honestly think that the reason they are against gay rights is because they want to feel [like they are] better than other people.
How do you feel that your views on feminism might influence your future, such as your social life, your relationships, your career choices, and your life choices in general?
I want to be a powerful woman when I get older. I plan on becoming a lawyer. And I do not want to marry.
Thanks, Alyssa, for the interview!
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Have you ever seen that tv show about people who hoard the oddest, most random things? Their houses are so full, you can't even see the floor. Boxes and piles of junk are stacked all over the place. Trash is accumulating and slowing being turned into coal under mountains of garbage, kittens are being fossilized in the briefest nooks and crannies, and crumbs are attracting complete civilizations of insects. And you look at those places, and you wonder to yourself, where would you even start cleaning?
Life is like that, really. Stacks and stacks of boxes to be unpacked, sorted, sweated over. Trash to be picked up and thrown out. Order to be made out of chaos. The truth is that if you want to have a happy house, a clean, well-ordered house, the home-sweet-home of your most fervent dreams, then you're going to have to put your back into it, you're going to have to burden yourself with the task, drip salt water and scowls over it, put time into it again and again and again...until finally, somehow you've reached that shiny, happy place you've pinned your star onto. Yes, dreams take hard work.
That's the thing that people don't seem to get. Yes, they might say, I'm really into this, I'm willing to pour my life into accomplishing my dreams. Their eyes are on fire because this time, this time, will be different, this time they're going to turn their wishes into reality. But then, things start getting a little bumpy, there's a pothole in the road to their destiny, so they give up. Oh well, if it's hard, they complain, then I guess it's not worth doing. So they sigh and shrug their shoulders, go eat potato chips and watch reality shows on tv.
What these people don't seem to realize is that the things that are the hardest are usually the ones most worth doing. I remember reading a Dear Abby letter one time in which an older woman was lamenting her age. She wanted to go back to college, but she thought to herself, Imagine how old I will be when I graduate. In turn, Abby replied, "Well, how old will you be if you don't go to college?"
That's how goals are. Imagine how much time, energy, frustration, and mind-breaking work goes into achieving a goal. It's such a pain...so much crap, really. But where will you be if you don't achieve your goal? Well, you'll be nowhere. I mean, you can sit on the couch for five hours watching tv or you can work toward your goal for five hours. Afterward, you're either five hours closer to your goal or you've created a five-hour dent in your couch. Which is worth more to you?
If you're not willing to do the tough work to reach your dreams, you're not going to reach your dreams.
If you don't like the way I wrote it, or if you think that I'm an idiot-nobody who is not worth listening to, then read how the 20th century uber-genius Albert Einstein said it instead: "Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work."
Yeah, I know it's a drag, and while luck does play some role in fame and fortune, hard work is what separates winners and losers. It's that simple.
So how do you keep at it when something gets hard?
First, make sure you actually know what you really want. If it's something that is really important to you, then it should be worth the hard work...even if nobody ever sees all the time and crap that went into it. So think about it. Do you really want to be a pro-football player? I mean, really? Do you really want to do the work involved to get to that level? Or do you really want to be a doctor? I mean, if you're not putting effort into your science classes, then face reality, compadre--you ain't never going to be a doctor.
So, the first step is just making sure that whatever you're dreaming of is something you really, really want.
For example, I once toyed with the idea of learning to play the fiddle. I thought it would be superCool to be able to play "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" on a fiddle. I could imagine myself at festivals and family get togethers breaking out my fiddle and waxing hard on a country jig. The problem is that I wasn't really dedicated, and I knew I wasn't. I knew it would take hours of practice to learn how to play the fiddle, and I had other goals that were more important to me (like making a living and honing my writing skills). So in the end, I knew it was just a fantasy and that I would never follow through with it.
______________________________________ Don't focus on that far-off goal and how hard it's going to be to get there. Focus on the tiny milestones in the middle.
Also, be realistic. You know, I'd love to be a tall, willowy, sexy bombshell on the cover of fashion magazines, but at 5'3" and 130 pounds, that ain't happening. Likewise, if you've got legs that go on for a miles and no coordination, the chances of your becoming a gymnast are pretty close to zilch. Try looking yourself straight in the eye and seeing if you really have it in you. If you're crap at logic and computers, you're not going to be a hacker, and if you have no sense of rhyme or rhythm, you're not going to be a rapper either.
So after you've asked yourself these questions, if you're still stoked about whatever that awesome goal is that you've been dreaming of, then right on! Just remember, as the proverb by Lao Tzu says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." So don't focus on that far-off goal and how hard it's going to be to get there. Focus on the tiny milestones in the middle.
Take me, for instance. I really really want to be a published writer, and it's a goal I've nurtured since I was a wee lass in junior high (something you probably know as "middle school"). But it's taken years of reading and writing to even get to the point I am at now, and in that time, I had to work to earn a living and do all the in-between things that are needed to live an okay human life in these modern United States-ian times.
And to finally get a novel written, I couldn't look at the word count and say, "Oh my Chrysanthemum! I have to write 70,000 words to get a YA novel under my belt! That'll never happen." You know, because if I look at the huge amount of work it's going to take, then I'll never even get started. Instead, I've myself a daily goal of about 100 words. That's not only reachable, that's easy peasy, companero.
So remember to think about the end goal sort of abstractly, and focus on the small goals in between instead.
Finally, here are a couple of other tips. Set yourself some deadlines for accomplishing your mini-goals, set manageable goals (i.e. 100 words at a a time instead of 70,000), and reward yourself for your work. I have to grade papers all the time, which is not fun in spite of what you may have thought when you were in 5th grade. So I break down the workload over several days and give myself rewards every few minutes or hours. I'm not talking big rewards--I don't splurge on diamonds or Ferraris every time (just some of the time). I'm talking about rewards like getting up and going to the bathroom or grabbing a glass of water. Chocolate is also a great reward (or whatever kind of food you think of as a treat). In fact, chocolate is a great carrot on the end of the stick no matter what your goal is--even losing weight.
Now you have the information you need to get started. And here's the thing--YOU CAN DO IT! It takes hard work, but you've got enough grease in your elbow to get it done, I guarantee it.
If you need more inspiration and tips for those moments when the going gets tough, try these:
How to Get Going When the Going Gets Tough--Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP, offers tips for getting your head back in the game when things get tough.
7 Ways to Keep Your Dream Alive When the Going Gets Tough--As the title suggests, Sean Kim gives seven ways to frame your thoughts when things don't seem to be going your way.
6 Ways to Keep Yourself Motivated When the Going Gets Tough--Are you noticing a theme in these titles yet? Colleen Kettenhofen offers six strategies for keeping yourself in the race, a couple of which I mentioned in my post above.
When the Going Gets Tough--Christianity is full of biblical scripture to keep you at it when things get tough, and Joe Stowell tells you about it in this article.
If these four articles aren't enough, try googling phrases like "how to persevere," "what to do when the going gets tough," and "how to overcome adversity." Also, try clicking on the purple word "Motivation" in the right-hand menu on this page; here's a post I'm particularly fond of. Or leave me a comment and I'll try to light a firecracker under your posterior (figuratively speaking, of course).
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Word and Book Lover.