This October 11 the world will celebrate the day of the Girl; a youth-run initiative to end sexism against girls and to encourage girls to change the status quo.
In honor of the event, some of the day's organizers asked me to grapple with the question, "Why is this day necessary?"
I found myself struggling to write on this topic in a unique and new way. For me, asking why this day is needed is like asking why feminism itself is necessary -- a topic that throngs of articulate women have mused on extensively. However, one unique and important facet of this event that impressed me is that it is run by girls themselves.
To have a group of girls gather together and demand change is revolutionary. Throughout many girls' lives, they are expected to have a minimal presence. Be the flower that blends into the wallpaper. Don't make the first move, it's faux pas to let men know how you feel. Be as physically small as possible -- and then get tinier.
Finally girls are standing up and taking up space which, as history and personal experience has shown, usually comes with opposition.
In my own experience as a member and leader of my high school's women's advocacy club, I faced a tiring and nearly constant onslaught of criticism for my involvement. The criticism usually came from male peers who were just, "poking fun." But teasing is much less innocent when it is part of an oppressive history of men who have historically "just poked fun" at women's attempts at liberation. And I've got it easier than heros of the feminist movement, who had to find the strength not only to push against social norms but to push against slurs about their looks, sexuality and beliefs. These challenges have discouraged women in every generation from joining the fight against sexism.
My critics probably didn't realize how difficult this history and their comments made it to even declare myself a young female advocate. However, with few young women feeling moved or able to join our women's advocacy group, that difficulty was palpable even in the halls of my liberal high school.
To be a woman activist is hard but to be a young female advocate has its own added challenges. women already out of their teenaged years have guided the movement for much of its history. it was these older women who created the ideas of what empowerment and liberation would look like. Today, young women still seem to be disenfranchised from the greater feminist movement in many regards. In just one example, some feminist organizations don't accept high school girls as interns and then have few or no volunteer opportunities for interested young women.
The young women involved in the International Day of the Girl -- particularly those from societies whose respect for women is far behind what I experienced in the U.S. -- are pushing past the historical criticism and age barriers. These women and other young female advocates are far from achieving their goals. But their examples speak loudly. They are giving young women hope that they themselves might be able to chip away the wall of sexism.