10/04/2011 12:24 am ET | Updated Dec 04, 2011

You Have to Start Somewhere

Writing this first blog post, I kept second-guessing myself, thinking, "I'm just a teenage girl with some things on my mind. What do I have to say?" But that's where everyone starts; they're just a teenage/middle-aged/college-aged/any-aged person with (enter social injustice of choice) on their mind. So I took a deep breath and remembered: we all have to start somewhere.

I started thinking about feminism when I was about 12 years old. That summer, my leftist, socialist, Jewish summer camp hosted a Take Back the Night event (just a typical summer camp activity) where I had been inundated with more facts about sexism than I even knew existed. Maybe it was the cultish feeling of camp spirit or the lack of protein in our diets, but the statistics and information stuck with me. I resolved then that I would work to ensure that the lives of every woman would be free of sexism. Despite the contrary opinion of some, feminism is still a relevant issue. I can unfurl the long list of feminist priorities (abortion rights, equal pay, adequate rape laws), but I have also seen for myself how real sexism is.

Once, while I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room, a little boy, maybe just about two years old, picked up a doll and started to play with it. Quickly, his mom snatched the doll out of the boy's hands and gruffly scolded him, saying, "You can't play with that. That's a girl toy." These gender role stereotypes are constraining and stifling to anyone, let alone a two year old. Feminism is still needed as long as people continue to believe that dolls are for girls and trucks are for boys.

As a teenager, gender inequality affects my current and future expectations for safety and respect. Amazingly, I have found that a woman's value and security can be compromised almost anywhere. For many women, my friends included, an innocent stroll down the street seems to be an invitation for salacious looks and demoralizing catcalls, no matter what they are wearing. Even college is tainted with sexism. On many college campuses, most notably Yale, frat boys have taken to shouting "No means yes! Yes means anal!" outside of their houses. These taunts may be more than harmless threats; one in four women will be sexually assaulted in college ( Sounds like the perfect environment for women to receive an empowering education.

Many structures of American culture reinforce the problems women face. A glaring example is American advertising. Commercials and ads are a bevy of slogans and pictures supporting gender role stereotypes and negative body image that affect both men and women. These problems seem unchangeable but, as history has shown, nothing is permanent. With the determination of just a few individuals change is possible. The first step is to simply decide to awaken and engage in the world's problems. We have to determine not only to fix problems here in America, but also to look outward and solve the blaring gender inequalities that exist around the world. Feminist visionaries like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan have gotten things going. Now all I have to do is figure out where my own murmurs fit into this symphony of feminist thought and action. Let's see what my generation of feminists can do.