Is This 15-Year-Old Feminist A New Kind Of Gloria Steinem In The Making?
This post is #3 in a series that amplifies the emerging voices of girls and women who are solving the world's problems by disrupting the status quo with positive actions.
Interview with 15-year-old Adora Svitak. Fasten your mental seat belts-you won't believe she's only 15:
Since the age of four, I've been exploring what I can do with the written word: everything from championing literacy and youth voice to raising awareness about world hunger. Hoping to instill my love of learning in other children, I taught my first class at a local elementary school the year my first book, Flying Fingers, debuted; since then, I have spoken at hundreds of schools, classrooms and conferences around the world. I co-authored my second book, Dancing Fingersa collection of poetry with my older sister Adrianna in 2009. At 12, I delivered the speech "What Adults Can Learn from Kids" at the prestigious TED conference. That video received over one million views and has been translated into over 40 different languages.
What do you think is one of the most important things in the world that needs to be fixed?
Like probably a lot of people, I came away from watching films like Miss Representation and Half the Sky with the realization that the battle for women's rights is not over, especially not globally, and that the moral imperative of our century is to achieve full rights for everyone regardless of gender. The fact that a baby can be born today and condemned to a life of hardship, struggle, and discrimination simply because of sex is enraging.
Success on the front of women's rights will look like a world not only with obvious advances-where no girl is denied access to education, for instance-but also one with more subtle changes in how we regard gender and gender stereotypes. Success also means more women in the House and Senate (where women are, sadly, the most underrepresented group by percentage of population vs. percentage in Congress). Success means that girls aren't starving themselves to try to match some twisted ideal of beauty which grows consistently thinner and thinner; success means that little girls aren't looking at store sections filled with just pink dolls and frilly clothes; and success is soon. Success means that if I have daughters they will look at me with wonder when I say there was a time when all this-success-they take for granted, had to be fought for.
What are you doing to help fix it?
I delivered a talk at the National Press Club (introduced by Gloria Steinem, a tremendous honor) after my Girls State of the Union video won a Women's Media Center contest. In many ways, the speech was a call to action to my peers. On a more grassroots level, I help change perceptions about feminism for the better (even by doing something as small as wearing my This is what a feminist looks like t-shirt around school, which has received lots of comments and questions). I've written articles advocating for equal standards, which have helped spark discussions around women and girls in society; my blog for the Huffington Post, "Would You Let Your Daughter Wear This?" about the spate of hypersexualized clothing and imagery in women's clothing stores and advertising received over 2000 comments.
What can others do to help fix it?
The first thing anyone can do, about any issue, is get informed. With an issue as large and complex as feminism-equal rights for a whole half of the population is no small matter-there are many facets to look at, ranging from equal pay to education equity. I highly recommend watching "Half The Sky" for a global look at the issue and "Miss Representation" for the national conversation; those are two films that really gave me passion about an issue I was aware of but never in a fighting mode about. After awareness comes spreading the word-encouraging your friends to research the issue, passing along links, etc. And then you want to take action! Male or female, you can do all the following things. Address the prevalent issue of rape culture by ensuring people aren't using blame the victim language. Declare that you're a feminist loud and proud and blaze the trail for other leaders.
On a side note re: progress for women and girls: I spoke at the United Nations Economic and Social Council Youth Forum , and I was really heartened to see the progress being made at the international level when it comes to bringing girls and women into discussions around important issues, and especially in STEM participation. One of my fellow presenters at the event, Genevieve LEsperance, is an awesome role model for young girls in STEM-she started teaching other girls how to program when she was a teenager, and is continuing to advocate for womens participation in STEM fields now that she's a university student. Seeing these women at the UN event reinforced my belief that women don't just benefit from being in leadership roles; the world can benefit from women's leadership.