For the past three weeks, I’ve been mentoring three teenage girls. I’ve listened to them talk about Facebook, piercings, boyfriends, and girlfriends. I’ve also heard them rap about sexual health and have had hours of conversations about sexism and the lack of women in leadership positions. The raps are great, but talking to sixteen and seventeen-year-olds about what it’s like to be a teenage girl, and a young woman of color, in 2012 is both inspiring and upsetting. I love these girls, who are amazing writers and young women, but hate that our conversations and their time in Teen Voices’ program is such an incredibly unique and brief experience. In their regular high schools lives, they never have the opportunity to talk about these issues, and, even if they understand feminism, the world in which they live definitely does not.
We’re writing about sexism and the under-representation of women in business and politics, a topic the three girls I’m working with agreed on after we all watched the documentary Miss Representation together (Watch it. It’s incredible.) I’ve tutored and mentored before but never with a topic that is so important to the girls with whom I’m working. And to me. It’s difficult but entirely worth the challenge.
I love my role as an editorial intern, editing articles other girls have written for the magazine and interviewing women, but the added responsibility of mentoring these three young women was what first drew me to apply to intern at Teen Voices. I know that they, and the other girls who are and have been part of Teen Voices’ program, are so different from the blushing, crushing, prim and proper, boy-crazy teens in magazines and on TV. It gives me a lot of hope about the true potential of teenage girls and my generation’s ability to change the depressing realities of the rampant sexism still present in the world.
If you Google teenage girl, this is the first image you find:
The girls I work with are something more like this: