"...there's a willingness now to be like, ‘Fine. Call me a ‘diva,' call me a ‘feminazi,' call me ‘difficult,' call me a "First World feminist,' call me whatever you want, it's not going to stop me from trying to do the right thing and make sure that the right thing happens.' Because it doesn't just affect me, it affects all the other women who are in this with me, and it affects all the other men who are in this with me, too."Emma Watson, 28.
THE FEMINAZIS: ADVOCATING EQUALITY & ACTIVISM
There are an endless number of people who are setting the tone and inspiration for Gen Z feminists today - Jameela Jamil, Emma Watson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, John Legend, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Dolly Alderton, Malala Yousafzai and Rupi Kuar, to name but a few.
24 year old writer and journalist Scarlett Curtis (who used to write a weekly column for The Sunday Times Style newspaper titled The Generation Z Hit List) has been hailed by many as the voice of Gen Z feminism. Her feminist movement is grounded in a refreshing approach to content and inspiration - she created The Pink Protest on Instagram, and a powerful series on the topic of what it means for different women to be an activist.
Curtis’ book, “Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies)” is “an urgent and empowering collection of new writing from a variety of women…” aiming “to bridge the gap between feminist hashtags and scholarly texts by giving women the space to explain how they actually feel about the F word.” From Keira Knightley to Saoirse Ronan, Curtis collaborates with household names to make the stories intriguing and extremely zeitgeist. The writing is searingly personal, which is, at the end of the day, what Gen Z feminism is all about - inclusivity.
“Everyone should be feminist, because it’s about equality. It’s not about telling women what they should or shouldn’t do, if someone wants to wear make up then they can, and if they don’t want to wear make up then they don’t have to. But there is an issue with many self-proclaimed feminist being gatekeepers. My friends and I think that TERFs, particularly, are a major issue. Feminism is also about helping men, helping them express their emotions and not have to be the breadwinners of a family and destroying toxic masculinity.” Grace, 18
Each woman’s experience is different, and that’s okay. Curtis spreads the message that, like this, feminism is not the same for everyone, and appreciates that it is a comprehensive movement within which exists a lifelong journey.
26 year old Rupi Kaur is a poet, artist, and performer. Her books - ‘milk and honey’ and ‘the sun and her flowers’ - have cumulatively sold over 6.5 million copies worldwide, debuting as #1 global bestsellers. Often described as an ‘instapoet’, she has over 3.5 million followers on Instagram, where she posts her short poems on themes of love, sex and race, accompanied by delicate, photographable, illustrations. On her website, she writes:
“...our bodies are not our property. we are told we must be conservative. a good south asian girl is quiet. does as she is told. sex does not belong to her. it is something that happens to her on her wedding night. it is for him. we know sexual violence intimately. we experience alarming rates of rape. from thousands of years of shame and oppression. from the community and from colonizer after colonizer. but we also challenge that narrative every single day. and this poetry is just one route for doing that.”
Kaur’s work challenges cultural narratives in a beautifully honest and creative way, empowering young girls all around the world.
From actresses to survivors, artists to poets, and models to musicians, what Gen Z feminist icons all have in common is that they channel their creativity expertly to tell their stories, while adopting an unapologetic activist approach to opening conversation and fighting for justice, change and equality.
BLOOD & BRILLIANCE
From education to equal pay, there are a vast number of issues on the radar of the self-conscious Gen Z feminist. There are, however, standout themes that are currently at the fore of the popular young progressive feminist conversation: period equality and representation.
“I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” 25 year old Rayka Zehtabchi, director of the “Period. End of Sentence.” documentary, exclaimed in her acceptance speech. Breaking taboos around periods is something we’ve written about before. Since then it has cropped up on political agendas and inspired some brilliant creative work (we’re still OBSESSING over Libresse’s singing vaginas in “Viva La Vulva”), but it’s become even more prominent of late. Young women are not only fighting against period poverty. They are also making serious efforts to reclaim the image and presence of blood as normal - the introduction of a period emoji being a noteworthy recent win. After Instagram removed one of her period portraits, Rupi Kaur spoke out to powerfully defend the image (which aimed to challenge the perception of menstruation as dirty or attention seeking), saying:
“I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in underwear but not be OK with a small leak.”
Representation in popular feminism today takes many forms. It’s about equal representation in society, with regard to industry, politics and policy making (apparently there are more CEO’s named John than there are women CEO’s altogether), and equal representation in culture. Initiatives like Her Story aim to raise the profile of women’s stories, as a way to combat the global phenomenon of amnesia of women’s stories in history and more contemporary times.
One of the major points of action for young feminists is around the visual representation of women - in media, photos, film, art... While representation is far from all being about outer appearance, it’s a starting point that combats problematic and narrow depictions of women or femininity. People like Sinead Burke have become educators and advocates for this, illustrating and articulating the values in how women all different - and celebrating that fact. Rather than glossing over the rawer, perhaps uncomfortable, moments in female life, it’s about shouting about them from the rooftops. Inspired by older feminist icons and more contemporary activists, Gen Z are talking more openly about vaginas, periods, miscarriages, body hair, the lot. This celebration is not only about the differences between women’s personal experiences, but also of the distinctive traits all women hold. The representation particular feminine traits and the unique brilliance of women comes to the fore in conversation here:
“While equality is important, to me it’s more about valuing the traits that a woman has. Creating more feminine, comfortable environments could bring about a positive change in different ways.” Alwyn, 25.
Ultimately, what these trends tell us about feminism today, is that young women today are radical about owning who they are and being recognised accurately by wider society. They are unashamedly channeling their intelligence, digital currency, agency and creative skill, with purpose, to shout louder and more powerfully as a group than ever before.
Feminism today is not only about celebration and representation, but about sharing the warts-and-all reality of the female experience. Adopting an activist approach and being radical about feminism is deemed necessary, and comes naturally, to young feminists. With this, there is a strong mass rejection for the glossing over of historically ‘awkward’ narratives. How could you channel Gen Z’s fearless approach to radical feminism for (or within) your brand or organisation?
We should all be proud feminists. Be considered about how you represent women. Invite conversation with younger generations on the topic of gender equality - it’s not something that can be ignored. While female representation should be easy to get it right, it’s become very easy to inadvertently misstep as younger generations become more and more progressive.