Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Anita Hill—these are just a few of the amazing women I have met while working in New York City this summer. These women have truly spent their lives fighting for women’s rights. They are inspiring and prominent figures of today. But for me what has been the most inspirational thing while I have been here is seeing and listening to the youth in the movement. For while these women are amazing and have done great work, they will not be here forever and with or without them the movement continues on.
This past week I was privileged to go to the Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) 10th year Anniversary Gala in Brooklyn. I went in to the evening not really sure what to expect. For me a Gala was just another fundraising event, a way to get big wigs together and have them spend money on your organization. While there was some of this, the focus of the evening was really about the organization itself and the girls they have been working with. There were some big wigs, but the majority of participants were individuals who worked for organizations that supported GGE and the work they do. This really set the atmosphere and made it clear to me that this wasn’t just your normal Gala.
What made this even clearer was when Anita Hill stepped onto the stage and sat down with three girls who had been participants in GGE’s programs. They wanted Anita Hill not to just give a speech, but to sit down and have a conversation with these girls and the audience. I was really excited to see Anita Hill; I knew that she had done a lot of work for women’s rights in the work place and that she was a big deal. But as the conversation went on, I found myself listening to the girls more than Anita Hill. Don’t get me wrong Anita Hill was fantastic and said some very inspiring things, but a week later I find myself still thinking about those three girls and the points they raised. They talked about intersectionality, the need for systemic change, and the displacement of their community. While I understand what those topics mean today, as a 15 or 16 year old girl I had no idea what those were. And at the end of the evening I walked away so happy and filled with hope for the future because of those three girls.
Older generations are constantly pointing out what is wrong with my generation. We have no goals, we are all trust fund babies, we are too sexually free, we are too radical, and the list goes on. For some people in my generation these things are true, but I don’t think it is fair to clump us all together. And I think what older generations really have a problem with is change. For centuries our nation has slowly evolved and things that were radical years ago are not radical at all anymore. Remember when women started wearing pants or when schools were no longer segregated? Those were radical changes at the time. Now, walk down the street and you see a hundred women wearing pants or walk into any school around the nation and you meet people from all different backgrounds. While the changes we have seen in our nation in the past century haven’t been that radical, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be questioning and trying to push for change. For me those three girls on that stage with Anita Hill gave me hope that my generation and those after me are going to do amazing things for our nation. While society has made great strides, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
Change it’s inevitable and is necessary in our world where prejudice and inequality still exist. I walked into the Brooklyn Historical Society expecting to be overcome with inspiration from Anita Hill. I walked out of the Brooklyn Historical Society overcome with inspiration and hope for mine and future generations because of three teenage girls who I know will do amazing things in the years to come. The youth of today really are our leaders of tomorrow.