Maybe girls will save us
- They’ve eclipsed boys in political participation and shown incredible moral clarity
Oct 12, 2018-
As Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, women across the country took to the streets and social media in support of her and sexual assault survivors around the world.
Two of them were teenage girls—seniors at the high school Dr. Blasey attended in the 1980s—who shared a ticket to the hearing, silently alternating in and out of a seat at the back of the hearing room. It was a show of solidarity that spoke volumes about the moment we’re living in. Those two teenagers are part of a generation of girls who’ve been at the helm of some of the most transformative social movements in recent memory.
Take look at this list, and you’ll see what I mean:
Emma González, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Naomi Wadler, who organized a walkout of her Virginia elementary school, made headlines as advocates for gun control at ages 18 and 11. The Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman became a force in the #MeToo movement at 23, when she revealed that she had been abused by the team doctor.
As a sixth grader, Marley Dias started a campaign to promote and share books featuring black girls. Mari Copeny has been the face of the fight for clean water in Flint, Mich., since she was 8. Sophie Cruz was just 6 when she spoke at the Women’s March about immigration reform. Jasilyn Charger, at 21, coordinated a 2,000-mile run from North Dakota to Washington to raise awareness about the impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Standing Rock.
And beyond these headline-grabbing female activists is an entire cohort—whether you call them Gen Z or post-millennials or simply “young”—who seem to have eclipsed their male counterparts in political participation.
According to a January report by the nonpartisan opinion research organization PRRI, 48 percent of 15- to 24-year-old women say they have signed an online petition, compared to only 39 percent of men in the same age group. They were 23 percent more likely to say they had volunteered for a group or cause they cared about and 39 percent more likely to say they had donated money to a campaign or a cause.
Why are today’s girls—many of whom are so young that it will be years before they’re able to cast ballots—taking to the streets and to social media calling for change?
Here’s something that might explain it: More than ever, they have plentiful, visible, diverse role models. Since the huge women’s marches that followed Donald Trump’s inauguration, there’s been no shortage of high-profile political action by women. According to an April report by Pew Research Center, almost a third of women ages 18 to 49 had attended a political event or protest since the 2016 election. It’s no wonder some have argued that 2018, like 1992, should be called “The Year of the Woman.” In July, 58 percent of women surveyed said they had been paying increased attention to politics since Mr. Trump’s election, compared with 46 percent of men. A record number of women, 476, filed to run this year for the House of Representatives.
When I think of the effect these politically active women are having on the younger generation, I’m reminded of one of the mantras at my organization, Girls Who Code, which is dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology: Girls cannot be what they cannot see. We know that without role models who look like them in computer science, they’re unlikely to even consider the field. A recent study, “Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation,” estimated that if girls were as exposed to female inventors as much as boys are to male inventors, female innovation rates would rise by 164 percent and the gender gap in innovation would fall by more than half.
In the same way that female innovators beget innovation by girls, the high- profile political activism of women this year might explain increased engagement among our girls. As a 2006 study by University of Notre Dame researchers concluded, “The more politics is infused with visible female role models, the more adolescent girls report an expectation of being involved in politics.”
Beyond simply being involved, the girls of this generation are as passionate and unapologetic about what matters to them as any in history. They display a sense of moral clarity, an instinct for inclusiveness, and a commitment to making the world a better place for people of all ages and genders. The rest of us should follow their lead.
—©2018 The New York Times
Published: 12-10-2018 08:13