Being a teenager is hard, fourteen and fifteen especially, it’s a very frustrating time being suspending between adulthood and childhood and having to navigate this world without a grown up telling you what to do all the time, but at the same time, oh my god there are no adults telling you what to do all the time! I mean, apart from at school, and at home, but the rest of the time… anyway, I’d like to share some things with you that I wish I had known when I was younger; some of them you might find useful, others you probably won’t but all of these are things that I wish someone had told me when I was your age.
• Read books by fierce women – Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman is a great place to start. It wasn’t until I read this book that I realised that being a feminist didn’t mean bra burning and never wearing eyeliner. That it meant inclusion for everyone and that it’s just as important for men as it is for women. Laurie Penny and Clementine Ford write brilliant articles that are mostly rage-filled and always clever and funny, read them. Read fiction by Australian women; women of colour; transwomen; what ever genre you like, just read. It’s important to hear other people’s voices.
• Everyone will have an opinion – some of those people will be important to you, some won’t be. Only listen to the opinion of people that you trust, never ever listen to the opinion of people who shout at you from cars or the people that tell you what they think over the internet.
• Be kind – there is a lot of hate in the world. People have struggles that you will know nothing about. You can be filled with rage against the patriarchy for enforcing gender roles but be kind in your expression of this. Not everyone will think the same way you do, especially if you make those views clear on the internet, learn how to respond with kindness that doesn’t rob you of your energy. Or just block people, that works too.
• Learn how to do things by yourself – this means learning to cook a few decent meals, how to manage money, change a tyre, learn to code. Get the best education that you possibly can. When you get a job, save money. I know it’s boring, but trust me on this, being able to look after yourself is an incredibly powerful thing to do.
• Respect – you should respect some people without them having to earn it, these people are: nurses, who are real life super heroes; teachers, even the ones you don’t like are doing an incredible and difficult job; police, who are honestly and truly there to help and protect you; and your family, no matter what your relationship with them is, always make sure you maintain a level of respect for them. You won’t always get the same thing back from people, but that’s tough. I was a cocky little shit when I was a teenager and it did me no favours. Don’t be that guy.
• Be fearless – do the things that scare you. If you’re scared of public speaking, do public speaking. If you’re scared to learn how play the guitar because you think you might be rubbish then learn how to play the guitar. GO travelling to places you wouldn’t normally think of going, see the world and experience different cultures. Don’t let fear stand in the way of anything that you want to do.
• Play a team sport – then support the women that play that sport.
• Find your Girl Gang – it might only be two other people or it might not just be girls, but having a support network of people that think in a similar way to you about the things that happen in the world is the best. You may not have found these people yet and that’s ok, I didn’t find mine until I was in my thirties because I didn’t know that I needed them. But now that I have them I don’t know what I would do without them.
• Don’t criticise other women for making different choices – women are already criticised for every single thing that they do; for being too fat, too skinny, for not having children or for having children the wrong way, for wanting a career or for not wanting a career. Women do not need to criticise each other as well, the patriarchy is already doing enough of that.
• Understand that people identify in different ways – the patriarchy doesn’t care if someone identifies as female if they were born male. The patriarchy wants everyone to be in neat little boxes of gender and gender roles and sexuality. This isn’t how the world works. When someone tells you they would like to be referred to by a certain pronoun, you use that pronoun.
• Consent – oh consent. Don’t say yes unless you are really, really sure you want to do something. I mean REALLY sure. I don’t know what your school teaches you about sex but if it was anything like what my school taught me then it will be next to nothing and hormones are flying around and it’s just a big old joke when a teacher stands in front of you and makes everyone put a condom on a banana and no one really pays attention because let’s face it – LOLz . Consent doesn’t mean not saying no, consent means actively saying yes… it’s never EVER something that someone should persuade you to do. If someone has to persuade you, that is not consent.
• Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you are worthless. Sometimes it’ll be your own brain that does this. I find that having a sit down with a cup of tea & a biscuit holds off most kinds of breakdown. You are stronger than you will ever know.