A Wildfire | Teen Ink

A Wildfire

April 27, 2021
By -FlowerChild- BRONZE, Bellingham, Washington
-FlowerChild- BRONZE, Bellingham, Washington
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I’ve never been someone who’s had a super strong opinion on anything. I have two brothers so growing up I was usually outvoted, and early on I had a best friend who was very opinionated and knew what she wanted. It’s not like I didn’t have the opportunities to decide on my own, but I was a very “go with the flow” kind of kid, and I still am. But as I’ve grown as a person and learned more about myself, I've realized I have one strong opinion for once. 
It all started in social studies. We were researching about mountains in Washington state, and as I was searching for facts about Mt. Rainier I stumbled upon a website with the title “Are Mountains Male or Female?” I thought it was strange and I was curious. The website was full of people debating if mountains were male or female. I read through all the responses and kept thinking how odd it was, I mean people were debating the sex of earth and rocks after all. As I clicked to the next page, I noticed that the comments were starting to get more and more weird or just blatantly sexist, and one in particular stayed in my mind while I scrolled. The comment was, “Some mountains I have been on seem to have nasty attitudes (stormy weather, bad trail conditions, low viability, cold temperatures), so logically I would assume they are female…”. 
That one sexist sentence was engraved in my brain, repeating itself over and over. How could someone take the time to write out a disgusting comment, and decided it was worthy enough to post. You’re probably thinking right now, “Oh come on, it’s just a random guy off the internet thinking he’s being funny. Get over it.” But that’s the thing, although it’s just a comment from a few years back, I asked myself, “How is this comment so ok? Why didn’t he get called out, but instead was praised with likes and replies? What would happen if the roles were reversed? Why am I freaking out over this little comment!?” I was aggravated, I wanted to tell the world how idiotic and sexist people can be without them getting called out for it. I thought more and more about how little comments like this are normal, and it enraged me even deeper. 
 At this point I wasn’t mad at this little comment, I was just mad, mad at how accepting society is when it comes to things like this. Overall, I was mad how sexism is normalized. Sexism is discrimination against someone because of their sex or gender and leads to the inequality between men and women. It was as if that comment was a little match and a wildfire set off inside of me.  
As I laid in my bed that very night, that comment couldn’t get out of my head. I started thinking about other sayings people say every once and a while that when you think about it are sexist. For instance, the saying “boys will be boys” is just an excuse for when guys do stupid things and don’t get in trouble for it. Or, the saying “girls mature faster,” when you think about it, is a saying only used as a reason that girls should have more responsibility and be held accountable instead of using it as a reason for girls to be more in power or make more decisions. I started spiraling, these little things are so normalized, but why?  
As I thought about it throughout the next day, I slowly answered my own question. Think about growing up, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you identify as, we were all given gender-based things, those weren’t just things though, they also carried a message alongside of it. The message was that your gender determines what you can or can’t be. Now think back to an early age when you were just starting school. I, as a girl was told about how fun I'll have when I become a mom, how princesses have a prince, I watched my younger brothers grow up who were told different things, like they can be the president, and that the world was in their hands. Sure, these things weren’t as direct as I put them and it wasn’t even my brothers and our parents who put these thoughts in our heads, it was the little bedtime stories that showed moms in the kitchen and dads at work, or the short “under their breath” comments from a family friend or a neighbor. Even at a young age I noticed being set apart from my brothers and how their toys and stories were different than mine.  
Maybe things like this happened to you growing up, even without you noticing because of how normal they seemed, I’m not saying our parents and guardians didn’t raise us right, because they were also probably raised just as so, and so did other generations before them. And yes, sexism has slowly decreased over the years, but what I'm saying is even if it wasn’t on purpose, we were told different things that were specific to our genders.  
But if this stereotype and sexism is bad, why is it still around. If we’ve recognized it why hasn’t it stopped? Because it benefits someone. Who you may ask? People who want to maintain their power, and historically they are men. Sure, there are some really powerful women but according to www.catalyst.org, 57.4% of people in the work force are women, while according to leftronic.com only 22% of CEOs are women. Those power-hungry people are still around and it’s as if they are still trying to silence the inequity. 
“How are these powerful men still going and not getting called out for the sexism and inequality??” I asked myself repeatedly. Then it clicked. The media. That's where they send the messages, the messages that say women weren’t born to lead because they are too emotional, too fragile, that say women aren’t smart and even if they are it doesn’t matter because what matters solely lies in their attractiveness. The media carries around those messages silently and stealthy, through little sayings which get passed down from one to another, through bedtime stories showing white picket fenced families with the gender roles playing right before our oblivious eyes, through clothing items for children, through reminding us about how perfect life is when women aren’t in control, through so many other little things that I should’ve picked up on a while back if it didn’t seem so normal.  
I started looking around at everything around me and especially the media, not only did I see women being represented totally different, I saw how everyone was. I wanted to learn more, so I emailed my teachers, my librarian, and I talked to my parents. I watched ted-talks, documentaries and read books. I learned so much and I want to share every little bit of it, but that would probably become more of a book than an article. I learned how women are represented in Hollywood, and how most movies are written and directed by men, so when they write and make characters for women, they’re usually written from the men’s point of view and also written to appeal to men. I also learned more about how when women run for office the media tends to talk about her looks, how expensive her earrings were, how she seemed too unprofessional because of her outfit or hair choice. While when men are running for office, the media usually talks about what their speeches, and whether or not they agreed with him. I was so angry that when I was younger, I thought discrimination against women was gone, died, done. But it’s right there, right before everyone’s eyes. 
Tell me to stop being dramatic, to grow up because men won’t want a girl who speaks her mind and talks about feminism, Tell me that I'm a snowflake and I need to suck it up. Tell me that life is life and that I can’t change it. Tell me things that you hope will be enough to make me become quiet, but I won’t listen.  
I want to send a message to the women. Our world needs a lot more than change, and we make up around half of the population. We need to speak up and out about things we think are unjust. So educate yourself to use your power to the fullest potential. We can be the change. And to the men, acknowledge your power, and know that it’s not how much power and privilege you have, it’s what you do with it. So please stand beside or at least respect the women in your life and become a feminist yourself, because feminism isn’t just for women. And to the people debating whether mountains are male or female, get a life. If you did something productive instead of writing a sexist joke, you probably wouldn’t have to read this lengthy 13-year old's article. How’s that for a strong opinion coming from someone who goes with the flow? 

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