Feature image from “All About That Bass.”
The coolest, smartest, fiercest, prettiest, snarkiest, loveliest girl in the whole world lives in upstate New York and she’s 17 years old. Everyone else can probably just pack it up and go home now. My little sister is the best at everything — including all the hobbies I thought I was reasonably good at, but apparently, I am not. Figure skating? Check. Listening to music? Check. Navigating feminist spaces online? Oh gosh, all the checks. And what I find simultaneously awesome and terrifying is that (as far as I’ve seen) all of her friends are more or less the same way.
Its been about a decade since I was a teenager, but I’m relatively sure that nowhere in that span of angst-ridden years did I self-identify as a feminist. That came a couple years later, shortly after Jezebel launched and I became a devoted reader. That feminist-leaning empire has changed a lot in the past few years (and so have I!), but at the time, I‘d never witnessed anything like Jezebel’s progressive and passionate comment threads.
In particular, I was blown away by Jezebel’s articles about body image and fat acceptance. As a recently post-pubescent female-bodied person, I was still reeling from the shift I’d experienced in the way society now viewed me: as a collection of body parts for anyone and everyone to comment on. Watching a group of people discuss how harmful body snarking and beauty standards are was a revelation to me. It felt groundbreaking, eye-opening, world-changing. It was like I’d been squinting against the glare of the patriarchy my entire life, and didn’t realize there was any other way of looking at things until someone handed me a pair of shades.
With that memory fresh in my head, it’s really thrilling to me to see my sister posting fat-positive content like Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” music video on Tumblr:
Yeah, that line about “skinny bitches” isn’t great; I’m also not crazy about the idea that male approval should be an important factor in determining what kinds of bodies are okay. But let’s not let “perfect” be the enemy of “good,” you know? How incredible is it that teenage girls have access to fat-friendly content, a catchy song telling them that they’re perfect as-is? That they can consume this message, think critically about it, and have discussions with their friends about what they’d like to see done differently? That’s huge.
This morning, my sister posted the excellent video from the #LikeAGirl campaign, which aims to boost girls’ confidence levels during and after puberty. It shows people acting out what running “like a girl,” hitting “like a girl,” existing etc. “like a girl” looks like, and how it impacts girls to see and hear their existence used as an insult.
I remember hearing “like a girl” used against me as a kid. It happened a lot then, and I imagine it still happens to kids a lot now. It was and is damaging; the whole system was and is damaging. But watching my little sister grow up online leaves me feeling hopeful.
I know that the patriarchy is too big for one person (or even one generation) to take down all by themselves — that’s why we all have to be involved. Each of us has to fight every single day; it’s a group effort. But. But. If there was one person who could single-handedly dismantle the patriarchy, it would definitely be my little sister. She’s just that cool.