Fresh out of childhood and established feminists

They have just come out of childhood and declare themselves “feminists!”: The #MeToo wave, social media and celebrities have sensitized the very young. They are not yet very militant, but for them “feminism is normal”.

“It’s normal for all girls and boys too,” Salomé, 15, told AFP. This young Parisian has “always heard” of this notion, “impossible to escape”, in the news, conversations with friends and especially social networks.

On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, “feminist ideas come to you without you looking for them”, through images and messages shared by contacts or suggested by algorithms, underlines Josiane Jouët, media sociologist who published “Digital, feminism and society “(Presses of the mines).

A phenomenon that has strengthened after the movement to denounce sexist violence #MeToo, born in 2017 and a real catalyst, according to the sociologist.

#StopFemminicides, #DoublePeine, #LaHonteDoitChangerDeCamp: “When I saw all the hashtags on the networks, I wanted to understand what was going on,” says Charlotte, 14, who lives near Toulon. Her observation: “Society favors men too much and belittles women.”

– New models –

Teenage girls do not necessarily follow the tales of feminist associations, but are interested in those of influencers, such as Marion Séclin (Mady) or personalities such as the singers Ariana Grande, Angèle or Beyoncé, who also carry these ideas.

“We have come out of academic models. These new icons allow for the informal penetration of feminist themes in popular culture”, decodes Ms Jouët.

Celebrities have also helped make these ideas “cool” and appealing to today’s teenage girls. A paradigm shift when “feminism” was almost a dirty word for their parents’ generation.

“At times there are ebbs, and at others feminism is very strong,” as now, explains Françoise Picq, a historian of feminism who observes a long-term rejuvenation of the movement.

In this context, adolescents aged 12, 13 or 14 “absorb these ideas like sponges,” observes clinical psychologist Béatrice Copper-Royer, co-author of “Adolescentes sur le fil” (Marabout, 2021).

“I don’t know one who doesn’t call herself a feminist. But these girls in full construction are not militants and sometimes have paradoxical behaviors”, especially towards boys, she blurs.

– “Snowball Effect” –

The same observation goes to Osez le féminisme !, which intervenes in colleges and high schools to sensitize adolescents to gender equality.

“Young people are more aware of issues related to feminism, such as gender stereotypes or sexual orientation, but there is still ridicule when people don’t fit into the usual boxes,” notes Alyssa Ahrabar, spokesperson for the association.

But “even if young people don’t always fully integrate feminist principles into their behavior, their increased exposure to this discourse will have a snowball effect” in society, she believes.

The wider spread of feminist ideas is already driving more girls to activism. High school girls participate in demonstrations on March 8 for women’s rights and November 20 against violence.

At 16, some push the door of associations, such as #NousToutes, which fight against sexist and sexual violence. The collective has around fifty locations in high schools and universities in France.

Lucie has been interested in these questions since she was 14. At 17 she decided to act and with two friends she created a #NousToutes committee in her high school in Barr (Bas-Rhin) to raise awareness among students about gender-based violence. “I want to make my voice heard,” says this former “junior feminist”.

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