Letter from a young feminist

Teen drops F-Bomb in brave new blog

Published July 15, 2009 4:16PM (EDT)

Old feminists like me can sleep a little better tonight. Confirmed: There are at least a few (really) young feminists -- active, mouthy, blogging young feminists --- who, it seems, will have our daughters' backs. Today's marquee example: Julie Zeilinger, 16, and her sharp, funny, insightful -- and brand-new -- blog/online teen feminist community, the F-Bomb.

Zeilinger, a high school sophomore from Pepper Pike, Ohio, describes the site this way: "In this case the 'F Bomb' stands for 'feminist.' However, the fact that the 'F Bomb' usually refers to a certain swear word in popular culture is not coincidental. The FBomb.org is for girls who have enough social awareness to be angry and who want to verbalize that anger. The FBomb.org is loud, proud, aggressive, sarcastic ... everything teenage feminists are today."

Of course, there have long been excellent young feminists doing excellent young feministy things; It's not like the rest of us all had our "click" moments at age 40. (I attended NOW's first Young Feminist conference in 1991, when I was 22; you do the math.)

But much has been made of the "I'm not a feminist, but ... " gap, in which today's younger generation appears to bite the (hairy, lesbian, man-hating) hand that fed it its rights. (This includes the right to mix metaphors.) And those are the girls who at least espouse basic F-word principles in the first place.

So how did Zeilinger get her F-word on? She took a moment from her internship with the National Council for Research on Women (seriously, this girl is the bomb) to e-mail with Broadsheet.

"It started when I was in 8th grade and had to give a speech to my whole middle school. I found an article about female feticide and infanticide that blew my mind. I didn't even know that such a misogynistic thing was happening -- parents killing babies because they're female," she said. "I began to research more about that topic, which then led me to the broader topic of women's issues. Then my high school advisor gave me Jessica Valenti's book Full Frontal Feminism [Go advisor! Go J. Val! - Ed.] and it opened up the world of younger feminism and feminist blogging to me."

She couldn't find a Feministing.com-like community for teen girls, she says, so she started one herself. "Other teen girls have blogs, and some are feminist, but I really wanted to start one that was a community, where anyone can post and be real contributors to the blog and show everybody the collective power teenage feminists have," she says.

Zeilinger, too, is weary of hearing "I'm not a feminist, but ..." from young women who support reproductive rights, are concerned about domestic violence, and so on. "Teen girls do get it in the sense that they DO believe in feminist issues; it's just the misconceptions about feminism that hold them back. I think if teen girls were given a fair chance to understand feminism, they would definitely identify with it. That's what I'm trying to do."

But even as older feminists complain that young women don't get it, young feminists have also complained that the old guard just doesn't get them. And as Jezebel pointed out late yesterday, "Unfortunately, it seems right now the site's few commenters on the FBomb are adults ... [T]wo adult commenters got into a lengthy argument about the modern meaning of the word 'feminist' and, earlier today, something prompted Zeilinger to write on the FBomb's Twitter: 'older feminist readers I'm a teen its for teens can't be perfect don't have a degree. get some perspective plz & stop writing mean comments!'"

F Bomb and friends, don't worry: We old biddies do have your backs. "Blogs like Julie's are but the latest sign that feminism thrives among a new generation. Young women are simply reinventing it for themselves, and in their own vernacular, which these days is often loud, proud and wired. And damn smart and edgy too," Deborah Siegel, Ph.D., author of "Sisterhood, Interrupted" and founder of Girl w/Pen, told Broadsheet. "Bring it on, I say. (Do people still say bring it on?)"

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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