I spent a little time this weekend with an early feminist icon of mine, Julia Stiles’ Shakespeare inspired character in “10 Things I Hate About You,” and I radiated with the joys of teenage anger. I remember being 16 and listening to riot grrrl music and ruining moments by reminding someone not to use offensive language or that the lead singer of their favorite band was accused of sexual assault. Truly, those were the glory days, full of youthful spirit, adorable paintball montages and young Heath Ledger types buying me guitars. Or, more accurately, hours spent blogging in dimly lit rooms and no young Heath Ledger types buying me anything.
Nevertheless, I emerged from teenagerhood with Kat Stratford’s taste in music and ability to annoy everyone with timely and untimely rants about the patriarchy. Even now, two years into my twenties, I still channel her occasionally by listening to three Ani Difranco albums early, shaved head Ani Difranco, not married with kids Ani Difranco in a row and cultivating my disgust with society. I’m not 16 anymore, though, and thank goodness for that. There’s something about 16 that speaks to a horrible helplessness, whether it’s about rape culture or about managing to get out of high school with my mental health intact, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I will yell at you for hours about how important teenage girls are, but I’m happy to not be one anymore.
Adulthood, or the type of pseudo-adulthood that I’m cultivating as I stare tearfully at online job applications and careen head-first towards graduation, means that I’m able to breathe a little easier. I no longer find myself angrily shaking as much when I watch the news. I have more resources to actually make a difference, whether it’s donating a little bit of money to organizations like Planned Parenthood when I can manage it, voting even if it’s just symbolically because I’m registered in Sevier County where people bleed red for more reasons than one, or just helping people get better informed.
I have to say, writing this column is distinctly different than writing caps lock Facebook comments between trying to do trigonometry homework and filling out college applications. I don’t know who reads it, but at the very least, I now have an air of legitimacy and the knowledge that I am trying. I don’t feel like I’m shouting into a wind tunnel of Republican judgment like I did as a teenager. Maybe, now, I’m somewhere at the end of the tunnel. There’s a little more light, my own judgment is a little more mature and maybe a few more people feel like they can take what I’m saying seriously.
I, of course, feel like we should take even the most erratic, angry teenage girl as seriously as she wants to be taken, but I understand that I’m in a different position now. If I find a job, which is a sentence introduction that immediately makes me start sweating and chewing off my nails, I’ll be in a position of authority soon. I’ll have more independence and more opportunity to give my time to my own causes.
My first line of defense won’t be maybe I should write a manifesto or how quick can I start a girl band and who knows how to play the drums. Those defenses are important in their own time and with their own people, but I’m not there. For now, I’ll keep writing and trying to make people think and make sure my information is up to date if Planned Parenthood ever needs people to help escort their patients through protestors again.
These things aren’t very cool, but they’re something. And if I still wear a Bikini Kill T-shirt on the weekends and anonymously take down misogynists online, who’s going to know the difference?