Young Feminist Conference Chicago 2016

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer spoke to two groups of high school girls last fall and heard the same lament: No one was asking them what they thought.

“’Nobody asks us our opinion as girls, it’s always the boys,’” Gainer recalls the students at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School and Lindblom Math and Science Academy telling her. “’The boys go to the protests and they get sought after for their opinion because they’re out there, more large and in charge.’”

The students said they have plenty of opinions about gun violence, the state of the city and the issues they face as young women, but no one seemed to want to hear them.

“’Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we don’t have an opinion about what’s happening in the city.’”

The complaint struck a chord with Gainer (D-10th), a former community organizer who founded a Chicago affiliate of the Off the Sidelines program. After several meetings with girls from both of those high schools and several others, a conference was born.

The half-day Young Feminist Conference, set for the morning of Monday, Aug. 15, is free and open to girls 14-20 years old to “discuss the pressing issues affecting their generation.” Gainer says more than 300 people have RSVP’d for the event as of Aug. 10, and 250 of them are young women from a variety of neighborhoods, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, gender identities and sexualities.

The conference was driven largely by young women and is organized around three themes:

Feminism through the generations: “What does it mean to be feminist at 17 or at 30 or at 50, and how does that manifest in how you see the world and how you take action?”

Campus sexual assault: “It is so on their minds.”

Power: “How do you become powerful and how do you use power? You can never effectuate change unless you’re powerful,” Gainer says. “We don’t talk about power explicitly, and we need to be comfortable with that stuff, otherwise you get sidelined.”

Young women and allies interested in attending the Young Feminist Conference can register here

Karen Hawkins is the Founder and Rebelle in Chief of Rebellious Magazine. She is a recovering mainstream media reporter and editor who wants to thank her former boss for naming the online magazine she's...

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