Have you heard of the show Girl Meets World? If not, it’s a spin off of the beloved show Boy Meets World. It follows the story of Riley Matthews, Cory and Topanga’s daughter, and her friends. Riley is played by the actress Rowan Blanchard, who has shown herself to be very vocal on subjects such as on feminism and other important issues. Last year on June 27th, she gave a speech (pdf) on gender inequality in youth. In her speech she mentions her episode of Girl Meets World called “Girl Meets STEM”, an episode that leads Riley to find out that girls tend to lose interest in STEM fields because they can be discouraged or pushed aside from them. At the end of it, Riley and her best friend in the show, Maya, both declare themselves “big-time feminists”. It became the first Disney show- the first children’s show- to say the word feminist. Bustle wrote an article that touches a little bit more on feminism in Girl Meets World.
Moving on to more about Rowan, she’s a 14 year old girl who isn’t afraid to speak her mind on topics many previous Disney stars stayed silent on. In summer 2015, she answered an ask someone sent to her on tumblr about her thoughts on white feminism. A part of her response was: “‘White feminism’ forgets all about intersectional feminism. The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with trans-women and Hispanic women,” She goes on to say why police brutality and race issues are feminist issues too. The closing to her response: “To only acknowledge feminism from a one sided view when the literal DEFINITION is the equality of the sexes is not feminism at all. We need to be talking about this more. Discussion leads to change. Xo, Row.”, Shows us that Rowan is open to talking about different viewpoints and not just one that stick with her narrative, something we should all try to do.
Back in January she also posted to her twitter that she identifies as queer, despite only ever being attracted to boys in her life, but she’s open to liking other genders. In her first post, she says that she doesn’t want to give herself a label, not gay or straight. When someone asked for clarification, ”Unless you are saying you are open to liking any other gender in the future then please specify”, To which she responded: “Yes open to liking any gender in the future is why I identify as queer.” Queer is often used as an umbrella term, used by anyone who feel they don’t fit into societal norms for gender or sexuality. Her being unflinching to talk about this in public is great, especially for other young girls figuring out their sexualities. And also because there will be people saying she is too young to know what she is or isn’t into, but they aren’t saying a word when people push hetero-normative roles onto babies and kids.
For someone as young as she is, I’m inspired by the way she isn’t afraid to talk about feminism, since many people older than her can’t seem to grasp the basics of it. She talks about intersectional feminism, which is so important because we often can get too caught up with trying to figure out if calling a girl bossy is sexist, when there are black women being murdered and no one seems as angry for them (not trying to say that we can’t focus on both things). She’s been vocal about police brutality, the black people shot and killed by the hands of police, and the Black Lives Matter movement as well.
Rowan’s shown herself to be a big supporter that encourages building other girls up, not tearing them down, like society expects us to and the media likes to portray us doing. Her 4.2 million Instagram followers show just about how many people hear what she has to say- and she’s using it to spread awareness and positivity in the world. Oh, and I loved the essay she wrote for Rookie Magazine, which was about not apologizing for who you are and existing. Definitely recommend it.
I hope everyone, especially children and teenagers, listens to what she has to say and takes after her example in speaking up on what you believe in and being the change you want to see in the world.
Aracely is a 15 year old girl who can be found having solo dance parties to Fifth Harmony, staying up past 3am every night reading, and has fabulous hair. Her tumblr is @glittersilhouettes if you want to know when she’s actively procrastinating.