I remember finding the age of 16-18 really frustrating. Like a lot of people my age I knew my own thoughts and opinions, but if felt like no one was interested in listening to teens.
I always wondered at what point did you become serious and therefore worthy of expressing an opinion. When you go to college? When you graduate? Is it at 18? But for me I didn’t see a big difference between myself at 16 and 18.
I Don’t Wanna Be An American Idiot
I was reminded of this after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida on 14 February. I’m pretty sure that I don’t need to rehash the details. You probably know all about it. Just like you have probably become disillusioned with the common occurrence of this in the US.
When news broke on Twitter about the shooting I remember voicing the question of when would it change? Never I immediately thought. Sandy Hook was the one. The one that should have changed everything in the U.S and around the world when it came to gun violence and safety in schools. But it didn’t.
I worked as a Kindergarten Teacher for 3 years in Abu Dhabi and I often found myself thinking what would I do if something happened in my school. How would I get my students to safety? How could I block my door if I needed to? It’s the sad reality of life today. Thankfully I never had to go though what numerous students and teachers do in the US. As someone who now works in media I found it bizarre how quickly media in the US moved to brush the Las Vegas shooting under the carpet.
A Time For Change?
So, yeah I set the bar very low when it came to this latest atrocity. But then something happened. Something that made me even happier than ever to be on the fringe when it comes to teens. The students of Stoneman Douglas High School rallied and instead of the story going away it continued to grow. And it feels like something might actually be happening. They are vocal online that changes need to be made. They’ve made numerous TV appearances, met with politicians and organised a walk out.
For me badass Lawyer Amal Clooney summed up all of my feelings.
“I am just blown away by these students. I think they are doing an amazing job turning a tragedy into advocacy. It’s only been a week since this happened and I’m in awe of how courageous they are and how effective they are. I would never have had the possession of mind or the courage at 16 years old, let alone having just gone through what they have, to be able to stand face to face with the president, a senator, the NRA, and answer those tough questions. They are the best vehicle and best hope for change. I really hope that they will succeed and make a meaningful difference.”
“The new generation, the young people, feel empowered to make a change. And frankly, they are the ones who should have the platform. The march we’re attending, it’s their march. They are the ones that are going to be speaking. And if someone tries to tell them what the reality is, their response should be, ‘Well, I was the one hiding in the closet a week ago, so let me tell you how I feel and this is what would make me feel safe.’ Watching them gives me a lot of hope.”
Teens are changing the conversations and holding power to account. But because America is an absolute disaster zone at the moment instead of applauding these teens for standing up and voicing their opinion after being through a very traumatising experience they’re being told to sit down and shut up by numerous politicians and media outlets. They’re not being listened to because they are calling it like it is and that makes some people very uncomfortable.
I found the same with the condescending reaction to Teen Vogue during the last (disastrous) Election Cycle in the US. Despite the fact that most of the articles were being written by adult journalists (Teen Vogue do take submissions from readers, like us!) there was a very dismissive attitude towards them. At least at first. Teen Vogue did some of the best commentary around the election and around Trump. But because they are a “teen mag” it felt like they needed to earn the privilege to discuss “serious” topics. They don’t, and neither do you.
The reality of the Teen Vogue coverage is that it was driven by what readers want. Teen Vogue wouldn’t continue to publish such articles if no one was reading and reacting to them. This shows that there is an apatite there from teens for those articles. That teens have opinions and an interest too. The true story of how Teen Vogue got mad, got woke, and began terrifying men like Donald Trump is well worth a read.
Teens In Ireland
I really feel that teens are not being listened to in Ireland either. I went to a Catholic School and there was a constant air of don’t talk about it. Don’t talk about the fact that your classmates are dropping out of school. Please don’t mention how we never gave you a sex ed class. Don’t talk about suicide or mental health. And don’t even mention the stress that you’re under from studying, but here’s some more homework to further add to it.
It comes back to my original question, when will teens be listened to? At what point is society going to deem your voice worthy? When will you even be asked the question in the first place? As women does that ever even fully happen? We are so underrepresented at so many decision tables.
Make Your Voice Be Heard
Social Media is a great tool outside of the bragging and “like” obsession. I see it especially on Twitter. We follow a lot of our Missy readers there and it honestly makes me so excited for the future when I see you voicing opinions and concerns there.
In terms of the upcoming Referendum on the 8th Amendment I know a lot of you reading this can’t vote because you’re under 18. But I would urge you to talk to your parents. And maybe more importantly your grandparents who are from an older generation about what this vote will mean for you and your future. I think this is your chance to use your voice and make it heard.
Like the students in the US, teens are the force that we need to make changes. Make sure that people listen to you.