Stories of Girls’ Resistance

Age-ism and adultism:

Problematising contours of power in the space between the generations

Age-ism and adultism:

Problematising contours of power in the space between the generations

Ageism and adultism are a common and recurring reality for girls and young people, appearing in the home, at school, in their organisations and collectives and in broader movement spaces.

It looks like limited access to spaces and places, not being taken seriously or trusted for their contributions, reduced to tasks such as note taking and making coffee, or being outright excluded from opportunities, conversations and decisions. This can result in being made to feel small, insignificant and powerless. While girls face many forms of discrimination based on their multiple identities, ageism is one that is particular to this moment in their lives and is often quite painful as they can face it from the very people that brought them into movement spaces and their older feminist comrades.

There is also a stereotype for – it’s not only because we were girls but because we were young. So I was confronted by many incidents and many situations where my skills and abilities were questioned because I was young. Before seeing anything – before seeing my work. After a while they realised that, yes, well – like saying – (Arabic term) yes, she has something, yeah. And they used to underestimate our abilities and our capacity to initiate change. Even when I had my first job, because I was a program manager at the age of 21. I used to have a meeting with a manager – even female managers specifically, because I thought they would be supportive and they would be proud, but I was confronted with many older women who were making fun of that. Like – oh, they didn’t find any manager, they got a young woman? Or perceiving me as a kid, still a kid…

Mariam
Occupied Palestine

A lot of older women are still organising in the name of young women. For example, you find that in an organization, a founder who is above the 30 is still fighting to be the Executive Director of an organization that is for young feminists below the age of 30. So the main struggle is the age and the resources, the infantilizing younger feminists and the resources fight.

Po
Kenya

You’re a girl under 18, you’re a kid. They are like we have seen this struggle before you. Take this slowly. Ageism…I don’t come from a very privileged family… when I’m involved in these spaces when it comes to gender and politics they’re not seeing you as someone who can contribute. I think as a girl I found it very problematic. They are like you are young, listen to the elders. Not seeing you as someone. So you’d rather keep some issues to yourself and not speak about it.

Rachael
Kenya

I guess the hardest thing when I was starting out was being taken seriously, and I guess this kind of goes back to the gatekeeper attitude. It was just the idea that you needed to be involved in advocacy for this amount of years to be taken seriously or you need to have done this or that in order to have an opinion on something. I found that to be very problematic for me because I felt like a lot of ideas or a lot of ways of moving forward were being suppressed.

D
Kyrgyzstan

Yeah, I remember one thing actually – …. they tend to be leaning to the conservative style. And I never felt that conservative style…. I am speaking fast, I’m walking fast, even before I travelled to Europe – and it bothers me so much when people think that the way I behave is just because I live in Norway now. Because I was always like that. I get some criticism for speaking loudly. So I think older women tend not to be that flexible. And not to hear from – like I remember also I told this very well-known politician, I said, ‘maybe you should do it this way.’ She told me in a direct way, ‘I have been in this for a long time; I don’t need you to tell me how to do it.’

Asria
Western Sahara

There is some stigma from the people with whom you are participating and they believe that we do not have good ideas or that we are not able to carry them out, if there is someone older, that issue of adult-centrism and credibility arises. I think that many times they took me as symbolic participation, that participation where they see that there is a girl or boy who can speak well, who can do this well, then I will use him or her, they took me that way.

Shari
Honduras

There are moments in which we attack and moments in which we resist, but hey, I think that also in girls and adolescents, we live these two great forms of violence, very marked that they are the patriarchal and the adult-centric, permanent underestimation; that is, you are a woman and you are already inferior, but if you are a woman and you are a teenager or a little girl you are even more inferior because you do not know anything, then it is like resisting all of that and facing it.

Milagros
Argentina

There are many challenges – one of them is this Cooperative is led and managed by young girls- from age between 18- 29, so we feel there is lot for us to learn, we lack enough knowledge and capacity about running the Cooperatives. Whereas, in our regions, all other Cooperatives are run and managed by senior people in both age and experience. Rather than mentoring and helping us, they are in unhealthy competition with us. They don’t support our success and achievements. We know we are doing good for the community and helping our community but they don’t help us and cooperate with us. This has been one of the biggest challenges for us.

Dipa
Nepal