Teen Feminists Really Do Care About the Budget

By Talia Weisberg

I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a NOW webinar moderated by Terry O’Neill, President of NOW, “The Budget Deal is a Feminist Issue.” The webinar discussed how Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget deal would cut several social services. Programs on the chopping block include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics, Pell grants, job training, Head Start, childcare programs, and WIC nutrition programs. Women are overrepresented in each of these program’s recipient pools.

After O’Neill gave her presentation, she opened the floor to questions. I asked if any of the Ryan cuts impact girls and teens, and she explained that it would cut family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood, which also offer services like mammograms, STD and HIV screenings, Pap smears, and other tests that can help save women’s lives. “That’s appalling,” she said.

After the webinar, I told my friend about it and she replied, “You’re probably the only teenager on the planet who enjoyed hearing a presentation about the budget.” She’s probably got a point there.

While I absolutely loved the webinar, it bothered me that O’Neill felt the only way the Ryan budget impacts young women is by cutting family planning. Girls do have interests other than sex, you know. For instance, I care about getting a college education and cutting Pell grants would make that difficult if not impossible. I also care about Medicaid cuts as I know a family friend with special needs who depends on this program. Other young women may have additional concerns about the proposed budget cuts.

The webinar also represented for me another example of a well-established feminist organization overlooking its younger feminist followers. O’Neill didn’t even address the impact of the Ryan budget cuts on younger women in her original presentation, which is why I made sure to bring it up during the Q&A. To ensure the continuity of the feminist movement, its leaders must focus on inclusivity, ensuring that young feminists, feminists of color, LGBT feminists, feminists with disabilities and those that embody all the above and more are not left out of the conversation.

Here’s my pledge to NOW and the other big feminist movement players: I’ll get my fellow teen feminists revved up about the budget if you remember to include us in your movement. I think we’re pretty cool, at least.

Talia is a junior at Manhattan High School for Girls. She is the creator of Bleep!, an organization to stop kids and teens from cursing. She also co-created Maidelle.com, a writing website for teenage girls.

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