Fall has definitely arrived, even in California, and our favorite crisp days involve wool sweaters and curling up with a good book. As such, we’re counting the days until the 20th volume of the 826 Quarterly hits the shelves this Saturday, with a special student reading and release party coinciding with the Litquake festival’s pinnacle LitCrawl event. The 826 Quarterly collects the best of our students’ writing from the past semester, and this issue, beautifully illustrated by LeUyen Pham and designed by Christine Herrin, is chock-full of bright young voices speaking out about gender and race equality, as well as telling tales of monsters falling in love, hamsters retiring, and robots resurrected.
Read on and savor a poignant rejection of societal gender norms from the mind of a teenage girl, capped with a timely reference to the brilliant and brave Malala Yousafzai. (A million congrats, Malala, our heroine, on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and thanks for continuing to serve as an inspiration to our students and young scholars around the world!)
Pink Fingernails and Foreign Affairs
Iris Morrell * age 14
Being a teenage girl influences my life and perception in a way unlike that of any other identity. Unlike other demographics, teenage girls are stereotyped in such a way that all of my interests are deemed inferior and “typical,” or otherwise so outlandishly peculiar for someone of my age and gender that I mustn’t really understand them. Think about what is marketed to female adolescents—cosmetics, boy bands, true love, and the color pink—and consider the fact that these things are so excessively insistent upon my investment that it is nearly impossible to avoid them. People seem to have an outlook—one that bleeds into their interactions—that insists that teenage girls’ opinions are not relevant, that they are autonomous at times but influenced by popular media, and above all, that the things we like or are supposed to like are objectively inferior. Any variation of these opinions promotes the idea that all of the opinions, abilities, and business impacts that we possess are not to be taken seriously, and because of this, my peers and I all suffer. I do like things that I am told to, and though I can acknowledge that they are not entirely autonomous opinions, I am still entitled to them, and wish so much that people would respect my opinions without judgment.
I want to exist as more than my label as a teenage girl, or rather, I want expectations and opinions of me to be structured independently. I want to be able to flip the pages of Foreign Affairs with pink fingernails. I want to read James Joyce and John Green and to not contradict myself. And furthermore, I want nothing I do to contradict my status, nothing I like to be compared to what I’m supposed to. We are living in a world where the same people who market to us feminine things turn around and accuse us of being idiotic for liking them—and I cannot change this. I cannot stop being a teenage girl.
If we don’t align ourselves with these feminine interests, activities, and behaviors, someone will always tell us that we need to revert to our assigned roles in society. “Wouldn’t the best thing now be to let her focus on her GCSEs and A-levels?” asks Rob Crilly, in a blog post for the Telegraph about Malala Yousafzai. “Don’t get me wrong,” He continues. “It would be a remarkable story were she to win the Nobel Peace Prize… But at what price to a teenage girl? I for one will be quietly hoping she doesn’t win.”
Well, here at 826 we were clamorously hoping he was wrong about that one, and couldn’t be happier that he was! To read more from the teenage perspective, pick up a copy of the 826 Quarterly at the release party Saturday night!