From (A)mandla Stenberg to (Z)endaya: Celebrating an Openly Feminist Generation of Female Powerhouses

I'd like to think that, at this relatively enlightened point in time, the phrase "you’re not like other girls" could only possibly be meant as a poor attempt at humor – surely not a genuine compliment. Still, while the sentiment may no longer be expressed quite so explicitly, young women nonetheless find themselves navigating a world in which certain traditionally feminine traits continue to be met with ridicule. The notion of "other girls" speaks to a societal pressure placed on women to distance themselves from their gender, as if one should apologize for being born female. Of course, this disdain for displays of femininity completely fails to account for the diversity of the female experience; while common struggles can certainly be identified, no single story is capable of defining womanhood.

Only 20 years old, Hailee Steinfeld represents a new generation of female celebrity, having come of age in an era ever more cognizant of the importance of solidarity amongst women. Her summer single, titled "Most Girls", celebrates the individual differences and collective strength of women. The song opens with this verse:

Some girls, feel best in their tiny dresses

Some girls, nothin' but sweatpants, looking like a princess

Some girls, kiss new lips every single night

They're stayin' out late cause they just celebrating life

Really, Hailee is just vocalizing what so many of her female peers already know to be true – no two girls are the same, but all girls deserve respect. As innocuous as this idea may seem, the celebration of girlhood has long been undermined by a society whose values incentivize projecting oneself as "one of the guys." Hailee Steinfeld wholly rejects this rendering of femininity. The album artwork accompanying "Most Girls" features her donning both a sweatshirt and a tiara, demonstrating that, just like men, women can easily be composed of apparent contradictions.

In the same vein as Hailee Steinfeld, young stars Amandla Stenberg, Rowan Blanchard, and Zendaya have all been vocal in their support of feminist causes, using their highly visible platforms to raise awareness about the inequalities and double standards that continue to blight our gender relations. Moreover, Amandla Stenberg and Zendaya often address their identities as biracial women in America, encouraging society at large to celebrate black womanhood.

Much closer to home, the Rice Women's Resource Center (RWRC) fosters a sense of community that allows female students a space in which they know they will be heard, and their experiences will be regarded as valid. Monthly zines, the provision of feminine care products and condoms free of charge, and a library filled with feminist books, magazines, and movies all serve to convey an appreciation for the shared experiences of women. Equally significant, the RWRC does not seek to emphasize similarities at the expense of diversity or inclusivity – regardless of how (or if) they choose to express their femininity, women from all backgrounds are made to feel welcome at the Center.

As Maya Angelou so adroitly stated, "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass." Here's to the unabashedly feminist women – be they on the big screen or on the Rice campus – who we're lucky enough to count as role models for today’s young girls.