I was actually planning on writing this post on the weekend, but instead it morphed into an analysis of our culture’s tendency to encourage open sexuality as a sign of maturity, well, something along those lines anyway. If that interests you at all, why not read the actual post here?
I’ve been thinking a lot about whether my little 15 year old brain is actually capable of processing all the information required for me to be making valid points on important issues. Warning, I will probably repeat myself a lot in this post. Sorry.
Watching discussions unfold on my Twitter feed and reading articles about women’s rights and the treatment of children and articles like this, about the phenomenon of slut-shaming has made me want to proffer forth my own opinions on all these matters, and lend my voice to all the people yelling out for social change. But as I scroll through yet another news piece and see yet another comment or debate, it occurs to me that perhaps I’m not really smart enough for all this. Not because I lack intelligence, but because these things are all the kind of issues that people should be approaching with thought-out opinions and ideas, issues that require ‘background reading’, issues that you have to understand before you can really comment on them – and they’re such complex issues that fully understanding them seems to require a uni degree. So, I find myself retreating from the conversations because I don’t think my words are valid enough and I don’t want to clog up news feeds with foolish teenage spoutings of my personal half-baked ideas, and beliefs that are little more than me reacting to my gut feeling, however that may be affected by media and society in general. (For instance, my gut response to that article I linked was that actually, schoolgirls should have dress restrictions imposed on them – but how much of that is my actual belief and how much is just what I’ve been taught by society, by always going to schools with dress restrictions, etc?).
So, when considering my dilemma, I always wonder if there actually are limitations on what you can do that directly correspond to your age. Obviously I don’t expect it to be a perfect date, like that the particular day that is exactly 18 years after the day you were born, you are suddenly mature enough to drink alcohol. So November 13, I’m a silly immature child, but once midnight rolls around and it’s November 14, I am capable of all kinds of new things, like legally ordering a glass of wine with my dinner. Dumb, obviously – yes, the theory is good, but when you actualise age limits…they become a little ridiculous.
Anyway. I’m starting to go off topic again – that’s kind of part of my point. Is it ridiculous for me to be trying to write a real blog when I’m 15? Personally, I don’t think so. Vloggers become successful far younger than me, and blogging is such a malleable tool – you can run a blog to advertise your products, or to keep people updated on your travels, or to lay out your opinions, or just to post pictures of penguins that you thought really resembled cars.
In terms of career choices, I’m seriously considering being a writer of some kind. I already like to write stories that I never end up finishing – I dismiss them because I’m only 15 anyway so no one will publish them. That’s probably incredibly stupid thinking (obviously this isn’t the only reason that I don’t finish them) – but how stupid is it really? It is certainly true that our society is rather ageist – teens are generally considered homogeneous and foolish, incapable of really being intelligent on the same level as adults. Yes, I am good at school, I get good marks, but that doesn’t make me smart, that doesn’t automatically ensure that I am able to meaningfully contribute to discussions among adults. It just means I’m good at remembering the right things and writing it down in a way teachers like.
So – is there a particular age you have to be before you can truly participate in conversations requiring higher-level thinking and maturity? I’ve just started to try and contribute to Facebook conversations about Everyday Sexism, and in general taking opportunities to share my opinions on issues like treatment of prisoners and all kinds of political and human-rights type discussions, and it really, really makes me happy. I enjoy it, I like people listening to me and taking my perspective into account. They don’t seem to mind, or perhaps even notice, that I’m significantly younger than most of them – and why should they? If I can share valid ideas and the like, then why should there be any problem?
It’s taken me a little while to write this post – I wasn’t exactly sure of what my beliefs on the matter actually were. But now, I think I’ve realised them: I do think I am entitled to my own opinion, and I don’t think my age should be any kind of issue unless of course it indirectly causes problems because, for instance, I can’t necessarily comment on the effects of alcohol being used to ‘seduce’ women, because I don’t drink because it’s illegal for me to do that.
Yes, it’s true, sometimes the conversation will be ‘over my head’ and just a little too complicated for me, but that would likely happen even if I were 23, so I shouldn’t have to not contribute at all because I can’t participate in all.
I am aware that as a foolish teenager I’m likely to do all those typical things teenagers do, like being overly upset over personal slights, or taking criticism too harshly, or thinking that I know far more than I really do, or not being able to see things outside of my own personal experience. But – for one thing, such behaviour is by no means exclusive to teenagers and it might be that I continue to act like that in my twenties, even thirties, perhaps my whole life. Secondly – if I don’t try and interact with the ‘real world’ then I won’t ever grow up to be the kind of person who doesn’t only take into account her personal experiences, because that kind of thing takes practice – and what better way to do it than by participating in things that interest me on topics I care about?
Sometimes I feel bad about trying to offer people sympathy or advice – I’m a dumb 15 year old whose worst ever problems have been having no friends at school (though I’m certainly well-practiced at that), so it stands to reason that people think me presumptuous and condescending if I try to say ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘Just keep trying, it’ll get better eventually!’ or whatever else. After all, I haven’t experienced ‘life’ like they have, I’ve never had a romantic relationship, or lived alone, or even gotten a job. And I respect their opinions – because I feel they’re justified.
If, on the other hand, someone suggests that I can’t know what I’m talking about because I’m only 15, and I’m discussing something like the effects of the media in perpetuating sexism – why, then I will be affronted. I am, after all, capable of making my own decisions and opinions after reviewing the information available to me, just as much as anyone. And in fact, I would dare suggest that I could possibly provide a less common perspective – that of the younger teenager, because that’s what I am, and so even out of a hundred adults, who could argue that I am not the better choice if you want to know how young people (i.e. teenagers) are affected by, for instance, the media? I live that every day, for the moment, so I know exactly what it’s like. And even my fickle hormone-driven teenage mind can see that that must surely be better than a twenty-seven year old, no matter how smart or well-intentioned or youthful she may be, trying to remember how things affected her a whole decade ago, and apply those memories to modern-day circumstances, because even in the short space of 10 years media has managed to change rather drastically.
Look. Yes, I’m going to be distracted by pictures of kittens and think stuff is absolutely hilarious when adults think it’s just dumb, and I’ll worry about all the usual teen stuff like whether my hair looks good in that picture, but in my experience, everyone does. Everyone gets distracted by something they deem cute, or funny, or interesting, and thinks that something is hilarious when a lot of other people just don’t get it. But isn’t that in part a generational thing rather than just age-based? If you grew up in the nineties, you’ll appreciate references to the nineties, and if you didn’t, you probably won’t. That’s simple. Then again, it doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate it. Lots of things transcend age, be they popular book or movie series, sexism or pictures of cats. I adore Game of Thrones, the other students in my class are reading The Mortal Instruments, and those reading Game of Thrones are more likely to be slightly older than me than my age. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it; it’s a matter of personal preference. So, I say, let my peers have their Snapchat and discussions of tattoos, and I’ll do what I enjoy. Maybe next month I will enjoy Snapchat, even though I don’t right now, and that’s fine too.
So, to recap, I believe that anyone trying to impose age limits on, well, most anything that is concerned with your mind – reading, talking, discussing, writing, whatever – is ridiculous. Yes, there will be majorities – most people reading this will belong to one particular group, but there will always be a few who don’t, who might be older or younger or a different ethnicity or different gender or different religion or somehow, in some way, different, but they can still enjoy the exact same thing, and what they produce (in terms of opinions, reviews, writing, etc) is just as valid, even though the creator doesn’t fit the exact profile as most of the others.
However, there are times when age must be taken into account, when I believe there should be a limit, like with alcohol consumption and the age of consent. Thirteen years old is too young to be making decisions about how other people should be allowed to interact with the most intimate parts of your body. But expressing your opinions? There should be no limit to that.
This is a very long post (and longer still from this) and it’s rather convoluted, and possibly contradictory. It was hard to write because I didn’t know what I wanted to say, which is why I repeat myself and make it so long. If anyone deemed it worthy of reading – please, I would love to know what you think. Of all the things I’ve posted on here so far…this is one of the ones that I most want feedback from, or rather, to know more about other people’s opinions.