I wanted to write an article, but was lacking inspiration. So I thought I’d look up Florence Given on Google for quotes or topics to wake up my brain.
And I shockingly discovered, this incredible feminist, queer illustrator, and social activist, is only 20 years old. A whole two years younger than me.
I gasped when reading her date of birth thinking, how can someone so young be so successful, confident and unapologetic about who they are?
I met her once and was impressed by her charisma and self-assurance. Impressed and maybe slightly irritated if I’m honest.
As women, we are taught to feel threatened by other women’s success and qualities; because another woman’s strength apparently means the lack of our own. Particularly younger women’s success.
I never struggled to appreciate and celebrate other women’s beauty; because I never thought it affected my own, as we are all so different. However, what took me a long time to acknowledge is that I did sadly integrate the idea that you should feel smaller when another woman is thriving.
The age factor is key here, because most of the female creators I follow online are all a few years older than me; which makes me hopeful when I see all their accomplishments. I think to myself, I am so happy and proud these women exist and made it to where they wanted to be. Because it motivates me to figure out my own personal dreams and to pursue them.
But when these women are my age, or younger, the uncomfortable thought that I should have accomplished so much more by now creeps in, and makes me doubt myself.
In the patriarchal society we grow up in, and exist in, being a woman comes with a number of obstacles; including discrimination and sometimes violence. But the sexism in our society takes on a new dimension when ageism enters the equation.
The older a woman gets, the more invisible she becomes. The supposed “value”of a woman decreases with her age. Probably because she becomes more confident and less easy to take advantage of. And she is no longer allowed to take up space in the public sphere.
My mother, who turned 57 this year, told me once that she had felt a clear shift when she grew older. After a certain threshold, your voice does not matter anymore. And this time, it is not so much because you are a woman but because you are now old and “irrelevant.” This phenomenon pushes women to fear their younger counterparts, and often show hostility towards them.
Even though I cannot recall a time when I acted on such a feeling, becoming aware of this issue helps me understand the way I view young women and their achievements in society. And how I inherited these beliefs that I never chose.
Instead of interpreting other women’s success as a sign of your own failure, you should celebrate them.
And I’ll give you two reasons for that.
First of all, it means that the world is changing for the better. That Florence found the strength to fight social injustices, and gave life to so many creative projects, is something I and everyone else should feel excited about. She might have access to resources that others don’t, and it’s important to take that into account. And she’s on her own journey, which is different to yours and mine. But to see a young woman feel confident enough to speak up and empower other women by doing so is something I feel incredibly proud to witness.
In 2020, a young feminist and queer woman’s success means society is heading in the right direction.
And secondly, it means you too have the ability to break gender norms and follow your dreams.
Comparing ourselves will only divide us and prevent us from growing as women. So the next time you see another woman succeed, no matter how old she is, please do not feel defeated.
Support her. Feel empowered. Get excited.