I wish to give my answer to the lovely young girl who asked an interesting question on Q and A on Monday 4th November. She regretted that her generation did not appear as willing to get out and fight on specific issues that are important to them as our generations were in the 50s, 60s and 70s. She especially related this to the questions of feminism, and also the very beginning of the gay rights movement that many of us remember.
Germaine Greer, as ever right when talking of historical facts, said that we rose to arms and warfare when we came upon doors closing in our faces or the direct negation of rights and opportunities. She suggested that the questioner and her friends would be empowered to react when they met such obstacles.
I do not agree with Ms Greer on the second part of her answer. You young people of today face a much more difficult scene than she, I and our contemporaries did. No longer is there opportunity to display direct negativity or warfare. The powerful in society have grown too clever to allow themselves to be exposed to this.
We talk about the influence of social media and advances in communication. We know you young are much better at it than we are. But you are also much more enslaved by its normality to you – the subtlety of its influence and unexpressed rejections, and more, its outright capacity to display as normal those ideas that the powerful want to be normal – than we could ever have been by the outright prejudice we met and that we could readily identify as such.
The powerful in society, mostly well organized for economic reasons, have made their influence felt from your early life. Examples can be see in some feminist issues, to take just one viewpoint. The genders, in the way of playthings and clothing, are typecast from birth by commercial interests. Fashion dictates and limits choices of what the young can wear, particularly young girls. Recently I found concrete examples of what had some of us had expected, many young boys, even ones as old as 11 years, do not know that women grow body hair.
I love social media. Its instantaneousness is wonderful. But because of social media it is harder for you young people to be different than it was for young people 30 years or more ago. It is all so public. It also means it is harder to identify a deliberate influence and it is harder to go against the majority view, a majority influenced ever so cleverly by unseen forces of the media.
There are no doors that will be slammed in your faces. Instead there will be enticing portals that invite you to go down virtual corridors, and you may not know where you have gone until you arrive.