Rowan Blanchard Gives Gen-Z a Good Name


If there’s one member of Generation Z who can change minds about the state of today’s social media-crazed youth, it’s 14-year-old Disney Channel actress Rowan Blanchard. Don’t let her stereotypical teenage Instagram profile about loving Harry Potter, chocolate, and Beyoncé fool you–her push for social change rivals most of the politicians currently running for office. Using the byline “by me,” she published a three Instagram post-long essay on intersectional feminism that went viral, pointing out that problems of “police brutality and race issues are our [feminists’] issues too” and that “the way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality.” Following her digital soliloquy, Blanchard was named Feminist Celebrity of the Year by the Ms. Foundation for Women–a title she shares with her good friend Amandla Stenberg.

Thanks to the power of social media, Blanchard has ignited a Gen-Z movement within the larger feminism revolution that is reaching a very young audience. Last June, she was invited to speak at the UN Women’s U.S. National Committee’s 2015 Conference & Annual Meeting on gender equality in youth. To her, the coolest part of the experience was the widespread impact that her words had. A 12-year-old girl from Pakistan reached out to thank her for fighting on her behalf, reminding her that ‘in my country, we don’t have as many rights as you do.’ “It was so powerful,” Blanchard recalls. “Without the Internet, that girl would never have heard of me. I’m not only fighting for my own equality–I’m fighting for others.”

In a voice that seems wise beyond her years, Blanchard describes the dangers of staying silent and it’s up to her generation to speak out. (In January, she announced herself as queer with a tweet.) “You’re trained to accept these things,” she says. “One of the huge privileges that we have as teens in America today is the Internet and being able to talk to people. Girls like Tavi [Gevinson], Barbie [Ferreira], and Amandla [Stenberg] are not doing it for themselves–they’re doing it for all of us. I’ve found a sisterhood in it. We owe it to each other to help each other along.” So Blanchard spends her free time watching CNN and reading up on current events to educate herself. “When people ask me why I do that, I say that it’s because this is the world we live in and I don’t want it to be the world we live in.”

It’s Blanchard’s hope that in two short years, society will have evolved to the point where conversations about inequality will no longer be necessary. “I don’t want to have to tell girls that they are not sluts because they wear shorts,” she says. In the meantime, here’s something to ponder: if Blanchard wanted to trade in her Disney Channel time slot for a seat in the oval office, she’d probably win… but we’ll have to wait until 2037 for her to turn 35.

Photograph Sloan Laurits
Fashion Constance Féral
Illustration Mithsuca Berry
Makeup Jeffrey Baum
Hair Johnnie Sapong


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