Dear young women and girls:
I'm going to tell it to you straight.
(You know you deserve that, right? You deserve people talking to you from their hearts, telling you the truth, listening with their entire being, and standing next to you. You deserve to trust adults -- women and men, and you deserve to trust your peers -- boys and girls. You deserve to have adults who value you enough to tell you about the shit that goes down in this world, and you deserve to have people strong enough to help you in naming the bullshit. This is your birthright. Don't forget this).
So I'm going to tell it to you straight: the whole system is fucked.
This probably comes as no surprise to you, but I think it's good to hear a supposed adult say it. See, no one ever told me that the system was fucked, that sexism still existed and that I would experience its impacts, that rape culture is a thing, or that my experiences were real. If anyone had told me that my experiences of being catcalled, of having men comment on my body, of being shamed for my body type (and on and on) were wrong, I can't imagine how different my life might have been, so I'm telling you: you aren't making it up. Your gut doesn't lie. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Not sure how to name your experience or feeling or thing you're seeing? Tell the story. Your voice is essential. If people don't listen, tell it again. There is value in being a pain-in-the-ass, and your voice is strong.
It enrages me that anyone would dare compromise your learning because your bra strap is out of line. It makes me seethe to consider that anyone would tell you that your body is a distraction. I am infuriated when I hear that you are made to feel shameful, or guilty, or inferior, or sexualized, or objectified in the places you are supposed to learn. I want you to know that you have been heard. I want you to know that you are believed. I want you to know that you have people who are with you in the fight. I want you to know that your body, your mind, your spirit, your learning, your choices are all worth fighting for.
And I also want you to know that this fight is yours. I do not doubt your bravery, your ingenuity, your intelligence, your voice, or your talent. I am here as an ally, as a woman, and as a fellow warrior who knows your worth and is willing to stand with you if you'll let me.
You probably don't want to hear advice from me - some random 29 year old you don't even know - so I won't give you any. Instead, I will tell you three things in case you need to hear them. I tell you these things because I need to tell them. Because I need to hear them. Because I need you to hear them. Okay?
(1) I believe you. I believe you now, and I will keep believing you. I promise.
(2) I will stand with you. Or next to you. Or behind you, or in front of you, or across the room, or wherever the fuck you want me to stand. I will stand with you, and I will keep standing until you tell me to sit, or go, or run, or jump up and down on one leg. I swear to god.
(3) You are worth-full. I know that's not a word, and I don't care. The word "worthy" indicates that there is also an "unworthy," and there is never a time, or a place, or a situation in which you are not full of worth. You are worth-full because you exist, because you are a person, because you are a girl, because you have a body. Because it is your goddamn birthright to exist as a person who is full of worth. You can know, without explanation or hesitation, that you are always and forever full of worth.
Find a mirror. Look into it, straight into your eyes. Keep looking. Say, "I matter."
If you can't find a mirror, if you avoid your gaze, if mirrors make you cry, if your eyes make you cry, picture this: I am 5'4. I have green eyes, dark hair that frizzes uncontrollably in the humidity, and I'm wearing a tank top exposing my shoulders. My bra strap may be showing. I am holding your face in my hands like a blessing, looking deeply into your eyes, and I am telling you: "you matter."
This world needs your brain, your body, your heart, your spirit. You are worth-full, and you matter. We need you. I need you. All of you.
You are precious (definition: a resource of great value; valuable; beloved).
Do not forget this.