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Do Something

Too young to vote? I have some ideas for you.

Illustration by Sonja

Allow yourself to be used by the spirit of history. Just find a way to get in the way… Get in trouble—good trouble, necessary trouble… Every generation must find a way to leave the planet…a little better than we found it—a little greener and a little more peaceful. I think that’s our calling. We have a mission, a mandate, and a moral obligation to do just that.Georgia congressman John Lewis

So, maybe you can’t vote. Because you’re too young. How does this make you feel? Voiceless? Uninterested? Angry? Apathetic? I remember feeling completely alienated from the political process before I turned 18, and somewhat spurned. As if my voice didn’t matter. It was frustrating. But you guys are powerful! I know this, because I sat in front of hundreds of you a few weeks back at the Rookie Yearbook One launch and cried! I cried because, just five years ago, when my daughter was born, I was a little scared for her. I didn’t see young people out there making it seem cool to be a feminist. I had all of feminist history to show her, and that is some powerful stuff, but I longed for strong feminists who could also be cool-older-sister figures for her. And now, here you are! Thank you!

I’m here to appeal to you, especially the Americans among you, to come out in full force for the upcoming U.S. presidential election, on Tuesday, November 6. (And I’ll admit right here that I’m biased toward Obama’s politics, and this piece will reflect that; if you’re a Republican, or an independent or undecided or ANYTHING else, though, your voice is important too and you need to get your concerns heard by your representatives!) This election affects YOU more than anyone in many ways, because the outcome will affect your future. The results of laws and policies that are being put into motion now may skip a generation (they often do) and come to bite you in the butt when you’re an adult. For example, if the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is struck down, you won’t be able to stay on your parents’ health insurance plan after college. (Obamacare would let you stay on it until you’re 26.) The DREAM Act, which would ensure that immigrants’ kids would have access to educations and basic social services in this country, is still being hotly debated. A lot of other scary-important issues are up for grabs this election too: immigration, education, abortion rights, same-sex marriage, gun control, the environment, global warming, terrorism, the economy, welfare, and unemployment. For a pretty good breakdown of where the presidential candidates fall on these issues go here.

If you’re old enough to do so, you can register to vote here. If you’re not sure if you’re already registered, find out here. We all need to vote, especially women and young people. We adults know that despite all of the fighting, name-calling, outright lying, and bad mojo that the election cycle pollutes our country’s political narrative with, one truth remains: you, the young folk, the next generation, are the ones who will really feel the sting of getting rid of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Planned Parenthood, and other social services that women of all ages depend on (low-income women especially). The people fighting for office now are the ones who will decide whether you’ll be able to get an abortion, what your taxes will be spent on, how big a portion of your income those taxes will ask for, whether arts are supported in our country, whether the safety net that is supposed to catch citizens who aren’t doing so well financially or otherwise will be strengthened or destroyed. Personally, as a feminist, I feel a moral obligation to support girls, women, people of color, gay people, bi people, trans people, poor people, and anyone else who has been cheated out of a measure of power and justice just because of who they are. I believe we all have a responsibility to help one another. We don’t live on a level playing field, and that makes me angry. Until we are all equal, I believe our government has a responsibility to give everyone access to a good education, affordable health care, after-school activities, a living wage, and a lot of other important stuff.

As women and girls, we have an extra responsibility to send a message to our leaders. It’s not OK for a politician to draw lines between “legitimate” or “illegitimate” rape; rape is rape, duh. It’s not OK for influential political commentators to call women names for demanding the right to birth control. It’s not OK that women make substantially less than men for the same work, or that women of color and undocumented women make less than white citizens. It’s shameful to make health care so complicated and inaccessible for us, to deny marriage rights to so many people, to deny basic human rights to so many more. And there’s still an urgent need for more women on the Supreme Court, in the presidential administration, in Congress, and in local offices everywhere.

But if you’re too young to vote, what can you do? I have some ideas. You can canvas potential voters by knocking on doors and encouraging people to register. If a sweet-faced young cherub like yourself showed up on the doorstep of a jaded, stone-faced grownup and implored them with pleading eyes to “please vote, it’s important for my future,” who could turn you down? Organize a debate at your school, in your living room, anywhere! Bug your too-cool-for-school older friends to please use their votes. Press your local candidates to elaborate on their ideas for empowering young people. Hold them to task on their beliefs on women’s issues, civil rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ rights, youth issues, the environment, voter suppression, etc. If you live in a swing state (Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin), you have a TON of power. Your state could make or break this election. Get involved in a local election. And if electoral politics aren’t your thing, agitate for the causes you care about (but I hope you will still vote—it really does make a difference).

Listen. I’ve been watching you guys. I’ve been watching you embrace feminism, community, social justice, and positive hooliganism; it’s one of the more inspiring things I’ve been privileged to behold in my lifetime. The landscape has changed. My daughter’s cup runneth over with amazing role models, magazines, movies, TV shows. I have you all to thank for this. (Thank you all for this!) But being such a kick-ass generation of role models comes with the burden of responsibility. There’s a short story by Delmore Schwartz called “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.” I love that phrase—to me it means that rising up and creating the future you imagine for yourself and for humanity takes a lot of work. Nothing big, wonderful, life-altering, and revolutionary happens without it. It’s really, really hard, and it’s worth it.

You girls are a tribe. It’s so beautiful and incredible to see, and oh man do I wish I’d had what you have when I was in my teens. Don’t waste this. You’re an army! You have power. Take your power, gather your ranks, organize, and use your collective voice to change things! Pound the pavement with your friends. It doesn’t matter what your politics are—find a candidate who speaks your language and cares about what’s important to you, and volunteer for them. Write letters! Write blogs! Raise money for issues and candidates you care about! Find out how you can help, on election day, to monitor polls in your city and make sure everyone’s voting rights are upheld! If any of you are in Virginia, or will be in Virginia on election day, let me know. I will be there campaigning with a big ol’ group of folks and will be psyched to see you out there!

Text, Instagram, tweet, post, email! Advocate, agitate, and scream from the rooftops. Our rights are under attack. Let’s get to work!

All My Love,
Sarah Sophie

Here are a few sites to get you started:

Rock the Vote
The League of Young Voters
Black Youth Vote!
Young Politicians of America
The League of Women Voters
National Organization for Women
Youth Service America
Do Something
A long list of student organizations

And a great book: A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. ♦

Sarah Sophie Flicker is a performer, director, aerialist, designer, writer, and filmmaker. She is the creative director of the Citizens Band, half of a filmmaking team with Maximilla Lukacs, a contributor to HelloGiggles, and editor at large for Lula magazine.

55 Comments

  • dandelions October 4th, 2012 3:24 PM

    “You girls are a tribe. It’s so beautiful and incredible to see, and oh man do I wish I’d had what you have when I was in my teens. Don’t waste this. You’re an army! You have power.”
    DON’T WASTE THIS, it’s your time… stand up and be strong. (<3)

  • Amalie02 October 4th, 2012 3:28 PM

    I absolutely loved your article!

    Reading this made me think about how proud I am of the political activity of youth in my country, Norway. In fact, one of our youth leagues is actually the reason why all of the education supplies here are free, something which it was not before they started campaigning – this proves how important young people are and what we can actually accomplish if we get involved and stand up for what we believe in!

  • decemberbaby October 4th, 2012 3:32 PM

    This is awesome. I’m excited. Plus, I love the idea of Rookies as a tribe/army. :D

    • ladyjenna October 4th, 2012 7:01 PM

      DEFS. Gave me SUCH a good idea for a drawing….Rookies with war paint and weapons

  • litchick October 4th, 2012 3:45 PM

    I was just talking with a group today about how people are affected by elections when they can’t vote. I’ll be sharing this with them, for sure! :)
    This article really interested me, and definitely gave me a new perspective on voting, or not being able to. Thanks!

  • Indigoblue October 4th, 2012 3:53 PM

    ‘As women and girls, we have an extra responsibility to send a message to our leaders. It’s not OK for a politician to draw lines between “legitimate” or “illegitimate” rape; rape is rape, duh. It’s not OK for influential political commentators to call women names for demanding the right to birth control. It’s not OK that women make substantially less than men for the same work, or that women of color and undocumented women make less than white citizens.’ Can I frame this and stick it on my wall please? Feminism summed up in an article, can it get any better? :-)

  • Threees October 4th, 2012 4:05 PM

    This is so great! And I love that you added that “women of color and undocumented women make less than white citizens,” something that often goes unmentioned in feminist circles when wage gaps are discussed.

  • purplemoonlight October 4th, 2012 4:10 PM

    I just wanted to say thank you for mentioning Republicans in this piece. I am not a Republican, I never will be and disagree with almost all their policies, but I am really tired of people having a dig at Mitt Romney without really knowing what he stands for and why people find fault with his views.
    The important thing in this is that girls get involved with politics and current affairs, no matter what their political views. Hating Mitt Romney doesn’t change anything – getting out there and campaigning does!

    • I.ila October 4th, 2012 6:20 PM

      i agree with this completely. Even though the guy is pretty easy to make fun of, so many people don’t have a valid argument other than “He’s stupid.”

    • zzlw October 4th, 2012 7:32 PM

      I know, I totally agree with you! I hate it when people just aren’t even willing to understand what he (Romney) stands for – just because you don’t agree with what someone says doesn’t mean that his opinion and values don’t count for anything.
      Girrrrl Power!!

    • Juliane October 27th, 2012 1:16 PM

      So true. Hate makes us blind and can result in fanaticism and violenece.

  • Abby October 4th, 2012 4:15 PM

    I just turned 18 this year and I’m SOOO happy that I can vote!! GOBAMA!

  • Abby October 4th, 2012 4:16 PM

    Also… do I have permission to quote you and frame this and shout it out to the entire freaking world???

    “You girls are a tribe. It’s so beautiful and incredible to see, and oh man do I wish I’d had what you have when I was in my teens. Don’t waste this. You’re an army! You have power.”

    • TessaTheTeenageWitch October 5th, 2012 6:48 AM

      I just wanna post this on tumblr, but nobody would have a freaking idea what I was talking about. <3

      • elizab October 11th, 2012 2:38 AM

        You’d be surprised. There’s plenty of politics/feminist/rookieist posts in the Tumblrverse.
        Especially if one is a dabbler in fandom central.

  • creaturefeature October 4th, 2012 4:24 PM

    After the presidential debate Wed. night, this pretty much sums up my thoughts. It feels so great to be addressed as, gasp, a real citizen, even if I’m not 18.

  • lubs October 4th, 2012 4:37 PM

    This is very powerful to me, since in Brazil nowadays we (the young people) just don’t get too involved in politics. We always talk about this at school, but seeing it here on Rookie makes it more approachable, I don’t know. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • GorillazFangirl October 4th, 2012 5:57 PM

    Wow, reading this article really makes me want to get up, show and stand up for what I believe in, instead of letting older people do it for me. I’ve noticed here in South Africa that when kids/youth make a stand, people start listening. Come on, if we’re brave enough to go against misogynist/discriminatory adults, the issue has to be a big deal and most people will realise it and support our efforts!

    Extra: I finally created a Rookie account (aaw yeah!) because I wanted to let you know how much this article moved some long-time dormant part of me. Finally, my fire burns again!

    • Anaheed October 4th, 2012 5:59 PM

      Aww, I love this comment! And I love that we have so many international Rooks!

  • GlitterKitty October 4th, 2012 6:05 PM

    I find it quite interesting to learn about American politics as a Canadian. Our countries seem really similar, and they are in a lot of ways, but they’re also so different. Some of the debate issues seem pretty ridiculous (public health care, same sex marriage) to me but I also realized how many issues are also up for debate in Canada too. There is an attitude here sometimes that a lot of the social issues that plague America are not a problem in Canada but they are. This is a really interesting article. And I completely love the line “You girls are a tribe.” Grrrrr yes we are!

  • SSF October 4th, 2012 6:57 PM

    Your comments are warming my heart. You are a wise posse of young women! Let’s keep the conversation going, invite friends to chime in, join forces and get active! You all rule! Love, Sarah Sophie

  • anisarose October 4th, 2012 7:02 PM

    Unfortunately, I’m 17 and out of my group of friends (a few of which have already turned 18) I am the most informed and interested in what is going on in the country and the details of certain issues. Because I can’t vote, I’m supporting democracy by working the polls and checking people in to vote on November 6th and I’m so excited!! YAY VOTING!! It’s the only right granted to 18+ year olds that I actually care about…

  • Abby October 4th, 2012 7:12 PM

    Hey Rookie tech peoples? When you click on the 7pm post it says it doesn’t exist. Just thought I’d let you guys know!

    • Anaheed October 4th, 2012 7:28 PM

      This keeps happening and we still can’t figure out why. We’re working on it though!

  • darksideoftherainbow October 4th, 2012 7:18 PM

    this is great! i am old enough to vote and am so excited! i am registered and ready. it feels really good to know that i can show my opinion and my choice.

  • zzlw October 4th, 2012 7:30 PM

    this is awesome!

  • Bennett October 4th, 2012 8:19 PM

    This article is CRAZY inspiring!! Thank you soooooo much! <3 <3 <3

  • Ben October 4th, 2012 8:27 PM

    I know! I wish i could vote! There are a lot of extremely important issues here that we need to resolve! I want to have a say in that so i should at least talk to my parents about it so they know my thoughts. also i’m gay so whenever i see a vote Romney sign or something i feel kinda angry like “how could you vote for him?” i just hope our country makes good decisions and choose whoever will make america a safer more accepting forward thinking country (and i don’t think that’s Romney)

  • Terra October 4th, 2012 9:20 PM

    THIS IS AWESOME. Sarah Sophie, you are fantastic.

    During the 2008 election I was too young to vote so I canvassed in my VERY REPUBLICAN TOWN probably three times a week for a month or two before the election. It was exhausting and draining to try to bring up politics with people who didn’t want to talk to me… in their own homes. That year, we closed the gap further than it ever had gone (our district still ended up being red, but by less than 1000 votes!).
    Even though we didn’t win and I didn’t ever get to vote (grr), I have never regretted putting those hours in. I had a voice! I made a difference! I know I affected the opinions of at least a few people (or at least cleared up some gross misconceptions).

    If you can’t speak out one way and you’re truly passionate about the subject, find a way to be heard. And this is kinda weird (and a little sad to me?) but money speaks VERY LOUDLY. Donate to a candidate/cause you care about. That’ll definitely make a difference.

    Ug, done with the ramble. I get to vote this year, though. (:

  • clairedh October 4th, 2012 9:55 PM

    I just want to quietly agree with saying Thank You to everyone who contributes and comments and reads Rookie. I am only 21 but I can’t help reading everything on here and thinking how much better informed I would have been if I knew this existed when I was a teenager. So thank you Rookie for empowering young women and letting us know it’s okay to have strong opinions about life and listen to Taylor Swift at the same time.

  • Blythe October 4th, 2012 10:09 PM

    On the way to school, there are about five houses with Romney signs out front, and every time I pass them, I practically sob, “I thought we lived in California!”
    Ugh, I wish I could change things, but I don’t have enough spoons most days to do the stuff you suggested.

    • Ben October 4th, 2012 11:21 PM

      i know! i’ve had the same experience! it’s like “i thought Oregon was better than that!”

  • livivid October 4th, 2012 10:57 PM

    Hey lovlies! If any of you are from Maryland (or Maine or Washington I suppose) you should know that the partisan choice isn’t the only one. Yes, Obama may be set, but we’ve got a crazy close race for Marriage Equality. These things matter so so much.

    So much love to all the rookies.

  • laurajane October 4th, 2012 11:47 PM

    PERFECT ARTICLE ALERT! This was so fantastic. Just yes. GO VIRGINIA! I HAVE FAITH THAT WE CAN BE A BLUE STATE AGAIN!

    I’m going to try my darndest to be there on election day, but butter my butt and call me a biscuit if it isn’t on a weekday. (Sigh school.)

  • jenaimarley October 5th, 2012 2:14 AM

    Awww thank you!
    This is the best!
    I’ve been working with Obama for America in my city, registering voters and phonebanking even though I’m just barely too young to vote in this election. Also the school diversity club that I run: Proliferation Of World Equality and Respect (POWER) is doing political/voter empowerment this month as our theme!
    It definitely feels great to have a voice in the political process, even if you have to seek it out!

    xoxox
    Thanks again for your inspiring piece!

  • Killjoy October 5th, 2012 2:36 AM

    I love this article! It bugs me when I ask people who they wish could win the election and they say that they don’t care. I mean c’mon! The outcome of this election greatly affects us! Thank you for this article xoxo

  • Lucy October 5th, 2012 7:06 AM

    The voting age NEEDS to be lowered. I don’t understand why there is a voting age. It’s utterly patronising. What is the worst thing that could happen if children could vote? I mean, we can only vote for the given parties. And I’m tired of this idea that age=maturity/responsibility. Because it is assumed that teenagers and kids are too young and irresponsible to vote, we’re not being taught or encouraged to take interest in it.

    • I.ila October 5th, 2012 9:57 AM

      I think the voting age is so low to avoid parents greatly influencing a child’s vote. Otherwise, republican parents would have double vote and democrat parents would have double vote, and the child might not be allowed to make their own decision in many cases. you and I know that many teenagers are mature enough to make major decisions, but many are also not mature enough, or would be made to vote for their parent’s party. Also, I personally think that a person should be somewhat economically independent to be able to make their own decisions about what they want done with money.

      • dearmia October 5th, 2012 3:08 PM

        I agree. And it could also have to do with the fact that most kids are in college or going into college by the time they’re 18. Being away from parents and getting a broader perspective allows kids to make their own decisions and not be swayed by their family.

  • M.Rose October 5th, 2012 12:03 PM

    This is probably the coolest thing I have ever read. It’s a shame that
    a) I’m too young to vote &
    b) I’m not American,
    so I couldn’t vote for Barack Obama, despite the fact I’d love to.
    It makes me feel so empowered! YES I SHALL DO SOMETHING!

    http://fledglingstyle.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Graciexx October 11th, 2012 7:39 PM

      I feel the exact same way!

  • dearmia October 5th, 2012 3:06 PM

    This article makes me so happy! This will be my first time voting and I’m SO EXCITED! Of course, I’m voting for Obama (duuuh) and ahhhh I don’t know this article really made me so proud to be a feminist as well as a part of the youth that will shape this nation!

    Let’s make some history, children!!!!

  • Sophii October 5th, 2012 5:32 PM

    I can’t wait until I can vote. Unfortunately I live in England so I can’t use the suggested websites. This article is great now and has got me super hyped for being able to vote in three years time. I think it’s important for young women to vote because that is what our ancestors fought for under a hundred years ago and some were imprisoned and injured to achieve the vote for women so we might as well use it so that their fight wasn’t in vain. Let’s change the future!

    http://thechicmuse000.blogspot.co.uk

  • Sophii October 5th, 2012 5:33 PM

    Oooh, just found out that some of the websites have UK sites too. Looking through them now x

  • shinystone October 5th, 2012 8:51 PM

    Go girls! Respect from Korea

  • Ella W October 6th, 2012 7:55 AM

    Before reading this article I didn’t care about politics. I honestly didn’t understand how significant politics is, and how much it affects our and other people’s lives. I apologise for my ignorance, and this has truly inspired me to get involved. Thank you so much Rookie xxx

  • sugarsprinkledwalrus October 7th, 2012 9:44 AM

    Wow, what an inspiring article! ;) I’ve always had an interest in politics to a certain extent (there’s a youth election every year), but I’ve never had the courage to take my own ideas and opinions and make use of them in my local area; I’ve always been intimidated by the thought of giving a speech to thousands of people! And the fact my face would be on every lamp-post, billboard and shop window :S

    This has encouraged me to step up and believe in myself – Britons will be seeing a lot of me in the next few months!

    Much love from England! xx <3

  • barbroxursox October 7th, 2012 12:49 PM

    I love this! I turn 18 in a week, so I just barely get to vote! I’m so excited! I will be voting for Obama, but regardless of who you’re voting for, if you’re old enough, get registered!
    You mentioned Todd Akin in the article, and I’m from Missouri, so we get to hear about the crap he says ALL THE TIME. Actually, a debate between him and Claire McCaskill, the democratic candidate, is being held in a couple weeks at my school! Tickets are apparently hard to get, so I don’t know if I’ll be going, but I’m so glad my school is so involved in politics.

  • Mimicry October 9th, 2012 6:40 AM

    Muchas gracias for this excellent piece of writing and inspiration! I agree with everything that’s been said, but also I want to add: don’t be afraid to have an opinion about something. Never let someone tell you your argument is invalid because you’re half their age. I am a young environmentalist growing up in Australia and this article really struck a chord with me for that reason. In this critical decade, the world needs connectors – people who can see events unfolding in countries like the Maldives and Tuvalu who are threatened by sea level rise, and understand that this will be affected by policy decisions made seemingly a world away in government offices. I am so proud to be a part of the “Rookie tribe”. Thank you again, Sarah Sophie Flicker!

    • Graciexx October 11th, 2012 7:43 PM

      yay! another aussie rookie:) I was just wondering if there are any rookie events in Aus, like ever. Just ’cause I see people talking about them on here but none of them ever seem to be here :(

  • a-anti-anticapitalista October 24th, 2012 9:31 AM

    You can’t fight oppression with more oppression. Voting further legitimizes systemic violence and oppression (and there are countless other issues which I won’t get into with voting). This summarizes why I don’t vote even if I could in my country or why I wouldn’t vote if I were a citizen in the US, no matter how important they say it is for me (btw, every election is supposedly “the most important/decisive/vital election that you just MUST participate in this time” when will it stop?) https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc6/269446_546496832034176_1816030111_n.jpg

  • Cutesycreator aka Monica October 29th, 2012 11:37 AM

    Love this! I don’t live in the US anymore (I used to… and eventually I will again :)) and I’m not old enough to vote anyway, but I thought this article was great!