Rowan Blanchard/Instagram

Thank You, Rowan Blanchard, For Empowering Me To Be A Better Feminist

Rowan is breaking barriers. She doesn’t try to hold back or cover up her true emotions. She’s letting society know that girls don’t have to be smiling all the time.

We all know Rowan Blanchard as the star of the Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World. Her character Riley Matthews, daughter of Cory and Topanga, has an infectious spirit and radiates positivity. The show touches on many important issues, and I, as a 17-year-old, am completely obsessed.

Rowan has a huge number of fans, most being young girls. Through social media, she has become a great representative for them. Her passion for feminism is powerful and real. At the age of 13, she spoke at the UN Women U.S. National Committee 2015 Annual Conference about gender inequality. It is so important to me, as a teenage girl, to see such a young star advocating and proudly standing up against gender inequality. I find an overwhelming sense of comfort in knowing that even I can change the world, despite my age. She empowers young women and encourages them to be activists. She is aware of her fame and the power it holds, and she is using it for the betterment of the world. She knows how powerful words can be and uses them as a weapon to fight inequalities, while ensuring she is inclusive to all women.

Just last year, Rowan shared an essay she wrote herself on intersectional feminism on her Instagram and Tumblr page as a response to a question from a fan. It went viral instantly. I remember waking up and doing my morning social-media scroll when I saw Rowan’s posts. The moment I first read the piece, I was blown away and gained a completely new perspective on feminism. Her emphasis on the importance of intersectional feminism allowed me, as well as many others, to step back and ensure that we’re fighting for equality in the best, most inclusive way. She has such a way with words, a way that is coherent and eloquent. Most important, she uses her words for good — as a form of activism and a way to educate the world.

Rowan is breaking barriers. She doesn’t try to hold back or cover up her true emotions. She’s letting society know that girls don’t have to be smiling all the time. Being a teenager is hard sometimes. There's confusion, frustration, loneliness, and freedom, which are all things most teens feel. But sometimes articulating and understanding these feelings is even harder.

After thousands of Instagram comments telling her she looks depressed or that she should smile more often, she has begun to embrace everything she feels and to openly share it with the world. This may seem small, but in doing this, she is defying submissive stereotypes and allowing the world to see her as the complex person she is. She’s here to tell everyone that it’s OK to embrace every emotion you experience, and that it’s OK to use emotions to fuel your own activism. She shares her empowering playlists, her struggles with mental illness, and her frustration with society unapologetically — and for this I am eternally grateful.

When it comes to activism, social media isn’t the only way to go about it, but it certainly is an effective one. It allows everyone to have an outlet to share their thoughts and opinions, as well as learn from others. I didn’t even consider myself a feminist until I learned about feminism on Twitter, which goes to show that awareness is such an important aspect of activism, though it is often dismissed. Rowan expresses herself and her thoughts on social media and helps engage young people in current issues. She is an empowering role model who encourages young girls to use their voice, even if they feel they have no power. Social media gives us all this power. It gives us the opportunity to remain aware, voice our opinion, and start a conversation. If you believe that social-media activism is a waste of time, I couldn't disagree with you more.

So, thank you, Rowan, and everyone else who is using their power for good: You have inspired me to raise my voice and work my way up as an advocate for feminism and social change.

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VMAs 2017