If you want to know what teens are thinking, I've learned the best way to do it is simple: ask them.
And if you REALLY want to know, ask them to write it down without putting their names on it.
Recently I introduced my high school class to the concept of feminism, a word which most had never heard before. We were going into women's issues, so I thought what better way to start discussion than to juxtapose past attitudes with present. After defining feminism, I presented a series of images from the Who Needs Feminism Tumblr project. I let the students read them, and we talked about them. I asked them to record their responses to any of the images that particularly struck them.
The responses I received were eye-opening. So below, I've presented a handful of the images I showed the students, with selected boys' responses and girls' responses to each. I have typed these exactly as they were given to me, spelling and grammar errors and all. I need hardly say I have presented these anonymously for a reason. I hope you enjoy your brief window into the gender preconceptions of the future as much as I did.
"I find the math one stupid. My cousin is in gymnastics, soccer, cheerleading, and is on the math and academic team."
"I hate it because I know what she's going through."
"I never thought that men would have female role models."
"You shouldn't be embarrassed to have a female as a role model. Your role model should be whoever you want."
"I think girls dress fantastic because they want positive attention."
"I think feminism should be a law and I think that people should be dressed fabulous without being harassed about them acting slutty."
"Girls shouldn't expose them selfs if they don't want bad things said to them."
"I've seen that a girl is trying to look fantastic and other girls call her a slut."
"Us girls want to dress nice, feel pretty so that makes our confidence go more up!"
"I think that this is not right some times you just want to dress up to be and feel pretty for yourself not for others."
"Girls with provocative clothes are attention seekers but yet get offended when guys stare."
"When women show off, guys judge."
"I don't think men should treat a woman without respect. They should be respectful at all times, but women shouldn't call them "whipped" for any reason."
"My friends tell me I"m whipped just because I'm kind to my girlfriend."
"He's just obeying his wife but others can't see that."
"Many men care what society says if they listen to a woman."
"Men and women should make decisions together. That makes the men more men than other men."
"That's not true, it's called being helpful for each other."
"I feel as if society nowadays believe that men should always have the upper hand and should be the "man of the house" by making the choices. But, if a woman made a choice in the relationship and the man is agreeing or being as they call "whipped" it's automatically wrong and unmanly of him."
"I don't think getting along with your wife/girlfriend makes you whipped. I feel it makes you dedicated."
"Guys would see Wonder Woman if she showed more tits."
"I think that Wonder Woman shouldn't be so hard because they've done other movies that are probably more difficult."
"WONDER WOMAN SHOULD BE A MOVIE."
"You don't need to be a man to be a super hero."
"Color pink is like any other color. Just because it's a guy, boy or a man wearing pink they shouldn't be judged."
"I wouldn't let my son drink out of a pink cup."
"Those pink cups are sometimes the cheapest you can get, like fifty cents at the dollar store. Why would you get upset about giving them to your kids?"
"Why does it matter what color of cup it is? It shouldn't matter."
"I don't consider it rape. It was her boyfriend."
"People won't believe little things about rape."
"I think it's disturbing to rape a girl period!"
"It ain't rape if she liked it."
"Doesn't matter, if you say no and it's forced it's RAPE!"
"I believe a woman should be believed when she is raped even if she is dating him."
"My girlfriend doesn't like eating with my family because she thinks she looks gross."
"Women shouldn't feel weird eating in front of girls."
"Women think they need to meet a high expectation for society."
"Girls don't feel pretty even if they are."
"Girls get judged by eating a lot or by having sex or being fat."
"Well what WERE you wearing?"
"It would be better if woman's wear more clothes."
"That is messed up because she is calling her daughter a slut."
"Dress more like a lady, less like a hooker."
"My reaction to this is I feel like it's not right and unfair. People should be able to wear whatever they want whether it's slutty or not."
"But guys need to control them self."
"It's not your fault for what you were wearing."
"You don't always need to wear something inappropriate or show skin to attract and get sexually harassed because NO ONE asks to get sexually harassed! It doesn't matter what you wear, the people doing the wrong bad things just have that mentality."
"It's messed up, how instead of that person trying to talk to you about having sex they worry about the minor things."
"Don't blame the victim because it's not always the victim's fault."
"When a girl has a lot of guy friends it looks bad in society."
"Unless you are together you are a slut."
"Being sexual is under a person's own consent not what others tell you how to do it."
"When a girl is with a lot of guys, the girl is considered a whore."
"Society is messed up they shouldn't judge people."
"Girls shouldn't be seen as slutty if they're with one or more guys."
"People need feminism because people aren't treated fairly especially women."
And some miscellaneous observations:
"I am respected by the one that loves me, but I still have to deal with other men taking advantage of me."
"Men should have the right to stand up for women and not be judged or criticized."
"Men need feminism as much as girls do because men shouldn't always have to be judged for listening or respecting a girl."
"I've seen a majority of these in real life."
"People have dumb reactions towards boys using girl things."
"We all need feminism."
"It's the choice you choose not others."
"These signs really touched me because all the stuff on them are true."
And, my personal favorite from the boys' category, by virtue of being so completely unexpected:
"I think women should rule for a couple of years and let's see what happens."