The Nobel Prize, Malala Yousafzai, and Taking Teenage Girls Seriously

By Tori Lewis

I’m not here to rant about why Malala Yousafzai should have won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Prize, while it has been given to many worthy individuals over the years, has also failed to recognize many people just as deserving. What I’m trying to say is that the Prize is flawed, as is everything, and it’s not worth the energy to try to argue Ms. Yousafzai’s qualifications after the fact. I do think she deserved to win, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about how teenage girls are treated by society. Ms. Yousafzai is respected in spite of, rather than because of, the fact that she is a young woman. Here are two comments posted on Hulu after Ms. Yousafzai appeared on The Daily Show:

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Instead of using the opportunity to simply be humbled by Ms. Yousafzai’s strength and spirit, many commenters took the opportunity to shame the rest of the “teenage girl” population for not being good enough.

Newsflash: teenage girls already feel not good enough. As a recent study by Dove reported, “7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.”

Ms. Yousafzai’s story is and should be inspirational to young women. Here’s a 16-year-old female who is respected for what she’s done and what she’s doing, not what she looks like. She’s been the rare exception to the unfortunate media rule which is “every potentially inspirational woman must be attacked for something trivial.” This is awesome. And young women should be able to see this opportunity to do great things and stand up for what they believe in. They should be able to see themselves in Malala Yousafzai’s story, as opposed to seeing her as yet another impossible ideal to live up to.

Can we talk about how amazing teenage girls can be for a second? One of my favorite posts on Tumblr broke it down:

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Teenage girls are human beings, not just those crazy twerkers and tweeters people too often make them out to be. Sure they’re still figuring out who they are, but isn’t that the point of being young? It’s about time we start recognizing them as young people who matter and who can and do do great things. And who knows? Maybe the next winner of the Nobel Peace Prize  will be a truly incredible teenager with a passion for changing the world.

If you’re interested in watching Malala Yousafzai’s appearance on The Daily Show, click here.

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