Rayne Fisher-Quann: My Anger Is My Power; Yours Can Be, Too

The student and activist on why teenage girls will save the world.

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Last year, when I was 17, I attended a reception at a conference where I was the keynote speaker. I was the youngest person by far in a room full of former premiers, journalists, and influencers. Midway through the evening, someone introduced me to a man who was maybe twice my age — a well-respected political player whom I’d been very excited to meet. Before I could even get out a complete sentence, he interrupted me to laugh in my face. He accused me of exaggerating my achievements, explained my own work to me, and shouted over my every word while tears welled in my eyes. I sobbed in a bathroom stall before delivering a speech to a thousand people.
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Nothing about me — not my political track record, not my experience, not even the fact that I was the keynote speaker at a conference he’d paid to attend — made that man think that I was worthy of respect. When you’re a teenage girl, none of that ever matters.
I was angry at that man for a long time, but it’s hard to even separate those incidents anymore — it’s impossible to resent every patronizing man, every catcall, every online death threat. Being angry is a side effect of being alive in a world that wants me dead. I was born into a body that makes people want to hurt me, and I was born on a planet that’s burning to the ground beneath my feet, and I was born into a political system run by sociopaths and money, and I am angry about it all the time. Being alive right now is hard.
Being alive right now as a teenager is hard.
Photo: Courtesy of NOW Magazine.
I came into this world just a few weeks before September 11, 2001 — my parents have told me the story of how they cradled me in their bed that day, shaking with fear whenever they heard a noise overhead. My peers and I were raised on war and panic and fear, and we grew up online, so we saw the world dying in real time. It shaped us. And still, we are constantly told that our voices don’t mean anything. What nobody seems to understand is that teenagers have the largest stake in everything right now. We are inheriting a world on fire, and we’re being told to put out the flames without making too much of a fuss.
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Being a young girl right now is hard.
Teenage girls are constantly challenged and patronized and treated like shit, if we’re lucky enough to not be ignored altogether. We’re easy targets: the butt of a universal joke. Like my experience at that reception, we’re written off before we can even open our mouths. We are born onto political battlegrounds by virtue of our bodies before we can comprehend what that means.
We grow up being taught that we need to be nice and calm and palatable above all else, and this is not by accident. The current balance of power forces us into silence systemically and purposefully, because teenage girls are the most powerful force on the goddamn planet, and when we are loud, we are deafening. Angry teenage girls started the March for Our Lives; the Climate Strike, the largest student protest in Canadian history. We are forcing people to listen to us — and we are inspiring them to walk out of schools, or run for office, or march down city streets with hundreds of thousands of people just as angry as they are.

The current balance of power forces us into silence systemically and purposefully, because teenage girls are the most powerful force on the goddamn planet, and when we are loud, we are deafening.

Anger is all we have. When your rights and your autonomy and your stability and your planet have been taken from you, all you have left is the thing inside you that makes you care. All you have left is your pain and your heartbreak and your fury. Sometimes it’s so easy to tap out, to close your eyes, to languish in apathy. Caring about things is hard and messy and it just hurts so much all the time that you have to be very brave to decide to do it. But caring about things with every piece of your heart is also the most wonderful thing about being alive. And it’s the only way that any of us are going to win.
So, please be angry. Please find the thing that sets your skin on fire and yell and scream and refuse to let it go until people listen to you. Camp outside your leaders’ offices until they meet your demands, practise direct action, protect people who need it, care for each other and yourself, write letters and make calls and occupy spaces you’re not supposed to occupy. Our system is so broken that we have no choice but to tear it down and build something better. We just have to care enough to try.

Rayne Fisher-Quann is a student and activist, who organized Ontario's largest ever student walkout in protest of sex education rollbacks. She is a keynote speaker at UNICEF Canada's Take Over The Future: Youth Activism Summit today.

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