Last weekend, I attended an outdoor music festival with a mom friend. These venues really can bring out the worst in people. It’s hot, the lines are long, and some people are belligerent and of course selfishly concerned about their good time above everyone else’s enjoyment. On the flip side, there is always something about a diverse group of people coming together to enjoy music that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I have to say, while there are of course exceptions, I left the festival feeling really positive about the generation coming up behind mine.
Gen Z women (those people born after 1996) are ushering in much needed change that gives me comfort knowing the culture my children will grow up in will be a healthier, more free one.
From the time I stepped my 32-year-old foot on the sidewalk headed towards the festival grounds, I had several much younger people compliment my hair, my outfit, my smile. These weren’t drunk girls in the bathroom (who are honestly the best hype-women); they were just openly encouraging and positive. I heard so many strangers complimenting one other and it made me smile.
While there were definitely some shocking outfits that I would never wear, I absolutely loved how confident they were in their self-expression. There were people of all sizes wearing eye-catching outfits and I found myself feeling more comfortable in my own body after seeing so many body types embraced. This vibe definitely wasn’t around when I was a teenager/young adult. If you had double digits in your pants size you may as well just wear a cardboard box because there’s no way anyone that size deserved to feel sexy.
I love that Gen Z is setting a better standard for body positivity for my own daughter, and honestly for me too.
I have three sons and my husband and I are raising them to be gentlemen and the importance of consent from an early age. Unfortunately, some boys aren’t being taught the same, but I can tell the climate is changing. I am loving that the young men who aren’t getting the message at home are getting it from empowered young women. I heard women firmly asserting boundaries when people tried to push past them to get a better view. I even saw a young lady squirt her water bottle out at a young man who was speaking to her in an unwanted way on the way home. While this probably sounds like a weird thing to be impressed by, it makes me proud to see young women with confidence to stop behavior that so many of us allow to continue out of fear. We are taught to always be polite when men make advances towards us because we don’t want to anger them out of fear for how they’ll react. If we are in a man’s way, we often apologize and yield to them even if we were totally justified to be in that space and have no reason to apologize. Times are changing. I may not want to have to squirt men with water bottles to get my point across, but I appreciate the boldness.
It honestly warmed my heart to see so many members of the LGBTQ+ community feel safe enough to dress how they felt most comfortable and able to have a community. My children are still pretty young, but it did comfort me to know that if any of them grow up and feel like they need to follow a different path in life that there is representation out there now. I never want my children to feel isolated or threatened for doing what makes them feel whole. This generation is creating a culture of inclusivity and diversity and I am so here for it.
I realize to get to this point culturally, there have been women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who had to endure incredible violence and oppression, but I think they would be happy to know that their legacies are making a difference. We have a long journey ahead to true equality and freedom of expression, but it gives me hope to watch these young people cementing a new level of acceptance, kindness, and inclusivity.