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Meet YingYing Shang: Advocate for Girls

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By , 18, Staff Writer Originally Published: March 11, 2015 Revised: March 13, 2015

Like most teens, YingYing Shang has favorite hobbies: she runs spring and winter track, plays percussion in her school’s marching band and loves reading poetry. What sets her apart from most high school seniors is her passion for feminism.

YingYing is a member of the SPARKteam, a movement dedicated to eliminating the sexualization of women in the media. She helped launch the Real Worth Campaign on Tumblr, which aims to empower girls by developing their self-esteem. She was the first junior delegate for Vision 2020: Equality in Sight,a national initiative that works to advance women’s economic and social equality, and she’s a teen advisor for Girl Up, a United Nations campaign that works globally to provide girls with safety and education. At just 17, YingYing has already made an impact on the world.

Her drive for ensuring women’s rights is fueled by her little sister, Melissa, who wears leg braces because she has a form of muscular dystrophy. Through her work, YingYing wants every girl out there to know she is beautiful and has potential regardless of her physical abilities.

The most ridiculous thing I heard growing up was that girls shouldn’t learn about sex at all because it didn’t concern us—how it happens or how to stay safe.

Passion

“I am really passionate about girls’ leadership and self-esteem, both internal and external. As a blogger for SPARK Summit, an international organization powered by girls to end sexualization in the media, we work to promote feminism and girls’ potential everywhere.”

Inspiration

“My sister and Hillary Clinton are my biggest inspirations. My sister’s perseverance and perpetual cheer make me realize that whatever may have happened, it’s nothing that I can’t overcome. As for Hillary Clinton, her advocacy for women and girls worldwide, as well as her strength in accomplishing so much in the male-dominated field of politics, inspire me to achieve more and give more in my own career.”

What Burns Her Up

“I generally find anger is not conducive to change, but recently, I was angry when a guy posted a status saying, ‘Women’s rights activists are the most annoying kind of women.’ When questioned by commenters, he replied, ‘Objectification of women is quite debatable. For instance, the girls they hire to supposedly objectify girls are earning good money.’ I took a few deep breaths before commenting and explaining more to him about feminism and objectification as degrading to women in general, causing the pay gap, low self-esteem and the perception of women as simply sexual objects without sexuality of their own. Anger can be unproductive, but I think that conversation, even if it didn’t directly change his mind, might have planted the seeds of gender equality and change in the minds of anyone who reads the thread.”

Ridiculous Myth

“Aside from, ‘You will get pregnant and you will die,’ the most ridiculous thing I heard growing up was that girls shouldn’t learn about sex at all because it didn’t concern us—how it happens or how to stay safe.”

Likes

“I love the movie Moonrise Kingdom —who said girls and leftie scissors can’t be powerful?—for the simple idyllic picture it paints. I love all my SPARKsisters, reading books—the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is my favorite in terms of women’s sexuality—and discussing philosophy and politics with strangers on trains.”

Dislikes

“I dislike slut-shaming, our culture of sexualization, and people who tell me to sit down and be quiet for fear of disrupting the status quo.”

Remove It From the Dictionary

“I would remove the word slut, not just from the dictionary but also from people’s vocabularies. It’s the go-to word if you want to insult a girl. Women’s sexuality is painted in degrading terms, whereas men’s sexuality is always perceived as natural. A SPARKsister once said, ‘I don’t believe in virginity. It’s a product of the virginwhore dichotomy that says girls have to be kept pure on a shelf, like they’re not people. I say I had my sexual debut.’”

Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr?

“Tumblr. It’s the only forum in which you can develop critical thinking and detail for your thoughts and arguments; plus it’s a great place for social justice movements to start.”

Dream Dinner

“Maya Angelou seems like she would be so amazing to meet in person. I loved her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and her depictions of where being a woman and being a minority intertwine are just so fascinating.”

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