Rowan Blanchard, the 14-year-old star of Girl Meets World, has built a name for herself on her outspoken intersectional feminism. She’s a refreshing voice on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, talking about her queerness, living with depression, a woman’s right to claim her own image and the problems with #SquadGoals.
But what made Blanchard an outspoken, intersectional feminist? What is her origin story? The actress shared it with Interview magazine in their new issue featuring who they call "the new progressives" — and the story is a heartbreaking one.
In her interview, Blanchard admitted she’d been attuned to the way women were treated in society, but didn’t connect the dots to her own experience. Then, at age 12, she was catcalled at a movie theater while wearing a skirt.
"We were waiting outside the movies for my dad to pick us up, and this grown man came over and was like, ‘You guys need a ride anywhere?’" she told . "And I just remember sitting there feeling my heart sink into my stomach. It was such a surreal moment. Because I always see that happening in front of me; I always see girls getting catcalled. But up until that point, I hadn’t experienced it."
She didn’t tell anyone, least of all her parents, and felt shame about what she had been wearing. "I was like, ‘Gosh, I shouldn’t wear a skirt next time. What am I doing?’" she said. "My sister was 10 at the time, and I remember lying in bed and thinking, ‘I don’t want that to ever happen to her.’"
Instead of letting her faith in the world deflate, Blanchard used her platform to speak out. "When girls would come up to me and be like, ‘I watch your show,’ I would think, ‘Has this ever happened to this girl? Of course it’s happened to this girl, because it happens every day,’" she said. "So I started putting things on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, because I realize that I have a following, and most of the people who watch our show … are girls."
Blanchard turned a harrowing experience into a chance to inspire others — and she hopes her work will truly effect change. "I didn’t want them ever going through that," she said of her fans. "I just started doing it because I couldn’t bear it anymore."