The saying “You are the future” was meant to inspire hope among younger generations. And yet, it’s become a loaded phrase that is more daunting than anything. Don’t get me wrong, we are the future—but why does that mean we’re gifted the burden of fixing our elders’ mistakes? For years now, headlines have been clouded with stories of teenage girls coming to save us from a global crisis, from climate activist Greta Thunberg to Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Our heroes are now children who were forced to grow up way too soon. And while their bravery is unparalleled, this trope of attributing a savior complex to teen girls is not one that should be glamorized for even a second. Perhaps, that’s why amid a presidency that has divided and exploited many—we have yet again instinctively turned to another teen girl to be our hero. This time, it’s none other than 16-year-old Claudia Conway.
It began when Claudia posted a TikTok in August that said, “You think you can hurt my feelings? Lol my mom is Kellyanne Conway.” When users realized who she was, that is—the daughter of President Donald Trump’s former White House advisor—she became increasingly vocal about the animosity she felt for her parents. Evidently, her mother is a Trump supporter who shares his far-right ideals. Her father, on the other hand, is George Conway, one of the founders of The Lincoln Project—an organization of conservatives committed to preventing Trump’s re-election. Although Claudia may share her father’s distaste for Trump, that’s about all she shares with him. In another TikTok in August, she wrote, “stop saying you stan my dad please,” after she discovered her father is pro-life and “very conservative.” The dynamic of her parents alone makes for a challenging environment to live in. Through the social media platform though, Claudia has found escapism in her own supporters. Her growing 1.5 million followers allow her to frequently talk to people who actually listen to her.
While their bravery is unparalleled, this trope of attributing a savior complex to teen girls is not one that should be glamorized.
Claudia’s complicated relationship with her parents has only been exacerbated by her TikTok videos going viral. Her videos contain leftist ideals that vary from ones her parents advocate for, such as: supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, the slogan ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards) and her disgust of white supremacists. In August, Claudia announced on Twitter that she was pushing for emancipation “because of years of childhood trauma and abuse.” After the tweet, her parents responded by leaving their respective jobs and political positions to “devote more time to family matters.” Despite this news, Claudia continued to post on TikTok. It was when she announced her mother had contracted COVID-19 at Trump’s Rose Garden superspreader event in October that she found herself—yet again—trending everywhere.
Before this, her videos were pretty much harmless. Yes, she was openly rebelling against her parents’ ideals, but honestly what teen doesn’t do that at some point? As the world anxiously watched several congressmen, aides, staffers and even our president become infected by COVID-19, Claudia Conway became our very insider into a world we have little access to. For her “bravery,” she became branded the new #Resistance hero people so desperately needed during utter chaos. People questioned if this 16-year-old would be the one to finally take down Trump. It’s a story we are all too familiar with. A modern-day Katniss Everdeen or Hermoine Granger coming to courageously expose corruption and restore democracy. These characters are notorious for a reason, everyone loves an origin story—a hero rising from the ashes of a broken system. But this is not that, this is a distraught teenager who needs help and deserves the space to heal from her trauma.
Some may respond to the above statement with “But she put herself in this position!!” or “Well then she shouldn’t be making these videos in the first place.” Let’s be clear, just because she talks about topics such as politics and emancipation does not make her any less of a teenager. Did you get that? Claudia Conway is just a teenager. If her parents were anyone else, she wouldn’t be subjected to this attention. It’s because of her family that she has become an open target for others to project their desperation or cruel criticism. And this fate is nothing we should be applauding.
She deserves the courtesy of being treated like a regular teenager—because she is one.
On October 6, Claudia issued a statement demanding privacy. She began by asking for the message to be circulated widely and wrote, “I am a child and I am to be treated as one. This is severely impacting my mental health.” A request that, truthfully, she should have never needed to make in the first place. Claudia, who was 15 at the time, continued by saying, “I am not the ‘whistleblower’ of our time. I am simply a fifteen-year-old with a following and bad luck when it comes to media coverage. Leave my family and me alone.” This heartbreaking statement alone should be enough for many to feel ashamed of their treatment of Claudia. And yet, people questioned whether the statement was actually written by her, or if her mother uploaded it on her behalf.
Needless to say, Claudia is someone who deserves an adult who is committed to taking care of her and her well-being. It was never her wish to hold the weight of democracy on her shoulders, and shame on us for letting it get to the point where this seemed like a viable reality. She recently turned 16 and has been spending the last few days posting videos of her dancing and singing along to songs in birthday celebration. Whether she continues to have this kind of careless fun or return to her activism, she deserves the courtesy of being treated like a regular teenager—because she is one.