Why we must talk about Feminism inside the classrooms 

Statistics that make us cry and be angry

In a world were 35% of women in the whole world has experienced some physical and/or sexual violence by their partners or former partners and 50% of the women victims of homicides were killed by their partners or family members, talk about Feminism is urgent. And the first and most important place to start this conversation is inside the classroom.

More numbers to scare: in the USA, “1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.”* This means that a considerable number of children will not be taught the importance of respect and limits in relationships and social life inside their houses. Even more, they see and experience these aggressions and probably will continue in the vicious cycle of violence by men and subordination by the women.

see violence against women - feminism
What the children see and hear can become a trauma or an imitation. Protect women against domestic violence is protecting the future of children and society. Let´s end the vicious cycle of violence.

“violence against women 1169348 960 720” by TCIJ is licensed under CC0 1.0.

But first of all, we must understand what is Feminism and what other social movements it embraces.

So, what is Feminism after all?

I am going to start answering this question by telling you what Feminism is not. 

-Feminism is not made of lesbians who hate men (most of us are married or have some relationship with one). 

-Feminism is not (only) women protesting in public places exposing their bodies or making some chocking performance to draw attention to the movement and the causes we fight for (most of us practise it in our daily routines). 

-Feminism is not composed only by women (yes, a lot of men already understood what the movement is and the importance to be feminists themselves).

-Feminism is not women desiring to be better than men or to have what they have (man and woman are different, we don’t want to become men, we want the respect men to have just for being men). 

That said, now we can start to understand what Feminism is.

let´s talk about feminism inside the classroom - feminist movement symbol
The Venus symbol with a fist in the middle represents the Feminist movement.

“feminism” is licensed under CC0 1.0.

According to bell hooks in her book Feminism is for Everybody, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” And what that mean? Simply (or not), it means to change our cultural assumptions that define the tasks we must do, the accepted behaviours, and the choices we have since we are born according to what kind of body we have, male or female. 

Another excellent definition is made by Estelle Freedman in her book No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women: “Feminism is a belief that women and men are inherent of equal worth. Because most societies privilege men as a group, social movements are necessary to achieve equality between women and men, with the understanding that gender always intersects with other social hierarchies.” But what other social movements the feminist one embraces?

Intersectionality is the word of the mo(ve)ment

When talking about social movements is critical to understand that there is a massive overlap between their causes. It is impossible, for instance, to say that all races must have equal treatment while men mistreat women. So, we are living in an era when people involved in different social movements are realizing that to fight alone will not solve the problem because the issue is so much more complicated than just their injustice. It is called Intersectionality.

As a white woman, I have the consciousness that I am underprivileged in comparison to white men, in some cases, privileged comparing to back men, but certainly with much more privilege than a black woman. Consider that, in this example, I’m putting on the scale only concepts related to race and gender. Imagine now trying to add so many other layers like class, ethnicity, sexuality, religiosity, culture, disability, and other discriminations. How your privilege weight would be?

four children in a seesaw
What is the weight of your privilege?

We all have to learn that while one person suffers discrimination for any reason, there is no justice for all. (Just a thought: wouldn’t be beautiful if all those groups gathered together to form an Intersectional Social Justice movement to fight the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy? Oh, dreams…)

And to develop a real transformation to the next generations (let’s be honest, it’s hard to believe that we will fix it so soon) it has to start with us, and we have to pass to the newest people in the world: children and teenagers. 

How to talk about Feminism and Intersectionality inside the classroom?

Teaching a child since the earliest years about essential feminist ideas is not hard at all.

-Teaching respect is like showing that nobody is more or less important than the other for any reason.

-Giving them similar chores illustrates that we are all responsible for cleaning what we dirty, independently of our gender. The same with options to play, as girls like to play with cars as much as boys like to play with dolls.

-Not tolerating any violence, because they must know that hurt other living beings is not acceptable in our society, and this is an essential one if we wish to diminish the statistics mentioned in the first and second paragraphs.

These simple tasks will help them to develop a sense of equal worth among all their peers.  The feeling of equivalency (not equity) that will become later among all the society.

To the older students, when they have sexual education in Biology classes, the word Feminism must be present in discussions connected to the notion of mutual consensus. It’s essential to give a name to concepts that affect all of us individually and as a community.

the famous five canada feminism
Part of the Famous Five statue in Ottawa, Canada. These five Albertan women fought for women´s right to vote in Canada at the beginning of the 20th Century.

“suffragettes Statue of Two Suffragettes” by andrewbecks is licensed under CC01.0.

Also, they should reflect on the history of the social justice movements in History classes. The Feminist Waves, the Civil Rights movement, Indigenous Movements, LGBTQ movements. All revolutionary people around the globe who fought and gave their freedom and lives for better conditions for the less privileged. They should always be remembered in our schools to inspire the possibility of transformation in the student’s hearts.

What about you?

There are numerous ways to talk to children and teenagers about Intersectionality and all the social movements involved inside the classroom. Share in our comments, Forum or Instagram what you do with your class or your children at home that inspires them the willingness to make the world a better place for everybody.

Let’s share good ideas and support each other on this journey.

children in a tunnel - talk about feminism in the classroom
Helping children to understand feminism and intersectionality encourages them to choose a better path for themselves and for everybody around them.

References to talk more about Feminism

*All the data on the first part of the post was retrieved from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) https://ncadv.org/statistics

I highly recommend the reading of Gender and Women’s Studies Critical Terrain – Second Edition edition by Margaret Hobbs and Carla Rice. The book brings a myriad of articles retrieved from different books of experts on every topic related to Feminism.

You also can find a lot of fantastic videos on Youtube of bell hooks, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Malala, Roxane Gay, Ligia Moreiras to cite some. These amazing women are spreading knowledge and light about Feminism on the internet and around the world. It’s worth a check!

Love and Gratitude!

Juliana Troll Trujillo

IWalComm creator