Should feminism be taught in school?
It may not surprise you that my answer is an emphatic YES. Of course, it is important to present students with multiple perspectives so that they may see that, historically, people with different perspectives have caused much unrest and, from that unrest comes progress. I would hope that any literature or history teacher would agree with this.
Historically, women have been quite literally marginalized – relegated to boxes in the margins of textbooks as if to say, “This is what the women were doing back at home while the men were off at war. It fits into this little box which must mean that it wasn’t that important and it won’t be on the test.” This is not a new concept, and teachers have been incorporating texts regarding marginalized people into their curriculum for a very long time.
It is not really a question of whether or not this should be done, but I wonder how many people have really explored why it is important to incorporate feminism into the curriculum. If one
day such classes were taught in schools to liberal arts colleges, it
would be a day to celebrate.
First, the study of feminism can “reinvigorate girls’ sense of self-worth and to help pupils think about the gender implications of their language and image.” It is important for girls today to think about their role models. Who are young women looking to as role models today? Miley Cirus? Britney Spears? If these women are not good role models for young women, who is? Simone deBeauvoir? Susan B. Anthony? Think of all that today’s young women can learn from these strong, self-assured agents of historical change. By holding the work of these latter women up to be seen as at least as important as the wars fought by and the leaders who were typically men, we show young women that being strong and confident is nothing to be ashamed of, and we show young men that strong and confident women are to be respected, not coaxed into becoming something else, something they can control.
Which leads me to my second point: Girls are accepting sexual assault at school as a fact of life. I am not saying that young women are being joked about and taunted by young men at school because they lack confidence and strength. I am, however, saying that I think there is something that tells these girls that if they don’t let boys treat them this way, boys will not like them and there are few things worse when you’re in high school. By teaching students about feminism, we are showing both young women and young men that equality in human rights is important, and treating someone as if they are beneath you is unacceptable.
Girls are not only under pressure when it comes to boys, but also when it comes to the clothes they wear and how that affects whether or not they will fit in with the right crowd in school. “According to the Girls Inc. Supergirl Dilemma report, 84% of all girls say it’s true that girls are under a lot of pressure to dress the right way.” I’m sure we all remember days in our youth (and maybe in our adulthood) when we wondered if we were wearing the right clothes or wanted to look just like someone we saw on television. Girls’ confidence can very often hinge on whether or not they feel they look “right” or fit in with the “right” other girls. Maybe, just maybe, by instilling in young women that the positive women role models in history (and today! Feminism is alive and well!) have been auspicious agents of change – as much as the men that fill the pages of their textbooks – we can show them that what matters most are not the styles of clothing they wear, but the restyling of history made possible by extraordinary women. And who knows; maybe they’ll even be inspired to take up feminism themselves.