Earlier this week, my students and I were guests on the radio show, Joy of Resistance, a feminist, multicultural radio show on WBAI hosted by Fran Luck and Jasmine Burnett (@blkfeminst). My students and I spoke on the importance of learning and teaching feminist theory and activism in high school classrooms.
Each of the students who joined me have done important feminist work both in the high school women’s studies class I teach as well as outside of the classroom. Carina Cruz, junior, is a SPARK blogger—Sexualization, Protest, Action, Resistance, Knowledge—for a youth-led movement to stop the sexualization of girls and women in the media. Junior Dinayuri Rodriguez’s blog posts on our feminist class blog, F to the Third Power, have been so successful that one of her posts connecting Virginia Woolf’s argument in A Room of One’s Own to today’s low-earning feminist bloggers earned her a comment on the post from well-known feminist author and blogger Courtney Martin, of Feministing fame.
Emma Stydahar, junior, is also a SPARK blogger who recently spoke at the Meet Us on the Street anti-street harassment rally in New York. Finally, senior Grace Tobin found her voice testifying at last year’s New York City Council hearing on street harassment, landing her an interview with CBS, which led to a blogging internship with the Women’s Media Center. Grace also spoke at the anti-street harassment rally with Emma.
I was particularly moved and inspired listening to my students speak about how taking the feminism course has made an impact on their lives. Fran asked students if they could share how learning about feminism allowed them to name one thing in their lives that they could not name before, leading them to a feminist click. Here’s what they had to say:
Grace: “There’s a lot of Ileana’s class that is about forming your own opinions on feminism . . . Emily May from Hollaback! asked me if I would [testify] at the New York City [council hearing on street harassment]. When I got up there and shared my testimony, I was one of the youngest women there; I was extremely happy that I was able to enlighten the entire [council] . . . at such a young age, I could have a voice, even though I was only 16 years old.”
Emma: “Ileana introduced me to an organization called SPARK . . . and we’re all about going against the sexualization and objectification of women in the media . . . it was never something I could really put a name to, but after becoming aware of SPARK and the blogs that they have, it just gave it a name and gave something to fight back against.”
Dinayuri: “For me, feminism really began to click when we started seeing all these intersections of all these other systems of oppression. When I started seeing how all these systems of oppression affect women and how they are represented in feminism, I just really began to notice all of these things . . . I just really wish that everyone taught [feminism], it should be a core subject taught everywhere.”
Carina: “Taking Ileana’s class was really eye-opening and life-changing. I come from an activist household; both of my parents were involved in the Puerto Rican rights movement as young adults, and passed that fire on to me. I was always very aware of racial issues and racial discrimination, but taking the feminism class, I realized there was more out there that I wasn’t fighting against, that’s when my click moment really started to happen.”
One of the most important messages I shared during the interview was the importance of creating classroom partnerships with activists groups. These partnerships are the hallmark of the course, showing students how feminists on the ground work on multi-issues. My students have worked closely with GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services), Girls for Gender Equity, Hollaback!, Men Can Stop Rape, RightRides, and many more. Above all, these groups have demonstrated to my students how feminist activism manifests itself across lines of race, class, gender, and sexuality, creating multiple “feminisms” for social change.
For more on our interview, listen to my students and me on Joy of Resistance and let us know your thoughts (19:35-57:00).
Joy of Resistance, Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI airs on the 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month, 9-10 pm at 99.5 FM (broadcasting to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) and streams live at WBAI. Follow JOR tweets and read their blog. They welcome all new listeners and encourage feedback and participation.