Feminism-in-Schools Featured at First International Girls’ Studies Association Conference

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Feminism-in-schools movement leaders, Ileana Jiménez, Hanna Retallack, Marnina Gonick, and Jessica Ringrose, at the first International Girls’ Studies Association Conference, UK (photo courtesy, Ileana Jiménez)

Leaders in the feminism-in-schools movement recently made history at the inaugural International Girls’ Studies Association (IGSA) conference when we were featured in the event’s opening plenary at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK from April 7-9. It was the first time that a global girls’ studies conference featured teachers and researchers sharing our work together on #HSfeminism, a hashtag I created in the last few years to bring visibility to our movement.

As we each presented our papers individually followed by a panel discussion, Professor Marnina Gonick of Mount Saint Vincent University in Canada; Professor Jessica Ringrose and doctoral researcher, Hanna Retallack, both of the Institute of Education, University College, London; and I made a bold statement that our intersectional feminist pedagogies and practices are transforming the landscape of classroom curricula, student activism, and professional development for educators.

We were particularly honored that our plenary took place at the same time as the Black Girl Movement Conference, where activists and scholars gathered at Columbia University for three days in New York City to focus on Black girls, cisgender, queer, and trans girls, in the United States. We feel strongly that as girls’, women’s, and gender studies scholars, we must all work together collectively to support girls of color in our activism and teaching.

Now that we are post-conference and closing out our school year, I brought together my colleagues via email to reflect on what the IGSA plenary meant for us. Continue reading

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Top 10 High School Feminist Teaching Moments of 2014

This has been quite a year for me as a feminist teacher and activist. Here are some highlights of an exciting year of #HSfeminism in action.

1. This past fall, journalist Kelley Lord visited my classroom to document the impact that teaching feminism at the high school level was making on my students. She wanted to see firsthand why my students–both boys and girls–strongly identified as feminists. Included in her video below are highlights from our annual International Day of the Girl assembly, which featured boys acting out a scene on bystander intervention and girls speaking out on street harassment. All of them discuss why taking feminism in high school matters. Watch the magic of #HSfeminism.


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Feminist high school boys declare: “I am a feminist”

Thinks boys can’t be feminists? The seven boys who have taken my high school feminism class in the last two years disagree. They even got together to make a video to share the ways in which feminism has made an impact on their lives as young men.

“My reason for taking the feminism course is that especially in high school, there’s not opportunities like this that come around, ever,” says Bruke, a high school senior who took my feminism class when he was a junior in the fall of 2012.

“At one point, we wrote an intersectionality essay, and that taught me that nothing is really one-dimensional. Like you can’t just be black. You can be black and gay; or like black, gay, disabled. There are many different things that don’t relate to the master narrative,” Nathaniel, senior, who also took my course in 2012 and later appeared with Gloria Steinem on Nick News on Nickelodeon to talk about feminism and young people.

“Every time you read a magazine, every time you listen to a song, you can hear the misogynist undertone,” Russell, senior, who took my class just this past fall of 2013.

“It is a life-changing course,” said Luis, senior.

Watch these seven boys share their thoughts on feminism. This week they are graduating from high school and will be continuing their work on women’s and gender studies and feminist activism as they move on to their college years.

See if their stories can’t convince you to teach a women’s and gender studies class at your high school.

Feminist Teacher, Ileana Jiménez, Launches School Tour of India

Students at the Sanskriti School in New Delhi talked with me about gender and sexuality in Indian culture (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez)

Students at the Sanskriti School in New Delhi talked with me about gender and sexuality in Indian culture (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez)

This last week, I kicked off my tour of schools in India to talk about teaching feminism in schools globally. I’m taking a short leave of absence from teaching at the start of 2014 to meet with students, teachers, and activists throughout India who are thinking seriously about what it means to address issues of gender and sexuality in school, the media, and at home. I’ll be documenting my time abroad right here on Feminist Teacher.

My first stop was at the Sanskriti School in New Delhi, where a Fulbright teacher colleague of mine, Sangeeta Gulati, invited me to speak to a group of juniors who are taking a high school humanities course. During my hour with them, these students and I talked about everything from the recent Delhi Supreme Court judgment on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality and sex between queer couples, deeming it “unnatural”; to last year’s Delhi gang-rape; to slut-shaming in the U.S. and India (NB: the students used the term “slut-shaming” themselves); to the politics of feminist pedagogy and inclusion in K-12 schools.

The students were immediately engaged in the discussion. At one point, I shared with them that I teach a high school course on feminism and another class on queer literature and film, and they were immediately intrigued. They chimed in with a barrage of excited questions:

  • Do you believe in misandry (the hatred of men)?
  • How do parents at your school react to your teaching their children feminist and LGBT classes?
  • How do you propose to address the sexualization of women in the media?
  • Do you talk about slut-shaming in your classes? What about the Slutwalks?
  • Have you seen the “It’s your fault” video?
  • How will you work with teachers in India on bringing feminism to students here?

And that was only the beginning. Continue reading

Top 10 Feminist Teacher Highlights of 2013

A great deal of inspiring work happened in 2013 both in my high school feminism class and in my outside professional work to build a movement with other teachers, activists, and academics to bring women’s, gender, and queer studies to schools. Here’s my top ten favorite moments of 2013.

1. Launched a movement to bring women’s and gender studies to K-12 schools with other high school feminist teachers from across the country at the AAUW’s (American Association of University Women) first ever symposium, Creating Classrooms of Justice: Teaching Gender Studies in Schools. Hosted in partnership with the AAUW, I delivered the keynote and helped to organize the panels featured throughout the day. More than 50 educators and activists from across the country – from California to Massachusetts – met at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, for a day-long event. Special thanks to fellow activist, Holly Kearl, for helping make this event happen as successfully as it did. Everyone walked away inspired. To join the movement, email: gender-studies@listsrv.aauw.org

I delivered the keynote at the AAUW's first ever symposium on teaching women's and gender studies in K-12 schools. The symposium was held in St. Louis (photo credit: Holly Kearl).

I delivered the keynote at the AAUW’s first ever symposium on teaching women’s and gender studies in K-12 schools. The symposium was held in St. Louis (photo credit: Holly Kearl).

2. Brought my students to the United Nations in New York for a Girls Speak Out event to observe the second annual International Day of the Girl held every October 11. As part of observing IDG, my students held our second annual assembly and blogged about their experience. As a class, we continued to partner with the all-girls school, Shri Shikshayatan, in Kolkata, India and learned about global girls education, sex trafficking, sex selection, and sexual harassment in both countries.

Students from my high school feminism class attended a Girls Speak Out event at the United Nations for International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez).

Students from my high school feminism class attended a Girls Speak Out event at the United Nations for International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez).

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Top Five Moments on Teaching High School Feminism in 2012

My national television debut on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show (photo credit: Cheryl Coward).

My national television debut on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show (photo credit: Cheryl Coward).

2012 was a fantastic year for me as a feminist teacher, activist, and blogger. Take a look at my top five moments this year. 

  1. Appeared on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show to talk about teaching women’s studies to high school students as well as to advocate for safe and inclusive schools (August 2012).
  2. Featured in The Atlantic during the Aspen Ideas Festival for teaching students how to engage in public discourse via blogging (July 2012).
  3. Presented best practices on teaching high school feminism to a full room of scholars and activists at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Oakland. Among several topics, I highlighted my students’ work on the first International Day of the Girl (October-November 2012).
  4. Supported my students Emma and Carina as they led a SPARK petition challenging Teen Vogue to stop photoshopping images of women and girls and to start including more diverse models (July 2012).

    My students Emma and Carina (far left) led the SPARK petition against Teen Vogue (photo courtesy SPARK).

    My students Emma and Carina (far left) led the SPARK petition against Teen Vogue (photo courtesy SPARK).

  5. Record number of six boys sign up for my high school feminism class. Two boys credit sisters who have taken women’s studies classes–including mine–as the number one reason for taking my class. This year, students wrote phenomenal blog posts on their feminist blog, F to the Third Power, including their vision for the future of feminism (September-December 2012).

    Students in my high school feminism class 2012 (photo Ileana Jiménez).

    Students in my high school feminism class 2012 (photo Ileana Jiménez).

My High School Feminism Students Create Get Out the Vote Video for Young Women

Earlier this fall, my high school feminism students and I created an It’s My Vote video designed to encourage young women to vote in this year’s election. The American Association of University Women’s Action Fund sponsored the campaign and we were featured on their site.

As an educator-activist, nothing is more important to me than teaching young people the importance of civic engagement. In our video, I share the story of how each year, my Puerto Rican mom brought me to the polls in the Bronx to pull the lever for her while carrying me in her arms; my students then talk about why voting matters to them as young women.

In the same way that my mom carried me to the polls to share her voice, today and everyday, I carry the responsibility of teaching my students that they too must carry the legacy of change in their hands both for themselves and their communities.

My High School Feminism Class Marks International Day of the Girl 2012

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The students in my high school feminism class marked this year’s first International Day of the Girl by leading a phenomenal school-wide assembly for their peers. We partnered with 10×10 Educate Girls to learn about the state of girls’ education globally as well as with our partner school in India, the all-girls Shri Shikshayatan School in Kolkata.

In addition to sharing information about girls education globally, my students showed videos from a range of organizations including those from 10×10 and the Girl Effect. The young women and men in the class highlighted statistics on girls education and several girls shared personal stories about growing up at the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the U.S.

Across the globe, high school girls at Shri Shikshayatan sponsored a day of panels related to infanticide or sex selective abortion, trafficking, and the education of girls in India.

My students documented reflections on leading their International Day of the Girl assembly on their blog F to the Third Power, citing learning about intersectionality–or the theory that categories of oppression such as racism, classism, and sexism are interlocking–as the most important concept that helped provide them a lens for understanding both social justice feminism as well as themselves.

We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with the girls and teachers at Shri Shikshayatan, and are hoping to visit their school in the future. Until then, our classes will continue the dialogue about gender and equity in both countries, as we foster a critical and action-based understanding about the need for global education for girls and their communities to create social and economic justice.

WBAI’s “Joy of Resistance” Features Feminist Teacher and Students

My student Carina Cruz shares her experience learning about feminism in high school. (photo, Ileana Jiménez).

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 bloggerSexualization, 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: Continue reading

Create an Anti-Street Harassment PSA With Your Students

The success of last week’s International Anti-Street Harassment Week was astonishing. Organized by leading anti-street harassment activist Holly Kearl, founder of the well-known blog Stop Street Harassment, the week featured the work of the most cutting-edge activists in the field, including dance performances by Sydnie Mosley and her Window Sex Project and a viral video featuring Joe Samalin and other male allies telling men to just stop harassing women in both English and Spanish.

As part of the week’s events, two of my students, Grace and Emma, and I spoke at the Meet Us On the Street rally in New York. Grace shared a portion of the testimony that she read to last year’s New York City Council hearing on street harassment and Emma, who is also a SPARK blogger against the sexualization of girls and women in the media, shared her own vision for safer streets and communities not just for herself but also for her own sister.

I spoke about the importance of engaging teachers in the global movement against street harassment as an education and health issue for schools.

But the work doesn’t stop there. It’s important to show students that activism needs to be consistent, and not done in a flavor-of-the-month style. That’s why last fall, students in my high school feminism course partnered with other students at our school to create their own anti-street harassment public service announcement (PSA).  Their goal: to educate their peers about the gravity of street harassment in their daily lives.

As part of the background work to create the video, I invited activists from Girls for Gender Equity, Hollaback!, The Line Campaign, Men Can Stop Rape, and Right Rides to talk to my students. Activist Shelby Knox also visited to talk about her film, The Education of Shelby Knox. Each of them shared their expertise, provided students with materials, and ultimately inspired them to create their PSA.

You can create your own PSA with your students too. Start, as I did, with educating your students about the issue by inviting activists to your classroom. Then have students envision a PSA that would be relevant and engaging for your school community. Screen the PSA at an upcoming assembly. Then join the revolution.  See above for inspiration.