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.

Video of Feminist Teacher and Students Speaking at TEDxYouth 2010

Several weeks ago, the students in my feminism class, Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists, spoke at TEDxYouth at the Hewitt School. We shared our various stories about how we found our feminist voice. The video of our talk has been picked up by nist.tv, one of my favorite new websites that features feminist videos.

During the first half of the talk, I shared stories about how I came to my feminism as a queer Latina high school and college student and later, as an educator. During the second half, the students told their powerful stories as well. Their stories range from launching a movement against the sexualization of girls in the media, to becoming a male feminist, to sharing one’s story about street harassment to impact policy. Set aside some time to listen to this next generation of young feminists. They are coming to change your world.

Young Feminists Speak Out at TEDxYouth

Students from my feminism class spoke at TEDxYouth at the Hewitt School (photo by Ileana Jiménez).

After much planning and rehearsing, half of the students in my Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists class and I finally got up on stage at TEDxYouth Day held at the Hewitt School in New York. The theme of this year’s TEDxYouth was “Be the Change,” and all talks were live-streamed globally. During our 16 minute talk, each of my students and I spoke about how we came to our feminist voice.

For two students, seniors Taylor Brando and Ian Tsang, their feminism emerges from watching the women in their families overcome challenges.

Brando said during her talk: “I came into my feminist voice by witnessing day in and day out the hardships the women in my family faced. They would constantly be put down or quieted, for no reason other than they were women. Most women in my family would try to get their voices heard, but nothing truly came of it. The biggest exception, however, is my mother. She always has been and always will be my main supporter. She is the one that showed me that women don’t need to be weak and defenseless. My mother is the whole reason I started working on feminism. Because of her, I want to help other women learn that they can be independent and speak their own minds. I want all women to be like my mother: independent and not afraid.” Continue reading

Guest Post: Learning Feminism in High School Led to My College Choice

Alexandra Garza

My name is Alexandra Garza and I was a student of Ileana Jiménez’s at Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI). Before I was a student and now friend of Ileana’s, I had only known her contagious laugh heard frequently throughout the hallways. As time passed, I saw her at school assemblies encouraging students to get involved in various panels, lectures, and discussions on race, class, and gender. For some time, I’d been interested in joining these discussions Ileana so passionately advocated. I took my curiosity into consideration when selecting courses for my junior year. I was definitely lured in by Ileana’s passion. I decided to jump into the conversation head first by signing up for Ileana’s literature course, Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists. Aside from the fantastic title, I had a feeling this class could change my entire life. Continue reading

Guest Post: Sex+Gender: Reading Dangerous Language in High School

“My name is Lola Lorber, I’m a freshman, and my preferred gender pronouns are she, her, and hers.”

Lola Lorber

This is how we introduce ourselves on the first few days of classes at Oberlin College. To some it may sound weird, funny, or redundant; but at Oberlin, it is the norm.

I am proud to say I believe in sex positivity and freedom of speech. I’m a vegan, and I like to laugh. I’ve recently gotten into stand-up comedy because I like being able to say things into a microphone and make myself loud and heard. I am proud to make people laugh. I am proud to be an LREI alum (Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School).

The first elective course I ever took in high school was a memoir writing class my junior year. In this class, I discovered my voice, my identity, and my love for telling stories. In the fall of 2007, we were an intimate class of ten students consisting of a mix of juniors and seniors, and one teacher, Ileana Jiménez (also known as Feminist Teacher). We met almost every day in a hidden corner of the library–and it was here where our lives were shared and merged with each other’s. My peers would read aloud their pieces to the class revealing their true selves. With assigned readings from published memoirs and writing prompts given to us by Ileana, we were all immersed on a journey of our own words. I quickly became familiar with my humorous and sincere voice and I knew that I would continue to embrace it in my future. Continue reading

Guest Post: From Little Red to Big Red: Becoming a Feminist in High School, Creating Change in College

Jenilssa Holguin

After being at LREI for four years, speaking about diversity and feminism became second nature to me. The classes that I took–such as Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists; Queer Identities: LGBT Literature and Film; and Memoir Writing–paired with the student diversity conferences that I attended, as well as the series of speakers that we were lucky to have at my school, all made issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality prevalent in my mind. During my years at Little Red, one of my teachers, Ileana Jiménez, helped me find myself, develop my feminist identity, and be proud of who I am. I learned to do diversity work in my everyday life.

When I got accepted to Cornell University I was ecstatic. It was my first choice, and I was going to be the first in my family to go to college. I thought,“It’s a huge school, so I am sure that I can find people who share my views on diversity, since Cornell is pretty diverse.” Boy, was I wrong! During my first weeks there, I noticed how racially segregated my field of hospitality management was as well as the University as a whole. I was taken by surprise when I saw that two clubs that I was interested in were completely segregated. One was all white, and the other was made up of all students of color. Naturally, I joined both, not only because I was interested in both clubs but also because I wanted to get at the root of the problem. Continue reading