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

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Guest Blog: Emancipatory Education: Dena Simmons on Teaching for Social Justice in Middle School

Dena Simmons teaches middle school students social justice and activism (photo courtesy, Dena Simmons).

The following guest blog by Dena Simmons is the second in a three-part series on teaching for social justice featuring the work of educators in primary, middle, and high school classrooms.

Dena Simmons is an activist, an educator, and student. Born to a resilient mother who escaped Antigua to come to the U.S., Simmons was raised in the Bronx and hopes to stay there. After graduating with honors from Middlebury College, Simmons returned to the Bronx as a middle school teacher. In 2007, she traveled to Antigua as a health volunteer for the Directorate of Gender Affairs to provide better health services for Dominican sex workers. She received a Fulbright grant to study the collaboration between schools and health agencies to prevent teen pregnancy in the Dominican Republic. She is also a 2004 Harry S. Truman Scholar and 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. She is currently studying for her Doctorate of Education at Columbia University, Teachers College. Her research is focused on teacher preparedness as it relates to bullying in the middle school setting.

At the beginning of each school year, I become overwhelmed with happiness and excitement at the thought of teaching and preparing the next generation of activists.

As I reflect on some social justice practices I do in the middle school classroom, the first and most important practice that comes to mind is the act of learning who my students, their parents/guardians, and community are.

On the first day of school, I present students with a survey so that they have the opportunity to tell me about themselves, their hobbies, the languages they speak at home, their favorite foods, favorite books, their academic and social strengths and areas of growth, and so on.  I use the information students share with me to incorporate their experiences into my instruction so that it is culturally responsive and student-centered.

I also send students home with an introductory letter and parent survey as a way to communicate to parents that our work in educating their children is a collaborative effort and that I am interested in who they are and what they have to offer.

Too often, we enter our classrooms focusing on our students’ deficits, needs, and problems.  Instead, we should focus on what they do bring to the classroom and build off of it.  In addition to having students fill out a survey, I also do an activity with them called “hands, head, heart, and home” where through making posters, students share with their classmates and me their hands (what they are good at doing), head (what they are knowledgeable about), heart (what they are passionate about), and home (what organizations and places in their community they consider to be important). Continue reading

Teaching Feminism in High School: Moving from Theory to Action

The following post was originally published at On the Issues

The students in my feminism class read Rachel Lloyd's memoir, Girls Like Us, about the commercial sexual exploitation of children. (Photo, Steve Neiman, used with permission).

During a recent Twitter chat on #sheparty hosted by the Women’s Media Center, I tweeted: “How many feminists know edu hashtags and vice versa?”

The point I wanted to get across is that many feminists today don’t know much about today’s education conversation and, in turn, educators don’t know much about what’s going on in feminist discourse, whether it’s academic or activist.

My job as a feminist high school teacher is to close the women’s and gender studies gap for young people. To stop bullying, stop raping, stop perpetuating racism and sexism, and instead start making social change, I believe in bringing a gender, racial, and economic justice lens to education at all levels. Feminism does this work.

For me, connecting schools with feminist theory and action is personal. When I was in elementary school on Long Island in the early ‘80s, I was called “Afro” and “nigger.” Recess was not fun; to the contrary, it was a time to be bullied by my peers, who surrounded me while I was on the swings and in the sandbox. I always wonder how different my life might have been if my white teachers and white peers knew something about racism or if the rich history of Puerto Ricans and African-Americans had been taught to us as children. The goal would not have been color-blindness, but safety and inclusion, respect and responsibility for each other.

Now that I am a teacher, I believe that the power of feminist theory and action is exactly what young people need to create understandings across differences, learn how to lead healthy lives and to make social change.  Continue reading

Guest Post: On International Anti-Street Harassment Day, AtreveteDF Urges Youth Education

AtreveteDF, a new chapter of Hollaback!, fights against street harassment throughout Mexico City.

Earlier this fall, Feminist Teacher readers learned about the work that my high school students did with Emily May’s Hollaback! anti-street harassment movement. In particular, my student Grace Tobin testified at a New York City Council hearing on street harassment and the peers in her class sent in their powerful testimonies to the Hollaback blog. The importance of addressing street harassment in schools was never made more apparent to me than when my students shared their stories about being harassed on the subways and streets of New York, especially going to and from school.

Now that I’m in Mexico on a Fulbright, I have had the honor to meet with the founder of the Hollaback! chapter here in Mexico City, called AtreveteDF. A fairly new addition to the national and now global work that Hollaback! started in 2005, AtreveteDF is a growing force in the anti-street harassment movement. To mark International Anti-Street Harassment Day today, I invited AtreveteDF to write a guest post sharing its work and vision, especially in relation to the need to address this issue with young people. Below, readers will find both English and Spanish versions of AtreveteDF’s guest post. Please note that due to safety concerns, AtreveteDF contributed their post anonymously.

Education Against Street Harassment

One memory remains from a recent visit to a soccer stadium here in Mexico. Two kids, who were about 6 or 7, were shouting–in an almost eloquent manner–quite derogatory and objectifying comments to the cheerleaders and other women in the stadium. They also made comments directed at the players of the opposing team regarding homosexuality and their supposed “lack of manliness” as well as to members from their own team when players failed to score. People passed by and laughed; most men and women seemed to applaud this behavior, and nobody, including myself, asked them to be respectful or otherwise.

Today is International Anti- Street Harassment Day. When we speak of the daily realities many women and LGBTQ folks face when they walk down the street, let’s not forget to mention the children and youth who learn how to repeat these behaviors from the widespread sexual violence in our communities, the media, their homes, streets and schools. Continue reading