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.

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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.

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

Book Review: “Hey Shorty!” Provides Educators Steps Against Sexual Harassment in Schools

(Girls for Gender Equity)

Reading Hey Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Public Schools and on the Streets is like drinking vitamin water for activists. An immersion in how-to community organizing, movement building, and feminist activism against sexual harassment, this book is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Written in easy-to-read language and clearly outlined, bullet point action steps, co-authors Meghan Huppuch, Joanne N. Smith, and Mandy Van Deven make the case for feminist activism in schools in ways that will make our non-initiated colleagues understand that we need to act now.

As hard as it is for some educators and administrators to admit, all schools are sexual and sexualized spaces. More specifically, when it comes to sexual harassment, all schools are spaces of power and submission, authority and silence.

Pervasive and destructive, sexual harassment is considered to be a “typical part” of school life by two-thirds of the 1,189 New York City public school students surveyed by Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), a Brooklyn-based girls advocacy and movement building group dedicated to gender justice.

In this new and important book, GGE co-authors Huppuch, Smith, and Van Deven, reveal urgent research that the young women in their Sisters in Strength program discovered.

Their three pivotal findings should press those of us who are educators and school leaders to respond: 1) in-school sexual harassment occurs in many ways, to many people, and in many locations; 2) sexual harassment is a “normal” part of young people’s school experience, and 3) students want and need more education about sexual harassment.  Continue reading

Justice is Sweet: Astraea’s Funding the Fight for Queer People of Color

The following post can also be found at Equality 101 in honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2010.

The Astraea Foundation funds LGBTI social justice activism both in the US and globally. (photo courtesy of Astraea)

Do you know who is funding the fight for queer social justice in Africa?

Do you know who is funding the fight for queer social justice in Latin America?

Do you know who is funding the fight for queer social justice right here in the US?

The answer to all of these questions is Astraea. No other public foundation is working harder for sweet justice than the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the world’s only foundation solely dedicated to funding LGBTI organizations in both the United States and internationally.

For more than 30 years, Astraea has been a major leader in the social-justice-feminist movement. Astraea began in 1977 in New York when a small group of women created a multi-racial, multi-class, feminist foundation in order to address the lack of funding for women—specifically lesbians and women of color. According to Executive Director Katherine Acey, the founding mothers—including Stella Alvo, Audrey Barnes, Nancy Dean, Barbara Grant, Joyce Hunter, Roberta Kosse, Cynthia Long, Achebe Powell, Joan Watts and Leslie Kanes Weisman—“believed that even the smallest of gestures, when combined, could create, nurture and strengthen significant social change. And they were right.” Continue reading