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

Why Teachers Should Join the Global Movement Against Street Harassment

My student Grace testifying at the New York City Council Hearing on street harassment in October 2010. (photo by Ileana Jiménez)

Last year, my student Grace did a very brave thing. Before a packed room of reporters, politicians, activists, and fellow testifiers, she shared her personal experience with street harassment to the leaders of the New York City Council.

During her testimony, Grace described how a man publicly masturbated in front of her on the subway and the humiliation and shame she felt as a result:

The moment which I have felt most degraded, belittled, and humiliated was at 6 p.m. on a Saturday getting on to the 1 train at Chambers heading uptown . . . His eyes flashed up to meet mine and I quickly dropped my gaze into my lap. I didn’t want to make eye contact with him, just like with any stranger; I was worried he would misinterpret the eye contact  . . . but I glanced up at him, against my better judgment.

The hands I thought were in his pockets were not. They were under the big sides of his tan coat. 
Masturbating.

I guess I must have been angry. I don’t think I could feel it though. My fear and shock overpowered everything else such as the shame and embarrassment. The vulnerability and victimization. The fact that I was frozen. Unable to say a thing. Unable to move. Unable to fully comprehend, or at least, not letting myself.

Grace’s powerful testimony was one of many shared at that hearing, which was organized by City Council Member Julissa Ferreras, chair of the City Council Women’s Issues Committee. Ferreras hoped that it would “cast light on this depraved practice and that women and girls will no longer have to adopt a veil of caution when they want to do something as basic as walk down the street.”

As a teacher, watching my own student testify against street harassment made me all the more galvanized to be a part of the growing global movement against street harassment. Her story not only confirms the experiences of so many girls, women, and members of the LGBTQ community on both national and international levels, but also confirms that my very own students are subject to this very real form violence as they travel to and from school, hang out with friends, and in short, live their lives. Continue reading

Guest Post: Feminism: Much More Than Women’s Rights

Meiling Jabbaar, former high school feminism student, and Ileana Jiménez (Feminist Teacher).

Last year, I launched an on-going guest post series written by my former high school students reflecting on the impact of learning feminism(s) in high school. To mark the beginning of the school year and to inspire teachers to bring a feminist vision to their curricula, I’m posting a piece written by my former student, Meiling Jabbaar, who took my course on feminism her senior year last fall. In this essay, Meiling teaches all of us that learning about feminism in high school made an impact on finding her voice. Meiling will be attending Brown University this fall.

Growing up as a young woman in today’s society, I have always been aware of issues that women, teenage girls, and even young girls face.  When I learned about the feminism course offered by Ileana Jiménez, who teaches in the English department at my high school, I realized that I would have the chance to discuss topics to which I could relate.  But little did I know how much of an impact the class would have on me.

My Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists class, which I took during the first trimester of my senior year, did much more than expose me to the world of feminism.  In providing the space to talk about issues important to me, such as female stereotypes, issues of beauty, and how women are portrayed in the media, I learned ways in which I could solve these problems, while at the same time, I learned a lot about myself.

Before taking the class, the only thing that came to mind when I thought about feminism was women’s rights.  I soon learned that feminism entails so much more.  First, we focused on feminist theory.  We read the works of various renowned feminist writers, including bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, and Virginia Woolf.  I was overwhelmed and moved by their powerful pieces that analyze the history and roots of the struggles that plague the lives of women.  After reading these writers, my eyes were opened to what feminism truly represents. Continue reading

Teaching Boys Feminism

The following is cross-posted at Gender Across Borders and Equality 101 for their jointly hosted Feminism & Education series.

 

 

 

 

Each year, boys sign up for my high school course on feminism (photo, Ileana Jiménez)

When I was in college, I always thought that teaching girls about feminism was my life’s calling. It turns out that teaching boys about feminism has made that calling even more profound.

In the past three years, I have taught a high school course on feminism titled Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Writers, Artists, and Activists. Each year, girls and boys sign up for the class and each year, these young men are awakened not only to injustices regarding race, class, and gender in national and global contexts but also to injustices regarding how they have been socialized as boys.

With every example of women, girls, queer folks, and people of color facing discrimination, marginalization, and violence, boys awaken. White male boys begin to realize the male privilege they have enjoyed in a culture that valorizes powerful white men while boys of color gain language to describe their painful experiences of racism and classism. And each year, without fail, regardless of racial identity or socioeconomic class, the boys—both straight and gay—express their fear of being called a “fag.” 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

SPARK Summit Inspired My Students to Launch a Movement

The recent SPARK Summit held at Hunter College inspired my students to launch a movement against the sexualization of  girls and women in the media. After watching a video made by the Women’s Media Center on the horrific ways in which girls and women are objectified by the media, students wanted to learn more about how they could be a part of the conversation too.

To prepare my students for the summit, I designed a series of workshops for them to participate in on issues such as media literacy, sexual assault, street harassment, and feminist blogging. Guest visitors from around the country came to my class to share their expertise, culminating in students creating their own feminist blog to be part of both the SPARK bloggers team at the summit and to use it as a platform for our classroom activism. Continue reading