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

Feminist Teacher Celebrates First Year Blogging

This weekend I’m celebrating the first year of founding and blogging at Feminist Teacher. When I created this blog, my goal was to carve out a space to share my work as a feminist high school teacher and for fellow feminist educators to find a space to talk about the role of feminism in schools. As part of celebrating my first year blogging, I’m taking a look back at 2010 and my work as a feminist educator-activist:

A Task Force of Her Own: Interview with Refuse the Silence’s Morgane Richardson

Morgane Richardson

Morgane Richardson has a mission to change higher education for women of color as we know it.

A 2008 graduate of Middlebury College, Richardson started her work supporting women of color as an activist and mentor on campus. Throughout her college years, she made herself available to women of color as they navigated issues of race, class, and gender. Determined to change the campus climate, she also sat on Middlebury’s Task Force on the Status of Women, which continued the work of earlier task forces on issues of gender at the college from 1990 and 1997 respectively. The original 1990 report, which came to be called the “Gender Report,” was “undertaken in the aftermath of an incident in which a mutilated female mannequin was hanged from the front of a fraternity house during a party at the close of the 1987-88 school year.”

Upon graduating, Richardson became inspired to change the climate for women of color at elite liberal arts colleges, institutions whose histories of tradition and privilege generate cultures of racism, sexism, and homophobia, leaving women of color erased from the conversation, both academically and socially.  Today, Richardson is collecting the stories of women of color at elite liberal arts colleges to create an anthology made up of narratives, letters, essays and videos, which will be titled Refuse the Silence. These stories will be used to design a set of actions that will be sent to leading college presidents and administrators to create the kind of change we’ve long been waiting for. Continue reading

Fighting the Good Fight: Students and Teachers of Color Working Against the ‘Isms

Yesterday I had a talk with a former student who is currently a first year student at an Ivy League university. Since her freshman year in high school, we have connected on our common Latina background, mine Puerto Rican, hers Dominican. Now that she is in college, I continue to feel connected to her as she forges her way as the first in her family to attend college.

During the course of our conversation, she interviewed me for a women’s studies class project on which she is currently working. As we talked, we shared common experiences of facing racism and classism during pivotal moments in our lives. When my family moved from the Bronx to Long Island, I faced racist epithets such as “spic,” “nigger,” and “afro” from children on the playground. The teasing and the bullying didn’t end there though. After our move to Long Island, my Bronx relatives started calling me “white girl.” I was suddenly living in two worlds that didn’t accept me.

Continue reading