Who's a Feminist? Three Boys Raise Their Hands
Last week I watched a Nike commercial, entitled Dream Crazier with my students. It is narrated by Serena Williams and highlights how women in sports, are called crazy if they dare get emotional or angry. We watched the video and I asked my students the question: What is this advertisement trying to show?
A boy at the back answered simply: "Girls are strong, and it's okay for them to use their strength, and it doesn't make them crazy." In one sentence he articulated everything women have been trying to get across.
Our discussion turned to feminism. Most of my students have a strong aversion to the word. One girl pointed out that she dislikes it when someone who identifies as a feminist feels the need to put men down. "Men are not idiots, they are not sexual predators, and they are not evil. Some men are just men, and some women hate them for it. It sucks." I understood what she meant.
I cringe at advertisements or articles making men out to be fools or saints for changing diapers, playing with their kids, or doing anything any mother would do. My student picked up on this too. She continued by stating, "Intense feminists express themselves as man-haters. I know some men are jerks, some are abusive, and some take advantage of women, but that's not what it is to be a man, and women should not portray men this way."
I liked what she said, but it made me feel that my students' definition of feminism was skewed by things they have heard or seen, but not by experience.
"So, who here is a feminist?" I asked the class.
My hand was the only one raised.
Another female student was surprised. "Miss, you're a feminist?" She clearly did not have the same definition of feminism as I do.
I explained: "I want female students to be proud of themselves. I want them to know nothing should hold them back. I want them to know they do have power, and can use it to make themselves heard, without putting anyone else down. I want my daughter and all young girls to know they deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and trust, like anyone else. I want girls to know they are amazing, and worth anyone's time. I am a feminist."
"That's what a feminist does?" My surprised student asked.
I explained further: "My parents, treated me like a princess. My mom made me frilly dresses and I played with dolls. My mom showed me how to cook, and use a sewing machine. My dad taught me to drive, garden, sew on a button, set up my RRSP's, and add motor oil to my car. My dad told me I could do whatever I wanted if I worked for it, but that I should always rely on myself. I don't think either of my parents would identify themselves as feminists, but they are because they encourage me to do my best, not to let anything stand in my way, and have confidence in what I do." The class was silent.
"So, who here is a feminist?" I asked again. All the girls' hands shot up. Three boys in the class had their hands up too. The fourth boy said he'd have to think about it a bit more. "Fair enough," I said.
To all the young people who stand up for equality, teach respect towards women, and don't accept any less "just because you're a girl," you're a feminist too!