Feminism in the School Environment


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How has the feminist movement affected women in the modern age?

Osaivbie Uhunmwuangho, ENN Staff

“Hey, gorgeous! Can I get your number?” a man catcalls at a woman who walks by him. She ignores his call and quickly walks past him. “She’s really just gonna ignore me like that? Whatever, she was kinda ugly anyway,” he says rolling his eyes.

This form of misogyny is one where a man tries to justify his rudeness to a woman as acceptable, simply because he feels she owes him her attention. Situations like this seem to be extremely common and are actively being fought against by the idea of feminism: a movement where women advocate for equal rights to men. Some teachers try to make the classroom a meeting ground for this concept.

Christopher Peralta, AP English 4 teacher, is one of them. There is a large spectrum of books based on the concept of feminism that educates people who are less familiar with it. Peralta says the novel his class is currently reading analyzes the role of a woman in the late 19th century in her community as well as her limitations within it.

“We are reading ‘The Awakening’ by Kate Chopin. It deals with a woman who is sort of breaking through, or having an awakening, if you will, regarding her position in society. She’s having an awakening in terms of the choices that she’s allowed to make within society. In making those choices, she’s facing huge opposition from a culture that wants to keep her in a certain position and act a certain way. And when she breaks through, she is breaking out of the bands of society and she finds herself in a lot of trouble,” said Peralta.

Throughout his career, Peralta has made it a point to incorporate more female author’s to his lessons. Peralta understands that though the curriculum is stacked with male author’s, his job as an educator is to seek diverse points of view.

“Feminist literature is literature that explores issues of women oppression and of how culture doesn’t allow them to be as liberated as their male comparts,” said Peralta. “I feel it’s up to me to explore different types of authors, whether it’s African American authors, European authors, modern authors, or women authors. I think its important in this AP class that I teach different perspectives,” Peralta said.

In teaching with such diversity, Peralta’s hope for his students is that they will have an open mind and become more educated on concerns related to women and form their own ideas on such subjects.

“What I want them to take away from it is a better understanding of how to examine feminist literature. And in doing so, an ancillary benefit is that they might have a better viewpoint on how culture oppresses women,” Peralta said.

According to a 2018 today.yougov.com survey, 38% of American women consider themselves feminists. Senior, Veronica Seder, says that she wouldn’t use the term ‘feminist’ to describe her, however, she does generally agree with what they advocate for.

“I think ‘feminist’ carries a different connotation in this day. So, I don’t think I would necessarily identify as a feminist, but I definitely support the rights of women. I’m not the type of person to consider women superior, but I definitely think that they should be treated equal and given the same opportunities as men are,” said Seder.

While Seder may not classify herself as one, she still believes feminism is a topic that must be spoken about in order to understand the history of female oppression and how to fight it better moving forward. because of this, she appreciates that she’s involved in classes where topics relating to women are discussed.

“In my AP Art History class, we examined a lot of art pieces that had to do with feminism and commenting on feminism. They were really interesting because a lot of them carry different meanings and had different stances on feminism and on the expected roles of women in such,” said Seder. “I think it is an important topic because it really gets us thinking about not only the past, but also the present, and seeing how women have fit into society and been viewed by society throughout the course of history.

Similarly, Sydney Lloyd, senior, says that in the media, women are commonly stereotyped as only something sensual without including their intellectual abilities. To Lloyd, the best way to eradicate these things is not only to advocate sexual freedom for women, but to insert women into different and newer atmospheres.

“When you look at hip-hop culture and just women in general, women are always displayed as sexual objects, and to the point the message is that if you want to be [feminist], you can only do that through exploring sexual prowess and things like that,” said Lloyd. “I think that feminism can go way outside of sex. It can be excelling at jobs or becoming apart of a profession that’s predominately male controlled.”

Lloyd says she would consider herself to be a feminist, but is a little uncertain due to how the movement seems to be taking a turn for the extreme in today’s society.

“I do in a sense consider myself a feminist, but with the way feminism is used today, I feel like it’s strayed a lot from its original meaning, which is the equality for sexes through political, social, and economic means. I feel the way it’s thrown around now, it has sort of lost that meaning, so I’m just not as inclined to use the word ‘feminist.’ I would rather use the definition of it,” said Lloyd.

According to a 2016 Washington Post interview, 52% of men who do not identify as a feminist believe that the movement mostly blames men for the issues women have. However, Junior, Avram Santiago, says he doesn’t call himself a feminist because he doesn’t have much knowledge on the challenges of gender discrimination.

“I wouldn’t call myself a feminist because I haven’t really had first-hand experience of the struggle of what women go through, or much experience with gender inequality,” said Santiago.

Lloyd explains that because of the name, feminism can almost sounds like it is exclusively for women, as well as like it is opposed to men, and so she understands why many men and young boys tend to shy away from advocating for women.

“One issue that I hear is that because it is called ‘feminism,’ that it’s just inherently sided against men since the key word here is ‘feminine,’ and that we should find a different word for it. I would agree with that to a certain extent, because when you hear the word ‘feminism,’ it does have a sense of being sided towards women and giving them more power, and I think that’s where the concept of ‘meninism’ comes in,” said Lloyd.

Meninism is a term alike to feminism, but is often used by men as a satirical way to belittle the principles of feminism. Santiago believes that the number gap between male and female feminists is due to men feeling like they don’t need to fight for a cause that does not have so much of a negative effect on them.

“I think there are less male feminists because men typically have more privilege than women, so they don’t really care to speak up about other women if they’re not having any problems themselves,” said Santiago.

Lloyd says there are ways for men to get more involved in the feminist movement, and they can start by questioning their morals.

“I think men in general they do have some of the same values of women, but because feminism has become such a hot topic these days, they don’t really know where they stand on it. I do think if they just ask themselves where their values are, they would realize where they lie on the feminism spectrum,” said Lloyd.

Similarly, Santiago says that men can be included in feminism just by understanding the challenges women face because this kind of prejudice is still very much present.

“Men can be more involved by supporting other women and realizing that there’s a huge gender gap or trying to help other women out if they see something unfair happening to them.¬†[Gender inequality] is everywhere in people’s lives and they’re going to have to confront it eventually,” said Santiago.

While some may feel that opportunities regarding the two sexes are equal, women oppression is still present in today’s modern society. The concept of feminism is one that strives for the equality of both women and men, paving a way for equal rights.