feminism at school

Should Schools be Educating Students on Women Empowerment and Struggles?

We at The New Feminist believe that it is necessary to teach people about feminism so that messages about the cause can be studied, allowing individuals to understand how the patriarchal system is dehumanising women around the world. The education of intersectional feminism remains key to understanding how different groups of women are oppressed and discriminated against while reminding us of how we can mobilise our efforts against misogyny, and its intersections of racism and classism. As such, bringing this knowledge to young children and teenagers will allow a refined understanding of the human rights of women, and how we can challenge the systemic sexism against women.

We are aware young children may struggle to grasp theoretical studies of feminism and misogyny, making it crucial to provide language that is accessible at different ages. However, providing children with the basic understanding of feminism at a young age would be a bonus to helping youths grasp concepts and the basic decency of treating women as an equal. Through educating young children in primary schools on women’s history and the evolving nature of feminism, it will allow children to have a basic understanding of how women’s rights have developed. Including covering issues on pay, social rights, political rights, and race will be key to educating children about the changes in society for women. Children in secondary schools will thus have the groundwork of a basic understanding, with timelines also aiding them in identifying sexual assault and the strides in which women have taken against the sexual objectification encountered.

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The education of the intersectionality of race and gender is key to children (white children especially) unpacking their racism and misogyny, but also for them to understand how Black Marxist Feminists in particular have worked towards helping equality and pushing for radical change in terms of gender. The work of Angela Davis, bell hooks, and Kimberlé Crenshaw can be implemented into education through providing learning on double discrimination and its effects in society. The education here would be multifaceted – with young boys being able to identify their misogyny, and patriarchy, giving chance to a shift in masculine ideals in boys; but also where white boys can address their racism and sexism together. Also, girls may be able to come to understanding their white privilege over different races, where feminism is not universal. Through making topics like sociology compulsory during the first three years of secondary school, these topics can be addressed and worked upon – providing children with the knowledge that is needed to bolster equality.

Looking at educating children about women’s empowerment and feminism is key to enhancing their socialisation when in school, and after school ends. The socialisation that occurs in school is significant to the development of children’s minds and their beliefs as they grow up; conditioning children into caring about others through the education of intersectional feminism. This itself is important as it is bringing children together and for them to focus on caring for their community, rather than teaching them the neoliberalist individualism that has been fostered in Britain in recent years. It is essential to recognise the beliefs which focus on bringing down the patriarchal norms that we live by as they reinforce the ideals that discriminate against women and other genders. It is key for children to grow up with the knowledge of this, and for them to understand that the same social system has fostered colonialism and racism, showing them how issues are intertwined.

Through these ideas, we can bring in healthy discussions regarding sexuality in a position where misogyny does not centre the discussions that boys have when discussing women. This may help to challenge the language and actions which boys perform against girls in school, including sexual harassment and misogynistic language used in friendship groups. Secondary schools in particular are equipped to address these discussions and especially as children grow up into their teenage years. Alongside this, further discussion on domestic violence and sexual assault can occur, with boys being educated on such issues in order to foster safety for women and girls. Further, discussions on sexuality and gender may help to enhance the conversations that children can have on their gender, thus possibly making schools safer for trans people.

Finally, in learning about feminism, secondary schools in particular may be able to open discussions on diet culture and support girls so they are able to openly discuss their bodies and any issues they are facing. Concerns of beauty standards have long affected women and bringing a discussion on these areas of concern are important to help girls understand the dangerous practices when it comes to dieting, and the eating disorders that can occur. Importantly, schools can help to move past bullying and body shaming, aiding young girls to focus on being healthy – physically and mentally.

In working to bring clarity of feminism and women’s empowerment to schools, the British education system can help to foster changes in society – the same changes that are so desperately needed in the fight against misogyny. Bringing education on feminism to school may help children understand what they can do to challenge the current norms, as well as introducing new norms. There are so many other techniques that exist to aid feminism education in schools but hopefully the discussions made above reflect what differences could be made and how teaching such knowledge is vital. Even though some of these topics are very complex, through helping children to become more aware at primary school level, they may further understand various topics when they arrive at secondary school and in the many years to come after.

Fashion & Beauty Sub-Editor