Saturday, August 23, 2014

Teaching Feminism

With the despairing conversations resulting from the tumblr posts on Women Against Feminism, there has been raised the suggestion that feminism needs to be taught. Many groups have been compiling responses to enlighten people who believe we no longer need feminism, or who don’t understand what feminism is. Good work. I’m all for teaching feminism.

A group of Melbourne students at Fitzroy High School want more resources for the teaching of feminism, and want to rewrite the curriculum to include women’s studies, so did crowdscourcing to raise funds. I’m not sure what the fundraising is for. The new Australian curriculum isn’t about to be rewritten anytime soon - it's just being implemented. (From what I've seen of the history curriculum, the knowledge one would hope students wouldn't leave school without - genocide, civil rights movements - are in the elective strand rather than the compulsory strand.) Although there is no explicit unit of work in the history curriculum on women, it is possible that an aware teacher can include aspects of women’s studies in any syllabus unit. I don’t know what they are trying to achieve by creating curriculum resources for the nation. I plan to teach feminism as part of any unit of work where the issue is relevant.

Everything people need to learn about feminism is available online. Start a Facebook page and have regular meetings to discuss the issues. Anyone can like the Facebook pages for feminist activist groups and receive their regular posts about women in art, business, entertainment, about gendered education and toys, about political issues, about books and conferences and panel discussion, and about campaigns for action. There are lots of creative ways to be a feminist:

From the US: Miss Representation, Brave Girls Want (these groups pass on videos and infographics from Upworthy and Buzzfeed), Feministing, Feministe, Everyday Feminism, and the writing of Jessica Valenti (who started Feministing).

From the UK: UK Feminista, The F-Word

From Australia: Destroy the Joint, Collective Shout, the writings of Andrea Fox (blogs as Blue Milk), Clementine Ford, Anne Summers, the blog News with Nipples, Hoyden About Town and their Down Under Feminist  Carnivals, and our Sex Discrimination Officer, Elizabeth Broderick.

From Canada: Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement

For global issues, read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and look at the United Nations groups, UNIFEM and Women Watch.

That should be enough to get started.

There are new books coming out all the time - mostly saying the same things but saying them to new audiences.

At one of my daughter’s schools there is a feminist club. At my other daughter’s school the principal and teachers talk about feminism. Nina Funnell visited the school recently to talk to the students. All good stuff. And good for the students hear about feminism from someone other than their mothers.

Whilst I’m happy to prepare and present programs for schools about Feminism (and many other issues), school students are able to get these activities started for themselves, with teacher assistance. If the students from Fitzroy High School can get started with a discussion in English class and teacher assistance, surely they can continue. If the fundraising is to pay for people like Nina Funnell, Danielle Miller, and the above-named (or me) to visit and present at schools, then carry on.

Meanwhile, I’m planning to attend the conference in Brisbane, run by The Association for Women Educators: Reclaiming Feminism, EnGendering Change, where I hope to find out more, (or, doing the sums, perhaps for now it is enough to know this group exists) and I think it’s time I started a feminist bookgroup. I’ll keep you posted.