Education as Activism

There seems to be a trend of really smart and talented young women adamantly denying the importance of feminism and strongly disassociating with the word ‘feminist’. Then, we land ourselves in a Women’s Studies course in college and it seems like our whole world explodes. Suddenly everything makes sense! All our self-hatred, insecurity, fake friendships, and unstable relationships make sense because we finally understand the system we’re operating in. If an Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies course was required in the same way that First Year Composition is required, I really believe our campuses would be much safer, smarter, progressive places. But what about the folks who don’t want to or aren’t able to attend college? What about the folks who don’t ever find themselves in a Women’s Studies course? What if gender justice education could start earlier?

My primary, middle, and high school experiences would have been infinitely improved if someone had explained the basics of gender roles to me. When we don’t understand how our society functions, it’s hard to understand why things like girl hate and slut shaming are wrong. We’re taught that it’s just the way things are. Girls are jealous, competitive, and hate other girls! Anyone having sex is a depraved slut! This toxic environment (especially pitting young women against each other) hurts all of us and contributes to rape culture. Recent media attention around the Steubenville rape trial and the truly tragic suicides of rape victims who are blamed and harassed clearly showcase the need for education. If you can handle it, do a quick Google search for ‘slut shaming suicides’. It happens all the time. We need to teach other about what victim blaming is and why it happens. We need to learn about sex and especially about consent. Lack of education is literally killing us.

This is why young feminism is so important. Adult feminists spend lots of time talking about politics and laws, and that’s incredible! We need that! But our thoughts, ideas, and life philosophies are profoundly shaped in our youth. It’s hard to make decisions about what you believe in and who you want to be when you’re only given one example, one message, and one way to be. We need to change the dominant narratives that shape our society. Young feminists are in a great position to do that. I think about this constantly, so I was incredibly excited to find an article in The Star about a group of five young women who are bringing gender studies courses to high schools in Ontario.

The Miss G Project for Equity in Education is an awesome, totally inspiring example of activism. Too often, we end up talking about problems and injustices without getting anywhere. Activism is difficult, and progress is often snail-speed. But it’s the vital second step to talking about problems. If we keep telling each other things are bad but don’t do anything to make things good, we won’t get anywhere. When we make a plan and stick with it, even if it takes eight years (!), then we’ll see big things start to happen. Talking is an essential first step, and I don’t mean to belie its importance. This whole blog is a lot more talking than doing, because educating ourselves is an important kind of activism. If we don’t know what’s happening or why it’s happening, we can’t do anything to change it. That’s the premise of The Miss G Project!

I’m so excited that teenagers in Ontario will now have the opportunity to learn about the important role of gender in our lives…and they’ll learn about it in public schools! That’s so cool. That is what I desperately needed when I was a teenager, even if I didn’t know it at the time. What kind of education do you wish you’d had access to growing up? And if you were going to launch an activist campaign today, what would it be?

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