Society Magazine

Being a Feminist in High School

Posted on the 13 February 2015 by Juliez

Several weeks ago I overheard a conversation between two of my male peers. They were discussing what they felt was a grossly unequal method of teaching by one of our mutual teachers.

The teacher they were talking about (let’s call her Ms. Jackson) is outspoken, liberal and undeniably candid with her students. She is known for the frank manner with which she discusses the marginalization of minority groups and the continued discrimination against women.The best way I can describe her is to say she is unapologetic in opening our eyes to the truth. Additionally, she is the adviser to my club, Feminist Empowerment Movement (FEM).

So the conversation between these boys, who I do not feel compelled to assign names, went a little something like this: (Disclaimer: This is by no mean a verbatim recreation, but rather an expression of the matters discussed)

Boy #1: “Ms. Jackson obviously favors girls. I feel like I need to get a sex change just to get an A.”

Boy #2: “Or just pretend to be a feminist.”

Boy #1: “Oh yeah, dude. She runs that Feminist club. We could just show up to that and pretend like we’ve been there the whole time.”

Boy #2: “Yeah, they probably wouldn’t even notice. We could just show up and get some snacks and leave.”

Boy #1: “‘Hi! We hate men, too! Can we have some cookies? Okay, bye!’”

The conversation then petered off into a discussion about athletic socks.

It is difficult to know where to begin discussing all that is alarming about this conversation.

First, there’s the notion that feminism could be used by men as a method of gaining an edge over women. This irony is so preposterous that, were it not so sad, it would be pretty damn funny.

Next would have to be their belief that feminism is about hating men. I created the FEM club to fight this very assumption. And instead of proposing their attendance sarcastically, if they had actually attended a meeting they may have been more educated in understanding the fundamental basis of gender equality that is essential to the movement of feminism. They may have known that the very existence of feminism hinges on the belief that the successes of men and women are not mutually exclusive!

While certain moments of this conversation make me rightfully angry, it is that point that makes me the most sad. As an open, and unabashedly vocal feminist, I have been met many times with the accusation of wanting female supremacy on the mild end, and the enslavement of men at the most extreme. This is so far off the mark of what feminism really is, though, and I am, quite frankly, saddened that my efforts towards the education of such to my peers is met with such ridiculous, uninformed, and hurtful accusations. It is moments such as this that are deeply discouraging and demotivating.

It is at this time that I will note that these boys are Caucasian, able bodied, middle class, cisgender, heterosexual males. Globally and historically speaking, they are about as privileged as it gets. This is not a group which has suffered systematic oppression. However, the notion that they are being discriminated against in favor of women, while laughable to most reasonable people, is sadly becoming more widely accepted among men who feel that feminism is a threat to their basic human rights. While I am undoubtedly biased, the marginalization of a highly privileged group by a movement which fights for equality of all groups seems unlikely to me, to say the least.

Finally, I found the fact that these boys think it is possible, or even necessary, to pretend to be feminists most ironic of all. It has been said that to be considered a feminist, you need only to answer ‘yes’ to two easy questions. “Do you think women (I would replace this with ‘people of all genders’) are human?” “Yes.” “As humans, do you think they deserve equal opportunity and treatment?” “Yes.” Boom. Done. That’s it. Welcome to the club. On this basis, and barring this arguably anti-feminist incident, these boys, along with most people, probably don’t need to pretend to be feminists. They could easily meet these qualifications, even if they don’t realize it.

I believe the fact that many choose not to identify as such boils down to two main issues: fear of the word “feminist” and an endemic misunderstanding of the movement. I can only hope that my efforts at eradicating these issues is successful in working towards the education of all, and the oppression of none.

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