In 2017, the words feminism and feminist– along with “artisanal,” “hand-crafted,” “cold-pressed,” and “locally sourced” – have become so overused, commercialized, and so terribly distorted from their origins that they now have ZERO. MEANING. AT ALL. The bar is set so low that any human with a pulse and two X chromosomes is automatically a feminist. For example:
- A girl eating a cheeseburger in public? Feminist!
- A woman who smiles and says hello in the elevator? Feminist!
- A woman who scowls and stares at the ceiling of the elevator? Even more of a feminist! (because she chose not to smile and say hello! She scowled and looked away, on her own terms, duhh!!)
My students deserve better than the diminished, diluted, near-pathetic lens that feminism is now discussed and celebrated in mainstream America. To clear the confusion, I made some slides to explain what female empowerment does *NOT* look like:
Entertainers who burden themselves with several pounds of makeup, hair extensions/ micro-weaves, and generous injections of silicone throughout their bodies – all done to cater to the male gaze – are not helping women achieve equality in education, at home, or in the workplace
Picking friends based on their race, height, and BMI – also not feminism
Nepotism has no place in 21st century America!
Luckily, Forbes provides an annual list of influential women who worked hard, used their brains, and have become leaders in politics/ science/ corporations/ NGOs… women who have at many points surpassed their male counterparts in ability and talent, and are changing and shaping the world. Some women I covered in class:
- Angela Merkel, the de-facto leader of the free world as of Jan 20, 2017
- Ertharin Cousin, head of the World Food Programme
- Federica Mogherini, EU’s premier foreign minister
- Oprah, queen of life
Now, it was my students’ turn to pick influential women:
“Wait wait wait. Each group must also pick at least one women who is both a foreigner and alive”
After more brainstorming, the kids made their posters. Here are some highlights…
me: can someone please ask one good question about Mulan’s accomplishments?
Melody: did Mulan have a boyfriend?
and then the last group brought up a poster of the Statue of Liberty
I was annoyed, since she is a mass of oxidized copper and therefore not a real person
“Please explain why you are presenting on a statue”
“The Statue of Liberty stands for friendship and freedom. She is a symbol of courage and hope for all people who are poor, sick, and tired. Helping others when they need it the most is what female empowerment is all about.”