by Sophie Mawson (3rd year BA philosophy student, KCL iFemSoc member)
If you want to get involved with this project, please email Sophie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the past month or so, Jamie Sweeney, Alex McKenzie, Allissa Tai and I have been working on a project: preparing a presentation about feminism to give in schools across London. One of the main aims of this project is to educate young people – we want to teach them the basics of feminism and dispel the myths that surround it. Nowadays many people learn about feminism when they’re older, and it isn’t a topic that is widely discussed among children. We think that this should change. Many children grow up surrounded by harmful messages that teach them strict gender roles, and, with feminism not part of the curriculum, they don’t have the tools to even recognise any problems. Young girls, for example, shouldn’t be growing up thinking that catcalling or unwanted touching is just part of life. By giving a short presentation about feminism, we hope to give young people the ability to critically assess things that happen in their lives in a way that they otherwise might not be able to do.
In order to build on the presentation, we are also making a starter pack for helping students to set up their own feminist societies within their schools. We don’t want to just give a presentation about feminism and then for the children to stop discussing it the next day, but of course we can’t go into every school every week in order to keep it fresh in their minds. Encouraging young people to set up their own societies will inspire them to continue developing their ideas, even after the presentation is over. Furthermore, setting up their own societies puts the power in their hands, and allows them to develop their ideas together, with other students that they see every day. We plan to keep in touch with feminist societies in schools in order to track their progress, and hope to set up connections between the different societies, so that they can learn from one another. We would also like to create a blog (similar to this one!) that the young people we meet can post on, and which will also contain lots of useful and helpful links.
This project was started a while ago by Jamie Sweeney, a third year philosophy student. Before anybody else got on board, he had already set up links with several schools, and contacted them to discuss his ideas and the possibility of giving a presentation. As well as this, he observed a feminist society meeting in a Camden sixth form, after meeting one of the girls that ran it while at the UK Feminista summer school in Birmingham. Jamie said the following about his motivation to put so much time into this:
I started the project as I feel that the experience I had of feminism before I came to university was one which is common to wider society as a whole. Namely, I had come across the movement very little (if at all) at school, and so possessed a poor idea of what feminism is about. I’d grown up with ideas around the word which society likes to enforce on people – that feminism is a movement run by frigid man haters determined to ruin our fun. It was only when I came to university, attended a few talks by the society, and had my eyes opened by my ex-girlfriend, that I realised the oppressions that women face everyday and that feminism is about fighting this oppression. I came up with the idea of going into schools to talk about feminism to ensure that people are educated from an early age about what the movement is really about, and to give young women the opportunity to fight the oppression they experience, whilst educating young men to respect women. It shouldn’t have to take until university to do so, or bypass those who don’t go!
I personally felt compelled to get on board with the project for similar reasons to Jamie. In my time at school, I considered myself a feminist while being fairly judgmental of other girls, and I didn’t realise that was a problem. I didn’t have the resources to learn more about feminism, and, as nobody I knew was a feminist, I didn’t feel I had anybody to talk about it with. With this project, we can at least make younger people aware of feminism – once they have that, they can start discussing it with their friends in the groups they set up, which will inevitably lead them to develop their ideas.
As well as personal reasons, I also feel that, as members of an Intersectional Feminist Society, we should teach feminism to those that don’t have the chance to come to university or learn about it for themselves. While I was lucky enough to be able to come to King’s and move to London, many people from where I grew up were not in that position at all, and many of them were not feminists. University is an amazing place where so much learning happens, but it is getting harder and harder for anybody to get there – not only are the fees expensive, but other costs such as accommodation can also prevent people from going. Feminism may become a much more inclusive movement if it isn’t only discussed among university students and Guardian readers.
We’re now in the final stages of preparation, and are looking forward to February and beyond, where we have several slots in different schools’ assemblies and PHSE lessons lined up. If anybody has any questions about the project, or would like to get involved, please do leave a comment. And check back on KCL IFemSoc blog for updates about how things go!