In the 21st century, feminism and gender equality are still needed as much as they were at any other time. As a teenager, I am constantly exposed to the harsh reality of sexism, particularly on social media, and people who promote insulting ideas of what it really means to be a feminist. I constantly hear things like ‘we don’t need feminism,’ ‘it’s not a big deal,’ ‘people who are feminists just want attention.’ It is the same situation with many people’s opinion on gender equality: ‘we already have it,’ ‘it’s not important,’ ‘it’s a woman’s fault if she is inferior.’ Worst of all is the perennial disadvantage placed upon women, not only in social media – where I have seen numerous posts stating that the worst decision ever made was teaching women how to speak, which had a disquieting number of likes – but also in everyday scenarios, with things like the gender pay gap and the (although thankfully decreasing) objectification of girls and women as sex objects.
After seeing some of the people I know, who are 14/15 years old, share posts twisting statistics and blaming the gender pay gap on women being unintelligent, and then having my friends and I told that we were the ones being outrageous because we spoke out against these posts, I decided that something needed to change.
After contemplating different solutions, I came to the conclusion that ultimately only education could solve this. I then started a petition on change.org campaigning for 3 hours of education on modern feminism annually, which has, amazingly, now reached over 16,000 signatures. Based on the already overcrowded curriculum and the amount of extra-curricula learning on things like sex education, I feel having 3 hours of this annually is very reasonable and realistic. For me, modern feminism is anything from 1940 and onwards, which is (in the opinion of someone who has been in the education system at a state school for 11 years) something pupils are taught nothing about.
Students should be educated in secondary schools on the amazing progress and activism of feminism – things that people currently only learn about if they do their own research. Amazing people and events are not taught to pupils: the removal of the tampon tax by Laura Coryton; getting a woman other than the Queen on bank notes by Caroline Criado-Perez; Betty Friedan, who spent her life campaigning for women’s equality; Gloria Steinem, who led women’s liberation movements in the 1960s-70s; Malala Yousefzai, with her continued courage and advocating education for all; Male Feminists and their amazing blog; and much, much more. It is people like these who can inspire children, teach them that sexism is wrong, that we still need feminism and that it is not the twisted, misunderstood version of it that is so often presented to people in the media. Yes, pupils are briefly told about gender equality in very minor areas of the curriculum throughout their school career. However, at no point are students formally taught that sexism is wrong, and at absolutely no point are students taught anything about modern feminism.
We should be teaching students not to judge anyone on anything other than their merits and skills, rather than things like gender, race or sexuality. I strongly believe that, if implemented, pupils would learn that they have the power to make change happen, as well as discovering new role models. The lessons would revolve around correcting misunderstanding and opening pupils’ eyes to the world of modern feminism.
I am so grateful for all the support I have received, and I am determined to make this petition a success. Please head on over to change.org to sign my petition and take us all one step closer towards equality.