Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Children & Feminism

Today my university celebrated "Spring Fling." If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's basically an all-day party that student organizations set up booths for and there's food and contests and merriment--and most undergrads get drunk for it.

Anyway, I've never really "done" Spring Fling because I always have class or something, and this year is no different. But I got to do one hour at the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance booth with a few other FMLA-ers, and other than free condoms and pamphlets (condoms ran out--still lots of pamphlets), we also had hula hoops and jump ropes, so a lot of my hour at the booth was spent hula-hooping whilst waving our radical feminist cheerleader pom-poms around (they're pink).

At one point, 2 girls, who were maybe 6 and 8 years old, saw me hula hooping and pom-pomming and came over to ask if they could hula hoop and jump rope so they joined in for a little while. When it looked like they were getting ready to move on, I asked, "Hey, do you guys know what feminism is?"

The older girl answered, "Um... actually, no!"

"Feminism believes that men and women are equal," I told them.

"Oh," she said. "Well that's true!"

"It IS!" all the FMLA-ers responded.

"So since you believe that, you're a feminist!" I said.

"Okay!" She said.

There's definitely no reason why children shouldn't be exposed to feminism. I became aware of feminism and women's rights at a very basic level through my American Girl Doll books for Samantha when I was like 5. Samantha has this cool aunt who's like a rebel-suffragist, and when I learned that once upon a time women couldn't vote because they were women, well, that got all my girl-power 90s child anger going. WHY NOT? And ever since then I have been very concerned with the plight of women.

There's this attitude that many people share, that children aren't ready or aren't at a level to understand ideological concepts. I think this is largely untrue, and most things can be tailored to children in an age-appropriate way. Feminism is no different. I'm not going to use the dictionary definition of feminism on an 8 year old, but introducing the concept at a very basic level I think can be empowering and let kids, especially young girls, know that there's a base for resisting inequality. Will these girls remember the term "feminism" in a couple hours? Maybe not, but they will know that there's support for gender equality. If we can tell children that from as young age, I think that can catalyze a good shift in attitudes about gender.

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