The first-ever International Day of the Girl is happening today. Schools, organizations, and individuals around the world are all signed up to be a part of the celebration. My school, Elisabeth Irwin High School, had its assembly this past Tuesday, and I enjoyed it immensely.
We also teamed up with an all-girls school in Kolkata, India, who are also having their assembly for International Day of the Girl today. Their school is called Shri Shikshayatan, and we got to see pictures of them preparing for their own event. It was exciting to watch them getting ready for the same event we were, because we got to see how global this movement is. Some of us will also be visiting them later on in the school year in Kolkata to learn about feminism on a global scale. I am extremely excited to visit India and to learn how I can really help women all over the world get an education and be treated as equals.
I became a part of this movement by joining the Fierce & Fabulous Feminism class at my school, taught by Ileana Jiménez. We prepared for the assembly by reading the works of great feminist authors like Audre Lorde and bell hooks, and writing about our personal experiences with privilege and oppression through intersectionality.
Intersectionality is the idea that certain aspects of who you are, including your race, class, gender, sexuality, language, location, etc., intersect on many levels that can lead to all types of societal oppression. I wrote my essay about race, class, sexuality, and location, and used quotes from Lorde, Bonnie Thorton Dill, and Jamaica Kincaid.
My favorite piece was by Kincaid called “Girl,” which focuses on how girls are expected to act. I quoted Kincaid in my own intersectionality piece: “this is how to bully a man; this is how a man bullies you; this is how to love a man; and if that doesn’t work there are other ways, and if they don’t work don’t feel too bad about giving up.”
We had several guest speakers come and teach us about the oppression of women around the world, especially in India, because of the school we are partnered with there. They talked about female infanticide, trafficking, domestic violence, and girls education.
We also watched videos from organizations like 10×10 Educate Girls, the documentary Half the Sky, and the informational video The Girl Effect, and ended up showing many of these videos at our assembly.
Our assembly went well over all. I read a section of my essay about being raised as a “Southern lady,” and having family from the South. I talked about how this class has changed my perspective on being a white woman from the South. My favorite part of my essay was when I quoted Lorde from her essay “The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”: “‘If white American feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend to your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of Color? What is the theory behind racist feminism?”
No matter what my race, the history of my family, or the views of my 87-year-old grandma, I know what it means to be a girl from the South and be a feminist as well. It means not being defined by the opinions or beliefs of others. It means being a woman who has high expectations for all people, including herself.” If felt like many people could relate to trying to connect feminism to other parts of who we are as people and as women.
Others in the class shared many interesting facts and statistics about all that we had learned to try and get people interested in helping girls around the world. Most of all, we tried to stress that education is the best way to help girls globally. The Girl Effect video, which everyone should watch, was a powerful tool, because, although it is a little vague, I think it shows the impact that an education can really have on the life of a girl, and how it can change her life from being subservient to men, to trying to find her own path.
I think the audience connected to many of these essays, and were startled by the videos, but perhaps spurred into action. I had a lot of fun watching people read anecdotes from their essays, and watching my classmates get the audience as interested and excited about helping with equality for women all around the world as my whole class is.
I loved doing this assembly, and I am excited to continue with my feminism class!