Thursday, October 11, 2012 marked the first International Day of the Girl. International Day of the Girl is a movement to empower the advocating of girls’ rights all over the world.
My feminism class ran an International Day of the Girl assembly at my school. Although I couldn’t actually be there, the process of preparing for the assembly and International Day of the Girl itself was very meaningful to me. We decided to focus on the education of girls because of its importance. Statistically, educating a girl dramatically improves the well being of their family and community.
If the education of girls increases, poverty and mortality rates decrease. This is more than just statistics; these are people’s lives. This idea of educating girls became more concrete to me when I watched the documentary Half the Sky. The personal stories from girls all over the world who experience gender-based violence in their homes and communities were extremely powerful.
The fact that education, something that seems so routine and expected for me, has been held out of reach from most of these girls makes me realize how lucky I am and inspired me to want to help. In the midst of different articles, books, movies, and speakers, I have gained a new insight and view of not only feminism internationally, but also domestically.
On the first day of this feminism class we were told to write down what we thought feminism meant. I wrote down a typical textbook definition. In bell hooks’s “Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression,“ she states, “Most people in the United States see feminism as a movement that aims to make women the social equals of men.”
Before learning about intersectionality this definition seemed completely accurate to me. bell hooks continues by writing, “since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to? Do women share a common vision of what equality means?”
Through learning the theory of intersectionality, I learned that feminism is a lot less straightforward than I had initially thought. Feminism covers all aspects of a woman’s identity. This means that feminist issues not only incorporates her experience of sexism but also race and class oppression.
Feminist author, Audre Lorde addresses this idea in her piece “There is No Hierarchy of Oppression,” by stating, “Within the lesbian community I am black and within the black community I am lesbian.” This statement shows that there is not just one thing that defines you. There are many different aspects of you and parts to who you are. All of these aspects are linked to create the idea of intersectionality.
Although this concept of intersectionality still seems a little daunting, it has come to make much more sense to me. As part of our class, we had to write personal intersectionality essays. This idea overwhelmed me. I found it difficult to write about myself and the different aspects of my life. But at the same time, writing this essay taught me about myself and helped to provide a stronger voice for myself.
Everyone’s essay was very different from each other but at the same time I felt bonded together by these differences. In another Audre Lorde piece titled “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” which can be found in her book, Sister Outsider, she states, “As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation rather than as forces for change.”
Although everyone in the class has a different background and a different story to tell, through our essays and sharing of some of those essays during our International Day of the Girl assembly, I feel as though we are celebrating our differences and bringing all of our differences to the fore for a cause. I hope the audience felt the togetherness through the intersectionality essays as they tied in with the assembly as a whole.
I actually spoke to some of my peers who were in the audience to find out what they thought about the assembly and about what struck them the most. One person told me that their favorite part were the videos about struggling girls in other countries. They said that it made them realize how important education really is and how much it could change these girls’ lives.
Another student told me that the most powerful part was the final video we shared from the Girl Effect that shows the impact of education on girls’ lives.
A different student told me that they liked the intersectionality essays the best because it actually connected classmates to International Day of the Girl. I believe that International Day of the Girl embodies everything we have done in class so far and much more, as it unifies the world through our differences for advocacy.
It is a day of celebrating, it is a day of advocating, and it is a day of change.