Feminist Stigma in High Schools
by Ejin Jeong
The word “Feminism” in general has always carried negative stigmas in society. The creation of the word “Feminazi” is merely one example of how society has hallucinated a distorted image on what Feminism actually means. In High School, those stigmas and misunderstandings are immediately amped up and exaggerated to another level. Not only male but also female students harbor the negative image of feminists being crazy, power-hungry, men-hating activists. I would say that even the majority of students in my experience have expressed some negative comment on Feminists being “crazy” and “insane."
As a Feminist myself, I will guiltily admit that I have recently noticed a reluctant nature in myself when I wish to say something that is related towards women’s rights. I have been judged, teased at, and shamed for speaking my mind. I have been so wired about the negative image many of my classmates have about feminism, that I myself have tried to limit my aggressive passion.. How did feminism have such a bad, misconceptualized reputation among teenagers?
The factors can be pointed towards several sources. Misrepresentation from the media, lack of education about feminism, and the constant cycle of students acting “tired” of how women’s rights activists continue to fight for equality. Yes it sounds bizarre, but it is actually happening. Feminism’s definition has simply been lost within so much confusion and emphasis on those activists who do not properly represent the cause. The media especially tends to draw attention towards women who try to mislabel Feminism with incorrect issues. Feminism is more than the activists who claim to be a part of the cause but are actually causing harm. You know who I’m talking about.
The people who comment on articles and Youtube videos about hating men and about how feminism will allow women to rule over society. But the real issue is that feminism is far from being related to oppression or dominance. Feminism is simply about equality and the fact that society has constantly shown favor over men. An example that many students fail to recognize is the fact that girls are constantly subconsciously expected to be quiet, sweet, and calm, whereas if boys are rowdy, loud, and courageous, it is thought to be normal.
Many High school students simply fail to recognize what is sexist due to the fact that they were never properly educated on the issue. Sexism is usually not taken seriously among students. Many people try to use it as a means to poke fun at or joke about feminism. Unless they were to constantly read news articles on the Internet or purposefully search through feminist websites, most students are simply unaware of the serious issues at hand. Feminism is not widely taught in schools and simply watching young children age without being educated or informed about gender equality will only lead them to grow up with a distorted concept on feminism, gender equality, and justice.
Objectification of women and misogyny is still deep-rooted within high school culture. From the sexual “scoring” culture in boarding schools to the objectification of teenage girls as “property”. I have witnessed boys groan and complain, as a girl would ask a question to a speaker at a school assembly about gender-equality when selecting females as astronauts. I have seen a teenage boy press metal symbols on girl’s legs to brand them and proclaim them as his “property”. These instances are so commonly ignored, not only by the student body but also by the faculty.
Feminists are a rare breed in high schools, where everyone is afraid of judgment and feminism is seen as a joke. The most important environment for feminism to thrive is in high schools. Teenage boys have to be educated on deep-rooted values of feminism. This will only lead to a better future for females in the workplace and on college campuses.
The most effective step to take forward is education. The reason education is so powerful is because it can shape young minds when implemented at an early stage of one’s childhood. Our elementary and middle schools should be educating young girls and boys about consent, gender equality, and equal rights in order to ensure a bright future for feminism. We should make the word “Feminazi” obsolete. Everyone should grow up proud to be a feminist.
Ejin is a High School sophomore from Philadelphia. A proud leader of the Girl Up and UNICEF clubs at her school, she is also a part of the leadership action team for SPARK Movement. Ejin wishes to incorporate photography and writing to send a message and spread awareness to the public about homelessness as well as feminism and societal issues women face.