How to be a Feminist in High School

Being a feminist in high school is admirable and wonderful. To be aware of the many issues plaguing society, and to want to help fight them is a great thing, but sometimes being a feminist in the sea of misogyny and sexism present at most high schools is tiring and downright shitty.

High school feminists have to face things like sexist dress codes, because the mere sight of a female’s shoulder or bra strap is just so distracting to those of the male persuasion that they will instantly lose all ability to focus and learn. Your peers will tell you that being a feminist is why you’re single, because having respect for women makes you a “man-hater”. You’ll have to listen to people slut-shame girls for having sex, or calling them prudes for choosing to wait. You’ll have to overhear rape jokes constantly, and when you try explain why they aren’t funny, people will be very confused. You’ll have to sit through sex-ed that only focuses on abstinence, instead of educating young people about healthy relationships and sex.

This post isn’t meant to discourage you from being a feminist. The fact is, most high schools are hostile environments for feminists, not only for the issues above, but also because there is a culture of silence around the issues plaguing women. Not many schools offer classes in women studies, nor do they have clubs for students to learn more about feminism. This lack of education contributes to the many misconceptions young people have about feminism, and spurs harmful stereotypes, like the beliefs that feminists are  “man-haters”  and “bra-burners.”

Since high schools don’t offer their students this education, take it upon yourself to learn about feminism. Seek out classes at local colleges, or summer programs. Read feminist literature (some good places to start are Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit and Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay.) Use the internet to your advantage- explore blogs written about feminism, like the FBomb and Feminist Culture. Look up TEDTalks that focus on women and gender equality, like this one by Jackson Katz. Give yourself the education that your high school won’t give you.

Even though choosing to be a feminist is difficult, it is a worthwhile struggle. And when someone tries to bring you down for being a feminist, remember these words from Kate Nash: “Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs or a tan, and it does not mean you are a bitch or a dyke, it means that you believe in equality.”

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