I’ve been learning about feminism a lot lately – mostly because of all of the courses I’m taking that deal with it – and naturally it’s made me think a lot about where we are as a society in terms of feminism and why it seems like we’ve hit a sort of plateau despite all the progress that has yet to be made. There is so much literature and scholarly material out there regarding women’s rights, and I think that’s great. I also think it’s fantastic that many colleges now have Women’s Studies programs and departments, where we can learn about feminist theory and actually read those texts. But I suddenly realized the other day that there’s really no point in taking these kinds of classes if you don’t take all this information and apply it. It started to make me feel guilty, actually. It also made me feel a little… powerless? I mean, I’m only one person and these are huge, complex issues with no easy answers. How do you go about making a difference on an individual level?
I was reading some article for my Women’s Studies course the other day when I realized something so obvious that I can’t believe it hasn’t been talked about more. (Or maybe I’m just missing something.) Why aren’t we educating young girls about feminism? Why is it that kids have to wait until college to take a Women’s Studies class? A big issue that feminists grapple with is low self-esteem in teen girls and how the media contributes to that. So, why on earth aren’t we doing something to counter-act that? By the time kids get to high school or college and can finally take classes on media literacy and feminism, it’s too late. The self-esteem drop has already happened. (Research shows that girls’ self-esteem peaks at age 9 and then plummets from there.) What we really need to do is hit kids with knowledge about feminism at an early age. If the top-down approach of trying to reform the media isn’t working yet, we need to take the bottom-up approach. That is, we need to equip elementary and middle-school aged kids with the skills to navigate the media. We need to teach them to look at the media’s representation of women with a critical eye when they are young and most impressionable. I’m just thinking about what a difference that would have made for me, personally, when I was a pre-teen. I can’t help but wonder how things would be if I’d known about feminism when I was younger.
So, I was thinking about all this, at the same time feeling a bit ashamed since there’s no use in thinking/writing about potential solutions to problems when you’re not actually going to take action.
Well, it so happens that this semester I’m taking an entrepreneurial leadership class in which we’re supposed to work in groups to develop a business plan by the end of the course. One of our first assignments was to individually come up with a few business ideas around problems that we’re passionate about, then pitch the ideas to the class so that we hear everyone’s ideas and form groups around the best ones. I drew up a few business ideas to address the problem of low self-esteem in teen girls (I’m not going to outline the ideas here because I haven’t decided which one I’m going to pursue yet) and then presented them to the class. I didn’t really expect anything of it and especially didn’t expect my ideas to be so well-received by the class. After my short “presentation,” several of my classmates came up to say that they’d love to work with me, and I even got a few emails after class too. It was just really cool to see that other people are excited about this too– and that I may actually be able to get out there and do something about this issue.
Anyway, I can’t wait to get started on this project. This is what I call inter-disciplinary learning… go Tufts 🙂