The F-word (an email written to faculty)
No, the other F-word: feminist.
Recently, I learned that students have been overheard saying in hushed and conspiratorial tones, “Mrs. Pults is a feminist.” Like it was a bad thing. Like it was a word to be whispered. And earlier in the semester, the same “rumor” was going around about Lori Rink. Part of me wants to laugh at these students’ (over)reactions, but the bigger part felt and still feels indignant enough to address it. Inspired by the message, passion, and boldness of the Youth Equity Summit, I am compelled now to send this email.
I guess that for some, the word feminism brings to mind the bra-burning radicals of the “women’s liberation” movement or a “butch” man-hater. Both are gross stereotypes that make the completely just and reasonable aim of feminism easy to dismiss.
While I recognize that (unfortunately) this stigma is real, I do not see the controversy. Based on the definition alone, “We should all be feminists”1!
As educators, we owe our students an accurate definition of feminism, a definition free of bias and stigma:
the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities.
the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
Once students understand the definition, it is up to them to weigh the social and political implications and determine if they will identify as feminists.
It’s probably just as necessary to teach our students what feminism is NOT2, since many misconceptions and negative biases exist.
If you know me at all, you know that I am not a hateful person. I am not an angry extremist. You also probably know that I am Catholic. Yes, I identify as both Catholic and feminist. Within the Church, there is much discussion on whether one can be both. Some say no3 and some say yes4. I say yes. While many feminists advocate a pro-choice agenda, being pro-choice is not a requirement for being feminist. I am feminist and pro-life.
If you are a woman, like me, you most likely want the same rights and opportunities as men. If you are not a woman, you probably have a woman in your life whom you love, whom you wish to see have equal rights and opportunities. If you have a daughter, like I do, I urge you consider the world you want for her. I want my daughter to raise her hand and be called on in the classroom, I want her to have equal access to leadership roles, I want her to see every career open to her, and I want the men in her life to treat her with dignity and respect, not objectification or condescension.
If you are a man, your support means a lot, as you can see evidenced in the “HeForShe” campaign5. If you have a son, you can teach him about feminism6 too!
So, I write this email to educate you and to ask you to help us feminists educate our students. We must dispel ignorance and ugly prejudice on this and every other issue that impedes our work for equity. And if you ARE a feminist, maybe you feel brave enough to say that out loud in your classroom? I know that Lori and I would sure appreciate the solidarity!
Thanks for taking time to read and think about this,
Ryanne Converse Pults, feminist