Feminists On Feminism In Schools: Why Talk About It Now And What To Talk About?


Author: Emili Ema Sedlar

Throughout the last several years, the United States has left an incredible mark in the educational system, where numerous educators, activists and professors have created and established curriculums that deal with human rights issues around the world, thus the effect it has on today’s democracy and politicians. These topics are conveyed in unique and creative forms such as in film, literary and musical arts, focusing on the most memorable statements and figures that have been expressed in the media, thus influencing millions of those that have something to say.

For example, just a few weeks back, drama Angel in America has undoubtedly won three Tony awards, including for best actor in a play, best featured actor and most significantly, best revival of a play, and received high acclaim and recommendations from the mainstream media and celebrities. In recent years, the Oscars has even recognized documentary and motion picture films that represent important minorities in our society, bringing down those that criticize these films of being a „leftist propaganda“. Change is finally happening in schools and to many enthusiastic students that are ready to share new ideas.

Just in 2016, the Washington Times published an article how fourth graders in California will be learning and discussing about the importance of San Francisco’s politician Harvey Milk and how even middle and high schoolers will be debating on the significance of transgender issues throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th century.

As many LGBT topics are being introduced in schools, there is still lack of discussion to shine a light on feminist topics that deal with contemporary women’s studies in the fields of visual arts, performance, film and literature. This article will bring attention on specific activists and educators in various fields that have a say in how women studies should be discussed in schools in each specific field that is easily ignored today, such as film arts and music.

Her entire life, Kate Lewis has taught English literature with passion and devotion, always bringing out the most distinctive and exclusive aspects of a significant character, theme or author. Even at her university, she was inspired by Maya Angelou, who spoke at Missouri Western State University and taught her about the importance of being independent. „She inspired me to never back down from anything just because I was female. I actually move away from my home state and everyone I knew began a job in Houston after graduation“, briefly illustrated Lewis. When analyzing the meaning of feminist literature, Lewis explains how this is a topic that is crucial now more than ever, since it can inspire and move both genres in order to look closely at women’s rights and gender equality. „Female characters that help empower women prove so valuable amongst questioning young girls. It gives them confidence and lifts their self esteem“, explain Lewis.

Travelling the world, teaching and encouraging young students from different cultures to be independent and headstrong, Lewis highlights how she loved teaching the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Ann Sexton. „As far back as Sappho, women have attempted to share their voice and encourage other females. Perhaps my favorite strong female characters are in the House of Spirits by Isabel Allende. They stay true to themselves as they combat numerous instances of opposition“, remembered Lewis. Her final comment reveals how hopeful she is of the fact that there are a number of courageous intellectuals that will be able to portray the value of feminist figure in schools, thus that this is just the beginning.

On the other hand, Nina Er.Gott is an accomplished sculptor and intellectual from Croatia, who has openly spoken out about the importance of women representation in the visual arts and has even expressed her own experience of what it means to be a woman and a sculptor in today’s Croatia. „Women in the former socialist Yugoslavia were much more respected than in today’s Croatia; they were equally paid and were protected. Today, women, who work six days a week instead of five, have lost all of their rights, not only when we speak of the way they are treated in the workplace (which is horrific), but many expect of them to give birth, take care of the family, pay the bills, raise children“, clarified Er.Gott.

When it comes to specifically women in the visual arts, Er.Gott states that women cannot dominate in that field in Croatia, thus expresses her own view on how the situation looks like. „Things haven’t changed in a long time. When we look at, for example, Camille Claudel, who was a spectacularly talented artist, no one will recognize or even say they know her name. However, when we talk about Rodin, everyone will know of him, even though Claudel is a much more better artist than him. She was destroyed by her own mother and sent to a mental institution just because she wanted to dedicate her life to art and to become an emancipated woman“, described the Croatian artist.

One of Er.Gott’s final thoughts is that women today are slaves to the capitalist system. „Many today will not protect and praise their creativity- both in the artistic and intellectual systems and in their lives of motherhood“, ended Er.Gott.

Marcia Haufrecht has been an actress and a feminist, promoting the importance of female roles in theater and what it represents throughout time. To Marica, one of her most inspiring women are Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, Ida Lupino, Georgia Okeefe and Frieda Kahlo, who to her carry a great meaning since those are the women that did their thing and did not care what society thought.

To Haufrecht, her ideal curriculum starts with the understanding of matriarchal society rituals. „The first theatrical experiences. Priestesses leading rituals of freedom and creativity, celebrating the giving and nurturing of life, moving through the writings of women (Greeks, dark ages, Middle Ages) nuns etc. Throughout patriarchy, women’s creativity has been squelched, buried, discouraged, so there’s not many examples which is of course telling in and of itself“, said Haufrecht.

Towards the end of the conversation, Haufrecht mentioned a few female writers that are to her imaginative, poetic that have created dimensional characters and they are: Tina Howe, Caryl Churchill, Lynn Nottage and Suzan-Lori Parks.

From the Author: 

Hi there lovely people! 

My name is Emili Ema Sedlar and I am a journalist from Croatia. It is such an honor to be volunteering for Women’s Rights News and bringing out new ideas about today’s issues in society. I am a college student, majoring in journalism and communications. In the past few years, I have been an activist in the fields of education, HIV, immigrants’ rights and women’s rights, focusing mostly on stories that are unique and different. I have published my journalistic works on many Croatian news sites and for over a year, I’ve been a writer for Positive Women’s Network-USA.