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Reclaiming Feminism by Centering Student Voices

by #WomenEd Deutschland

Since #WomenEd Deutschland was founded in 2018 many events have taken place in person and online. Regional groups have been established in Munich, Frankfurt, and the Nord-Rhein Westphalia region. Over the years events have evolved away from focusing on developing skills women in education need to fit into existing infrastructures and evolved towards recognising skills women bring to address and dismantle oppressive systems that are inequitable by design.

We need disruptive change because if we continue to function in educational institutions that were not initially designed by women, or for women, we find ourselves complicit in upholding inequity. #WomenEd Deutschland Berlin-Brandenburg regional group strives to be more disruptive and inclusive by underpinning our community work with intersectional approaches and through a focus on disrupting systems because it's the patriarchal system that needs to be fixed, not us.

One of the ways we are being more inclusive is by centering and elevating student voices. #WomenEd Deutschland event in March 2024 was co-constructed by two students from an international school in Berlin and Angeline Aow. The student-driven and organised evening centred around Reclaiming Feminism in Education. Students shared their experiences with toxic masculinity and how gender discrimination shows up in our school systems. They called the educators in the room to action by pushing for patriarchal norms to be dismantled and by inspiring thought-provoking discussions. The evening was hosted by students, Eva and Paula, and included speakers and panellists; Greta, Liberty and Polina.

To spread our students' messages further, we are proud to share the speech Liberty inspired us with. 

We are grateful for our students' efforts and the insights that they shared with us. 

Show them some love in the comments and share with us how you are reclaiming feminism in your #WomenEd communities.

Limited to Limitless by Liberty M - Grade 11 student

Feminism is believed to be a movement by women to destroy and kill all men, to sever all bloodlines by ceasing to have children and the unfair, harsh punishment of men for the actions of those before them. 

Of course, we all know what feminism really is. It's the fight for equal opportunities and for women to receive equal treatment from society, in the way that they do men. 

If we were to sit here while I tell you about all the gender stereotypes that exist from the classroom to the workplace, we'd be here forever. However, I will touch on a few. 

The most common: 'I need some strong boys to help me carry the furniture/books/move tables' whatever it may be. You have about 45% of the class who aren't boys, listening in and forming the belief in their head that they aren't strong enough, so they don't try.

'Girls are quiet and responsible, I'll sit the problematic boys next to them'. It isn't the job of 7-14 year old girls to keep other people's children in check but there doesn't seem like there's space to argue or plead to not have someone so distracting sat next to them, because you've already made the decision so they don't try.

I remember that throughout the ages of 10 & 12 the only thing I wanted to do was be the first female president of my country. Every time someone heard this, I was shut down with a new excuse. 'Someone would have done that by then', 'You really want to lead this country' or 'You think a nation would listen to a woman'. 

So I never tried.

People ask why we still need feminism. There are female CEOs so is the fight not over?

But we need feminism because the only thing taken out of the Barbie movie is the fact that 'He's just Ken'.

We need feminism because no female children should be missing out on an education due to the fact that they can't afford to take care of a normal womanly function.

We need feminism because littering is more serious of an offence than catcalling, otherwise known as street harassment.

We need feminism because it's not just a fight for human rights but for human potential.

Maybe if you ask for three *students* to help you carry the furniture/books/move tables, you could find yourself with an entirely capable trio of girls or a mix of both genders who try and prove that they can.

Maybe implementing the same methods of discipline that girls seem to be getting to achieve such a strong sense of responsibility can be implemented with boys too. And when a girl feels like something unfair is happening, she does try to speak up and her voice is heard.

And if the nation encouraged the women in power instead of tearing them down in an old-fashioned hierarchical sense, the little girl who sees herself addressing her nation tries to reach that goal. The girl who sees a picture of herself hung in every government building as a show of respect for her, her efforts and her struggles tries to become president, succeeds and for the first time the nation must address someone as Her Excellency.

When we deny these equal opportunities, we deny half the population the ability to fully live life. We need feminism because it's not about giving a woman a seat at the table, it's about taking the table apart and as a society building a new one.

Thank you.

Speech originally shared at #WomenEd DE Berlin-Brandenburg's Reclaiming Feminism in Education regional event on 21 March 2024.

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Sunday, 14 April 2024

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