High School Girls Reclaim a So-Called 'Dirty Word'

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

“You do realize that I’m a feminist too, right?” she asked him. He looked surprised. “You are?” he asked.

I should be less surprised by this, given the recent reaction to a feminist t-shirt worn by a 13-year-old middle schooler in Ohio; the offending word was airbrushed off her t-shirt in a class photo. She had to educate her principal and her school on what feminism was because they were worried the word was going to be offensive to parents.

Feminism did become a dirty word again, after all these years. But now teens and tweens are reclaiming it, and not just American ones. A group at an Auckland High School has formed a Young Feminists Club, where girls and boys get together to talk about issues like catcalling, sexual harassment and the portrayal of women on TV. The club formed after a couple of students noticed that the school’s dress code had a double standard, with female students being told to hide their bra straps because they were “a distraction.” A Facebook group soon turned into an invitation to discuss the issue in person, and 40 students showed up. They made their point to the school administration as a group, and got the dress-code policy wording to change.

And that, my friends, is feminism.

It’s interesting that the word itself stirs up such negative connotations. One of the male club members had to conquer his own preconceptions about what it meant. “It’s [perceived as] women trying to be better than men, targeting men and victimizing themselves when there’s nothing wrong,” he said, “which I’ve since learned is untrue.”

There are other groups just like this one scattered across high schools in New Zealand, where kids are realizing that feminist issues are everybody’s issues. Social media has made a huge difference with these kids, as well as the new wave of celebrities like Emma Watson speaking out about equality.

In case you have any doubts that these discussions are still very much needed, check out the comments section in the article about the rise of feminist clubs in these schools.

“Maybe if they called themselves Equalists it would both remove the negative connotations of the word feminism and better describe what they purport to be. They might also get a better gender balance with a more inclusive title.”

“The biggest obstacle women have to overcome is themselves.”

“The only people that dont like men are lesbians lol.”

“Pity, remind me to put applications for positions from women from this college to one side. Too much trouble with other staff, too quick to take offence, lots of possibilities of legal problems with discrimination allegations, hostility toward male colleagues, favouritism towards female coo leagues as they rise up the ranks .. No thanks, business is hard enough as it is! Prefer the uncomplicated male.”

“95% of teachers are female, so explain to me again, why is this needed?”

“I bet they can’t change a car tyre or even parallel park. Don’t worry your pretty little heads about it ladies, I can do these for you.”

“The Victims club more like. Jack Nicholson’s character had it dead right in ‘as good as it gets’, when asked by a woman how be understood woman so well. Its easy he said, I start with a man… and I remove the reason and the accountability. I suggest these young woman spend their meeting time looking in a mirror, they will be confronted with the authors of their own misfortunes.”


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