By Camila De la Cruz
As part of a topic in English, “Women Speak Up”, Year 9 students have been studying feminism and why it is important for women to “speak up”. Students have been unpacking stereotypes and labels affecting women, the history and waves of feminism, as well as speeches ranging from Malala’s speech addressing the UN to Emma Watson’s “HeForShe” campaign.
Personally, I’ve found this topic very interesting, much more than I would have thought. I myself was never passionate about feminism and I always thought that gender inequality was something of the past or something that doesn’t exist in Australia. However, studying this topic has definitely opened my eyes. In our very first lesson, we were asked whether adjectives such as “brave, athletic, independent, smart” were in our opinion considered masculine or feminine. It was shocking to see how in today’s society, in Australia, we still have gender-based stereotypes.
Learning about gender stereotypes and gender-based discrimination has been for me, and for many students, one of the most shocking aspects to grasp in this unit. Especially since some girls in the classroom have also experienced those stereotypes in their lifetimes. Even though we would consider ourselves lucky that we are able to get a quality education, unlike many girls around the world, we still in a small way experience some limitations due to gender.
After listening to Malala and Emma Watson speeches addressing feminism, students not only learnt more about feminist issues, but they also learnt about the power of persuasive language and how to “speak up” on these issues. This is only furthered by students preparing to “speak up” in their own speeches addressing issues affecting women in the coming weeks.
When writing my perspective on learning this unit, I became curious as to how teachers viewed this topic. So, I asked Ms Dockrill about her perspective by asking her a few questions.
What do you hope students will get by studying this topic?
I hope that Y9 students will gain a sense of empowerment, through learning relevant language and terminology, that will enable them to navigate a world and numerous issues affecting women. It is my intention that students will develop their understanding of advocacy including the importance of speaking up in order to give voice to the voiceless, to spark change and to influence the changing landscape of gender equity.
How have the students reacted to the content of this topic?
Students appear to be interested and engaged in the Women Speak Up topic. As they learn about instances of discrimination or gender inequality around the world, they feel outraged and a sense of urgency to advocate for change. Some of the instances of gender inequality explored in Women Speak Up currently impact students or will impact them in the near future.
What have you learnt personally by teaching about women speaking up?
I have discovered that students already feel a sense of outrage over the discrimination they experience due to their gender or can already identify limitations placed on them by society due to their gender. Through this unit, students develop a repertoire of language and skills to enable them to articulate their point of view going forward.
Why do you think it is important to teach this topic?
As a feminist, I believe that gender equality is essential as women in Australia and around the world continue to experience inequality today. Therefore, it is essential to teach this topic to students to help them be aware of instances of inequality impacting them and to continue furthering change to lead to positive outcomes for women.
Do you enjoy teaching this topic? Is it one of your favourites?
Yes. Teaching this topic is a highlight of the Y9 English program. As one of the aims of the unit is to empower our students to become compassionate warriors and women of integrity, it has a great synergy with the philosophy of Mary Ward and the Loreto School Mission.