“Feminism is for everyone. But it’s not something many people learn about or are aware of in elementary school. Educating today’s youth will help them make informed opinions.”
Three local high school students have launched a new workshop series about feminism, designed for elementary schools. The educational program, called The Daily Feminist, was started by Adelaide Ellerbeck, Aishwarya Heran and Julia Kyi, 11th graders at Prince of Wales Secondary in Vancouver who describe themselves as passionate feminists.
“We’re hoping to bring positive change to our community by fighting against sexism,” said Ellerbeck.
Ellerbeck once believed that feminism was something exclusively for women. As she educated herself throughout high school, she learned its true definition and importance.
“Feminism is for everyone,” said Kyi, “but it’s not something many people learn about or are aware of in elementary school. Educating today’s youth will help them make informed opinions.”
With these goals in mind, the girls co-founded The Daily Feminist, and began offering free workshops on feminism to elementary schools across Vancouver. The group believes that feminism still has far to go.
“Many people continue to think of the term as exclusionary,” said Heran. “The misconceptions that surround feminism prevent the world from making progress, and those misconceptions begin at a young age.”
The three high schoolers hope to act as role models and show younger students how powerful feminism can be.
Since starting the initiative in September, Ellerbeck, Kyi and Heran have already offered virtual workshops to students at eight elementary schools and 12 classes, with more to come.
“We present about feminism through an interactive PowerPoint with activities and discussions to promote open dialogue,” said Kyi.
Through the workshops, Ellerbeck, Kyi and Heran have found evidence that girls in elementary school have already experienced sexism, and are affected by beauty standards and stereotypes: When asked if they had ever been told or heard, “go easy on her, she’s a girl,” the majority of students raised their hands in agreement.
In another activity, elementary school students analyzed two pictures of female construction workers. The first photo featured a model posing as a construction worker, without proper equipment. The second picture featured an actual female construction worker—but each group of elementary students noted that she was wearing makeup and earrings.
“Because of her beauty, many of the students believed that she was less capable,” said Heran.
Throughout the presentation, the group found that many students believed that not everyone needs to be a feminist. Though they all believed in gender equality, many students found the title of “feminist” to be intimidating.
The girls say today’s youth continue to hold subconscious biases against women, despite growing up in a seemingly progressive society. They want to combat sexism and the stigma surrounding feminism by teaching students of all genders the history, importance and true definition of feminism, as well as providing them with role models and resources.
Before starting their workshops, Ellerbeck, Kyi and Heran consulted Dr. Lori MacIntosh, a professor of social justice at The University of British Columbia (UBC). MacIntosh said the biggest misconceptions surrounding feminism are that feminism is inherently anti-men or anti-femininity. She encouraged the girls to help dispel these notions.
“You can be a feminist and love men and wear makeup and love heels. Feminists want that to be your decision,” said Dr. MacIntosh.
“I believe it was quite an impactful topic for my students, one that has inspired further discussion and I’m sure will be further referenced in the days to come,” said Susan Hufty, an educator whose students participated in the workshops.
Ellerbeck, Kyi and Heran say misogyny stems from miseducation. They want to see an intersectional, equitable future of feminism for all, and that starts with learning.
If you are an educator of 6th or 7th grade students who would like to be a part of this movement or learn more about the workshops, contact The Daily Feminist at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit their website or their Instagram page @thedailyfeminist_education.