I train on the solely all-girls faculty within the state of Minnesota. We’re additionally a faithful Catholic group, based by the Visitation Sisters to coach younger ladies in advantage, mind, thoughts and coronary heart. To construct on our founders’ mission, the varsity started providing a ladies’s research elective titled “Ladies and Society”, which I’ve proudly taught since 2014.
The course covers the historical past of feminism then and now, which incorporates an intensive lesson on gender violence. Sexual abuse and violence towards ladies are already troublesome subjects to have with youngsters — including the truth that we’re a Catholic faculty is sufficient to make the anxiousness of my faculty directors skyrocket.
Nonetheless, our college students deserve a curriculum that provides them entry to unpacking the injustices of being an adolescent in a world that also abuses and discriminates towards ladies.
As a trainer, I can equip my college students with the information to remodel our society into one which values the inherent dignity of girls. Despite the fact that it feels dangerous at an all-girls Catholic faculty, as our college students grow to be emboldened to create a extra equitable world, together with ladies’s research in our curriculum has grow to be essential.
When Friction and Opposition Come up
A former colleague initially created the ladies’s research course in response to our college’s push to model itself as a number one establishment that helps ladies notice their potential and lead lives of dignity and repair. Fortunately, the varsity board felt his proposal for “Ladies and Society” aligned with this push, and the course was authorised. Proper earlier than my colleague retired in 2014, he requested if I wish to take it over, to which I firmly replied, “Sure!” I utilized for the place, and due to my expertise learning and minoring in ladies’s research throughout faculty, I used to be given the chance to show the course.
Over time, the course has grow to be a scholar favourite. College students have felt empowered by ladies’s research as a result of it invitations them to interrogate and perceive systemic injustices and the conflicting perceptions of feminism they’ve been taught by buddies, household and social media. Sadly, instructing ladies’s research remains to be seen as antithetical to Catholicism in our wider faculty group.
In 2016, like most communities in our nation, our college grew to become divided between conservative and progressive Catholic beliefs, which, whereas enhancing, have but to be totally resolved. Many group members additionally believed that activism and feminism have been subjects that didn’t belong in our curricula. Consequently, the ladies’s research course grew to become a straightforward goal to determine as anti-Catholic, and because the trainer of this course, I got here beneath scrutiny and the curriculum I created was decreased to a political agenda that promoted the goals of man-hating feminists.
Frankly, and for the file, the course doesn’t have an agenda, but I spend an exhausting period of time proving that advocating for the dignity of and an finish to violence towards ladies is deeply linked to our Catholic id.
As an educator, I embrace my classroom as a spot of hope and gathering the place the scholars and I come collectively to develop our empathy and humanity. Ladies’s research present an area to do exactly that, and I’ve discovered once we see the inherent dignity of every individual we encounter, we create a greater group of learners.
Regardless of the controversies the category and its curriculum carry from the varsity group at instances, our administration and the Visitation Sisters have by no means determined to eradicate “Ladies and Society” from our course catalog. The truth is, there may be full settlement amongst our lecturers and directors that instructing younger ladies and ladies to advocate for themselves is foundational to who we’re as a Catholic faculty.
Serving to College students Join Their Catholic Id to Feminism
Ladies’s research at our all-girls Catholic faculty is essential as a result of we have now the prime alternative to heart our lives as ladies in a male-dominated society. Within the course, not solely will we make an effort to debunk generally held myths about feminism however we additionally set up a definition of feminism that aligns with our college’s mission.
At first of the course, I introduce Catholic feminist Elizabeth A Johnson, who defines feminism as:
I exploit this quote to ascertain a partnership and direct connection between feminism that seeks the complete dignity of girls and the Catholic idea of the dignity of the human individual. This permits us to dissect how ladies’s dignity is systematically stripped away in a society that prioritizes the wants of males.
With feminism firmly grounded in the concept that ladies deserve equal dignity, we are able to have a look at onerous subjects comparable to gender violence and ask why society features in a manner that repeatedly diminishes the dignity of girls. Far too usually, ladies’s dignity is erased and devalued in our society, particularly provided that 1 in 5 ladies in the USA are sexually assaulted of their lifetimes. Strolling the hallways at our all-girls Catholic faculty makes this statistic significantly alarming.
To me, probably the most impactful a part of our examine of gender violence is after I carry a panel of sexual assault and abuse victim-survivors to our class. One of many victim-survivors is an alumna, and she or he and two of her colleagues have come to class over the previous few years to discuss their private expertise with gender-based violence. Each time they arrive, they communicate with a stage of frankness, humor and authenticity that leaves college students’ hearts uncooked and on fireplace. All of the sudden, gender violence — a subject we have now researched and studied within the summary — is humanized by the real-life experiences of those ladies. College students higher perceive how pervasively shut sexual assault and abuse are to their very own lives, and that it will possibly additionally occur to robust, assured ladies similar to them.
By the tip of the panel, college students are perpetually modified by the braveness and vulnerability of the victim-survivors and impressed to share their information with household, buddies and anybody who will pay attention. To me, that is training working at its deepest stage.
Ladies’s Research in a Catholic Faculty is Essential
Educating our college students on the methods our society perpetuates gender violence and the inferiority of girls is an obligation I’ve as a trainer at an all-girls Catholic faculty. As a graduate of an all-girls Catholic highschool myself and a mom of three daughters, I need to know I’ve accomplished my half to coach and dream with college students a couple of safer, extra dignified existence for girls.
At the same time as many group members consider instructing ladies’s research is outdoors the boundaries of Church doctrine, I nonetheless consider that it’s the accountability of Catholics to have interaction within the struggle to finish discrimination towards ladies and construct a society the place dignity is equally shared between all genders. As Catholic theologian Sister Joan Chittister states, feminism “just isn’t about getting what males have already got…Feminism is about getting a greater world for everyone.”
Very similar to the Visitation Sisters, I’ll proceed to train my management as a lady in a patriarchal framework to work towards equality, ranging from the within out.