This one's for all my young chickies starting high school in September.
I don’t remember the exact moment that I officially identified myself as a feminist. I feel like I’ve always been one, but it wasn't until sometime in my early teenage years that I started to use the actual F-word. But even when I finally had a word for it, I still thought I was one of the only feminists in town. I had no clue that there was a whole bunch of girls my age, in my school even, who thought the way I did. There were literally feminists all around me, and I had no idea. Why were they being so quiet? More importantly, why was I being so quiet? When I discovered these like-minded ladies hiding in plain sight at an awesome anti-slut-shaming conference, we decided that we needed to keep that energy alive. Specifically, we needed to create a women’s empowerment club at our school, so people like us could find a community and have a cool, judgement-free place to talk about anything we wanted.
I know first-hand how it feels to be (so I thought) the only feminist in a huge high school. But I promise that there are more out there than you think. But it’s up to you build a community, so you can create a dialogue at your school about what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be a feminist. After my friends and I created our school’s women’s empowerment club, I realized just how important it was. I understand it’s a bit of a daunting prospect, so I’ve broken it down into smaller, simpler steps to ease the process along.
1. Get the word out
Talk to a few friends about the idea. Or just one. That’s all it takes to get started! I know that for some people, even your BFF, the word “feminist” might be a turn-off. Just mention that you want to start a group to talk about things like being catcalled on the street, sex education, LGBTQ rights or body positivity! Talk to a few friends, then have them talk to a few friends. Start having small hang-outs after school to get the conversation warmed up. Ease them into the glorious world of feminism, let them discover what it means for themselves and realize that it’s not so scary after all!
2. Create a Facebook group
This is super helpful for quickly getting messages around to everyone and coordinating plans and ideas. More so, I think, than an email thread. Besides, how often do you check your email anyway? Plus, it makes for super easy initiation, and it’ll spark others’ interests when they see the group on their news feed.
3. Make it official
Once you have your small (but mighty!) group together, it’s time to take it to the administrative level. You'll probably need a teacher/staff member as an advisor, so take a minute to think about who would be most sympathetic towards your cause. When you propose the idea to them, it’s important that you’re assertive about it. Be nice, but don’t give up so easily. This was my group’s main problem when we first started.
Once you've got a good presence and a good advisor to back you up, it's a great idea to reach out to other clubs. Maybe you have a Gay-Straight Alliance Club or even an environmental club at school that you see plans cool events and gets along well. Teaming up to plan events or trips together will make you even stronger (and help if you need to fundraise!), and both groups will learn things share knowledge and experiences in the process!
The fun part—it’s time to put those arty, crafty, graphic design-y skills to good use. Make posters! Make them colorful and eye grabby! Post them all over your school, and if they get taken down, post them again! Post them on social media, so they won’t get torn, defaced or stepped on! This is a great way to get the word out about your group and find new members.
5. Go viral
This is a bonus, optional step, and can be done at any point during the process. A couple girls from my group took the existing internet campaign #INeedFeminismBecause, and brought it to our school with our own artistic twist. We created a Facebook page to post the work, and soon hundreds of people wanted to be a part of the project. The picture above even found its way to tumblr where it got over 200,000 notes! You don't need to become popular, but just find the best way to get your message out.
6. Never stop educating yourself!
Even when you find a good, strong group of people to share and grow with, you should never stop learning about different feminisms and movements. Always be reading up on news about politics and human rights when you can, and share good websites and books with your group! Bust magazine is a good place to start, but also check out Rookie, Hello Giggles, Bitch, Jezebel, Feministing, Smart Girls at the Party, Ms. Magazine, Planned Parenthood, Feminist Frequency, and there are even more on tumblr! Plus, feminist book clubs rule, not to mention feminist film screenings.
Some heavy backlash to your group can be expected, even if you go to a generally progressive and liberal school like I did. Know that in this case, all dialogue is good dialogue, and it’s all okay as long as it opens up the conversation, and gets people thinking about important feminist issues. I wish you all the best of luck in your journeys!