It is not always easy to have conversations about feminism with adolescents and young people; For many, both boys and girls, inequality existed in a time past, as in a distant and remote country.
For example, in Spain, although the majority does consider it relevant today, there are those who claim not to have experienced the oppression of patriarchy . 28% of girls claim to have never felt discriminated against due to gender. For this percentage, everything is already achieved . Furthermore, in the last five years we have been experiencing an increase in anti-feminism among adolescents , especially males, who consider that feminism has imposed a single thought.
This is what we call “ the mirage of equality ”. Sometimes, in classrooms, bad taste jokes are made about women, feminism or the fight for equality, arguing that “we are already on another screen”, from ironic sexism or hipster sexism . An example of this hipster sexism is the casual use of derogatory words like slut or whore to address a female classmate, claiming that it is “ironic.”
So one of the main challenges of feminism is to make visible the inequality and injustices that still exist in societies that have put an end to most inequalities between women and men at a formal or theoretical level.
And the task is not easy, because we are familiar with the stereotypes and gender roles that regulate everyday human life. Some we don’t even see, they are invisible, we consider them natural or even immutable. And therein lies one of the main keys that explain the discomfort and discomfort of adolescents with feminism.
The first step: awareness
The first thing we have to teach our students is that machismo exists and manifests itself in many ways, sometimes imperceptible. The first step to see injustice and rebel against it is awareness; It is impossible to solve a problem if you do not first recognize that it exists.
That’s why we like to use the metaphor of “putting on the violet glasses”, whose expression Gemma Lienas coined in her book Carlota’s Violet Diary . In it, Lienas uses this term to refer to how your perspective changes once you have become aware of the oppression of women – and men – in the patriarchal system.
Actions in primary and secondary education
Education is a fundamental part of becoming gender aware. In already classic studies such as Neither Ogres nor Princesses, there is a proposal that educational centers try to correct the imbalance that promotes the transmission of traditions, prejudices and clearly sexist stereotypes. Neither education nor socialization, nor culture, are impartial elements. And they may be responsible for reproducing powerful images that, under the guise of postmodernism, legitimize inequality between women and men.
Introducing exercises with a gender perspective in the classrooms helps to question what until now has been accepted normally and naturally. For example, this can be achieved with workshops and debates led by experts in feminism and equality, which emphasize the culturally imposed roles and situations of oppression that many women experience.
Ideally, and as established by Law 3/2020 on Education , equality between women and men should be a transversal competence linked to the secondary education curriculum.
Benefits for men
Feminism proposes that men be free to express themselves however they want, instead of manifesting their masculinity according to what is socially imposed . This imposition of hegemonic masculinity, which sets standards of behavior for men, prevents many from realizing themselves fully.
Some examples are gender expression, sexual orientation, or men’s adoption of domestic or caring roles. As much as it may seem that these gender norms have been softened, the reality is that they persist; although they manifest themselves in more subtle and covert ways .
A war that is not such
Feminism does not seek a war between the sexes. In the words of Nuria Varela :
“If, as the patriarchy says, feminism led to a war of the sexes, there would be deaths on both sides. (…). If there is a war, it is not a war of the sexes, but an undeclared war against women.”
As this author points out, no one, throughout history, has murdered, kidnapped or raped in the name of feminism. On the other hand, machismo does have the ultimate result, on many occasions, of violence against women.
The so-called war of the sexes is supported by a patriarchal system that seeks to maintain power where it has always been in the name of tradition, religion or culture. Both men and women participate in this system, although unfortunately it is almost always women who suffer the consequences.
The importance of the university stage
In higher education, it is also necessary to continue – and improve – the work done in secondary school so that youth become aware that there is a long way to go in terms of equality and feminism.
Only in this way will we be able to overcome the inequalities that still exist between women and men, and also between women of different classes, origins, cultures and generations.
Author Bios: Anna Sánchez-Aragón is a Doctor in Sociology and Cilia Willem is Director of Equality Unit both at Rovira i Virgili University