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In December of 2015, Sweden gave every sixteen year old in the country a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's feminist manifesto, We Should All Be Feminists. Why? Because we should all be feminists, especially by the age of sixteen. Gender roles and social expectations of femininity and masculinity are ingrained in young people’s minds as soon as they are born. Not only does society normalize violence and disregard inequalities, but it also continues to encourage the continuation of the patriarchy through young people who just do not know any better. We should all be feminists in order to acquire a critical consciousness of the intersecting injustices of the world so that society can be changed for the better.
The U.S. government isn’t doing a whole lot in terms of gender, racial, or LGBTQIA rights and inclusion in America, among many other injustices and identities that constantly intersect and cannot truly be isolated. Although giving a feminist book to every sixteen year old in the United States would probably result in drastic improvements to our society, it seems a little far fetched with the state we’re currently in. Yet if Sweden managed this great feat, can’t colleges across the country, especially liberal arts schools with expanding feminist gender and women’s studies departments, find a way to implement something similar? It is time for “woke” college students and administrators to step up to the plate of determining what being educated should truly mean.
Many liberal arts colleges across the United States require a number of general education requirements in varying fields of study in order to provide a well-rounded educational experience: math, language, social science, lab science, creative art, writing, and religion are among the designated topics. The idea is that knowledge of each academic topic is useful in some way in a person’s life, no matter what field they choose to pursue as a career. This sounds to me a lot like how intersectional feminism works in that all inequalities, i.e. gender, class, race, religion, sexual orientation, ability, etc., are continually linked and experienced in conjunction with each other, no matter how “singular” a person believes their identity is.
While these general education requirements are important in broadening students’ academic horizons, I ask where is the requirement for learning about advocating equality? Social justice? Bettering our country? Bettering the world? Bettering humanity? When one in five women have been sexually assaulted during their time in college, more mass shootings occurred in 2015 than days that have passed and continue to become infuriatingly normalized, and women’s right to healthcare is being compromised as Planned Parenthood faces defunding—when government money is already prohibited from being used on legal abortion services—isn’t it about time we start teaching our children and young adults about feminism? Isn’t it about time to stop falsely believing that these are isolated incidents that have nothing to do with society socializing humankind to perpetuate injustice? Isn’t it about time that the next generation is encouraged to pursue a way of life that works towards equal and improved living for all?
Liberal arts colleges, give your students feminist manifestos. Require that your students learn about the injustices of the world through an intersectional feminist framework. Teach them that violence is not normal or accepted, that women are not, but should be, equal to men, and that we do not live in a post racial society. If Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book is unable to reach every sixteen year old in this country, at least let it reach those beginning a new educational adventure in their lives, those that can still try to unlearn or at least understand how society has been and continues to weigh us down.