Book Review: I Am a Feminist
A few months back, I wrote an entry about a discussion I had with my students about feminism. A lot of them had such a negative reaction to the word, not to mention an inaccurate definition for feminism. A few months later, my friend and former teacher, Monique Polak, an author of young adult books released her nonfiction book: I am a Feminist: Claiming the F-Word in Turbulent Times.
I knew I could trust this author's book to reach a young audience as well as teach me a thing or two. This book breaks down terms like intersectionality, double standard, and sexual harassment in a way that makes it easy for teens to understand and make connections to their own experiences. Every section includes names and/or links to organizations whose purpose it is to support and educate teens on the importance of feminism. The book starts with a look back through history at the suffragettes, through to the fifth wave of feminism, another term I learned. Polak introduces feminism around the world, highlighting important figures like Malala.
More than an explanation of terms and historical events, this book tells the story of feminism, and why it is important for girls and boys to learn about it. The author relates her own person experiences with discrimination and hardship associated to being a woman. Her most important message, is that when girls have more opportunities, are seen as equal and treated respectfully, everyone benefits. It is about teaching our youth the power girls have, and the responsibility we share to make girls feel appreciated and respected.
The day after I finished the book, I explained to my two boys, six and nine, why it's so important to treat their little sister and all girls with respect. I explained to them, that in the past, people, mostly men didn't think girls could do everything men could do. They thought that was ridiculous. "Girls can do anything," my eldest boy said. "Yeah, they're super smart," my youngest agreed. I could have cried.
When they asked what they could do to be respectful to girls, I told them don't ever make a girl feel like she's not good enough. You wouldn't like it. Don't do that to anyone.
It was a teaching moment when my boys showed genuine surprise to the fact that girls have not always been treated equally to boys, and still sometimes aren't. This book provides information and resources as well as opportunities for parents and young adults to discuss the importance of feminism.