Feminist Club Coordinates Programming for Peers
Last month, Greene Street Friends School’s Feminist Club organized a screening and discussion of Hidden Figures for Middle School students. Hidden Figures tells the story of African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the 1960’s, making significant contributions to the Space Race in the face of discrimination. We talked with Feminist Club Faculty Facilitator Tishna Mohiuddin about the Club and its work here at Greene Street Friends.
How did Feminist Club get started?
Two years ago Greene Street Friends introduced a series of queries to students around the possibility of gender neutral bathrooms, something we now have in our community. The idea for a Feminist Club came out of an increasing interest in social action and advocacy at our school. We wanted a space for students to be able to discuss not only current events, but also their day to day experiences.
Why do you think this work is important?
I think the Club is an important space for students to explore student leadership. I am not the main driver of the Club, but instead the students really take charge of its direction. We brainstorm events and are doing some training work around leading discussions, which you saw during the Hidden Figures breakout groups. All of those discussions were led by Feminist Club members, using questions they developed in reaction to the film. Issues around gender rights are obviously still important in today’s world. As we continue to develop the racial identity curriculum here at Greene Street Friends, gender and sexual identities become interesting points of intersectionality. This year GSAFE (Gender and Sexuality Alliance for Everyone) has really focused on exploring the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexual identities.
What sorts of activities has the Feminist Club organized?
We’ve had internal lessons and workshops for Club members. One of our first members, Annie Rupertus ’17, led the Feminist Word of the Month campaign last year. Each month Greene Street Friends has a Quaker Word of the Month, which explores different tenets of Quakerism. The Feminist Word of the Month mirrored that initiative, with the Feminist Club creating posters for classrooms. We also talked about the Bechdel Test, which gauges gender representation. We discussed the Test, whether or not it is still a valid tool, and then used Kahoot (web based survey software) to watch some film clips and have students respond whether or not they believed each clip passed the Bechdel Test. I try to introduce more contentious topics than ones we would all agree on, because that makes it a more rewarding educational process.
What’s been most surprising to Feminist Club members?
I believe our students have developed more awareness and empathy as facilitators. By leading discussions with their peers, they’ve had to learn how to tailor content for particular audiences, manage your time, create buy in from participants, and create open ended queries that invite everyone to participate in discussion. I think it’s been interesting for some members to look inward and gain a global understanding of gender issues.
Who are some of your personal, feminist heroes?
My mom. She was born in Bangladesh and moved to the United States, then got married when she was 25. She experienced a lot of change very quickly, at a very young age. Like a lot of women in my family, I see such strength and perseverance in her story. Bangladesh and other predominately Muslim countries sometimes have a stereotype of being backward or inherently oppressive. But if you look closely at the family systems, you’ll find powerful women everywhere.
Tell Us About How the idea for a Hidden Figures screening and discussion evolved.
Feminist Club members were interested in having a film screening and thought Hidden Figures would be a great, modern, accessible option. They didn’t want to do a heavy documentary, but wanted a film that was fairly well known in popular culture and would hold the interest of their peers. I also think they picked Hidden Figures because of the groundwork Erica Snowden, Lower School Dean of Students, and other Affinity Group facilitators have laid over the past few years. They introduced the concept of intersectionality to many students and there is a deepening consciousness of race and other personal identities amongst our students. Once they selected the movie, we worked to develop queries for small groups and then led discussions for Middle School students. The whole project really embodies Feminist Club’s commitment to student leadership and initiative.