So I went for broke. My students discussed net neutrality and free speech. They discussed immigration and illegal immigrants. They discussed global gay and transgender rights. And I like to think these lessons stuck with at least one of the hundreds of students I taught this year.
But I know there's one lesson that really stuck with them, and I'm pretty psyched.
After their midterm exam, I realized that, even though I explained the concept of privilege in my class about race and my class about sexual orientation, a lot of my students still didn't understand it. It wasn't just that the majority of my students are ethnically Han Chinese and claim that race doesn't exist in China because "everyone looks the same" (yes, they said that and no, that's arguably not true at all.) Nor was is it that they didn't understand straight privilege, because it's widely known that "gay people don't exist in China." It's that institutionalized discrimination is hardwired into their brains in a different way than it was for me. As a Gen-Y high school student, I "didn't see color or race!" and "hadn't experienced sexism!" (Beliefs which were later debunked once I got to college.) My students see racism, sexism, ableism —they just don't care to change it. They know discrimination exists, but they believe there's nothing they can do about it.
Most of my students are women, so I decided to review the idea of privilege through a feminist lens. And boy did they like it (baddumch.) I started the class with Emma Watson's "He for She" speech and I introduced the kinds of inequalities, those they see and those they don't see, that exist globally and nationally in China. And then, inspired by my oh-so-incredible younger sister Maia, we participated in the "Who needs feminism?" movement. (Ignore all spelling mistakes. I tried to fix them, but not everyone paid attention to my edits!)
Don't even get me started on gender bias in China. It is really infuriating, but fascinating. Women hold many jobs that they don't have in the Western world, like bus/taxi driver and construction worker. But on the other hand, baby girls are abandoned at birth. Men are treated with so much more respect. Unmarried women over 25 are spinsters (uh-oh!). Like I said: infuriating.
|"I need feminism because my beautiful dress is not for men, but for myself!"|
"I need feminism because too many baby girls are abandoned and deserted."
|"I need feminism because I don't like the feeling I get when people say, 'Be silent. You are a girl!" when I'm laughing loudly."|
|I need feminism because I want my children to have my family name!"|
|"I need feminism because I want to open a store, even start a business, and get the same respect as my male counterparts."|
|"I need feminism because I want to take Kong Fu class too"|
(girls aren't allowed to take Kung Fu at Hohai)
|"I need feminism because I want to go dutch"|
|"I need feminism because I want to succeed because I'm great, not because I'm a man."|
"I need feminism because everyone should have basic rights."
|"I need feminism because I don't want to be confined to motherhood."|