Last November, two friends and I launched a project that we had been eagerly dreaming about for days, weeks, and even months. As three avid feminists and blooming activists, we started up a small feminist student organization called ThinkHer. At the core of our startup was the hope for change--and our journey thus far has brought about so much more.
ThinkHer began with a mix of purpose and bravery. Our mission was, in essence, to advocate feminism at SIS and spark a conversation about gender on campus; and overall, not a single part of working toward that mission was easy. We began by promoting ourselves on Facebook, calling for members, and individually contacting students we knew personally to join our club. With that, we began with about 30 members but no clear idea of what we were doing.
About fifteen people attended our first meeting, in which we introduced our plan and mission. But with each passing meeting, the number of attendees shrank down to about seven toward the end of the year. To be frank, running ThinkHer--a somewhat politically charged and possibly controversial idea--is difficult in a school setting. We had essentially zero resources, money, or school support to lean on. It was all up to us and how much initiative we could take.
With that in mind, we began mapping out and beginning a few projects. One notable year-round idea was a free tampon/pad project, in which we stocked up on female hygiene products in girls’ bathrooms in the high school building. Because we essentially had no budget or the permission to run fundraisers, we had to use money from our own pockets and attempt to collaborate with existing clubs to refill the stocks of products. Of all the projects that ThinkHer ran, the tampon project garnered the most positive response from the female student body; just like toilet paper, many female students reasoned, it was convenient to have female hygiene products available in bathrooms.
In March, ThinkHer celebrated International Women’s Day by simply raising awareness about the day and hence reinforcing the importance of female empowerment on campus. As shown in the photo, members created posters or signs that students could hold up and take pictures with to share on our social media pages.
In retrospect, creating and running this club was perhaps the most challenging high school experience thus far. Other than the fact that we lacked the school’s support, the greatest obstacle was the negative image associated with feminism among the student body. When we first began promoting our club on and offline and the news of ThinkHer reached every corner of the student body, the immediate response of many male peers was negative. Perhaps the most common comment I heard was “I think you guys are a little too radical.” We did understand that in Korean society, feminism often translates to "radical feminism," and that indeed, there are many radical feminists.
But we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t ThinkHer specifically that was considered too “radical”--rather, many of our peers endorsed the stereotype that feminism in (,) general (,) is a radical cause. Throughout the year, our unspoken purpose was to turn that mindset around.
Though I am sure many students are still critical of feminism as a whole, we did succeed in introducing feminism onto our campus. Whether negatively or positively, students were choosing to talk about feminism in their conversations--and that was proof that we had succeeded in raising awareness. This school year, ThinkHer is looking to go a step further and change the minds of many students who adamantly disagree with feminism.
|[ES Principal Mr. Art holds up International Women’s Day sign. Photo taken by E Ju Ro]
|[Member of ThinkHer and I hold up International Women’s Day signs.
Photo taken by Li June Choi, member of ThinkHer]
E Ju Ro
Seoul International School
EJU RO firstname.lastname@example.org
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