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Teaching & Empowering – Powerful Woman Monologue #2

January 23, 2012

About the author: Amanda is an alumni of Teach for America still teaching high school English in Los Angeles. Between grading papers and generally battling educational inequity, she can be found dancing in LA bars and her room, attempting to cook fancy meals and take pretty photographs, and trying to be as good a runner as her marathon-running parents. Information about her pursuit of these endeavors can be found at lifeindevelopment.net.

On Friday, I asked my class of 11th graders if they had any exciting plans for Thanksgiving Break. As I had wanted and expected, I got stories of big turkeys, cooking tamales, and sleeping in. I also got, from almost every single girl in the room, an excited, breathless cry that she was going immediately after school to see Breaking Dawn. I sighed to myself, not quite sure where my disappointment was coming from, as I too plan to see the movie on my break. It was only after finally sitting down again to watch the entirety of the maddening and eye-opening documentary, Miss Representation with my sister that I finally realized why:

Looking down at the faces of my female students – my bright, hilarious, hard-working, beautiful, and wonderful female students – I realized that their heads were about to be (re) filled with images of female inferiority, weakness, and inherent passiveness. (I apologize to any Twilight fans; those are just my personal feelings on Bella Swan.) They were about to look up to and envy a girl who can barely speak cohesively and make sound life choices, to a girl who has to be physically carried around by her boyfriend a large portion of the time and who broke down for months after being left by him. These girls, full of potential and fully open to influence, were going to hope and pray that one day, they too would be so lucky as to have not one but TWO hulky, handsome boys fight over them like a prize to be won. They aren’t hoping and wishing for power, for respect, or for accomplishment. They are hoping for boys’ attention and love, and while I do not think that love is not something to hope and pray for nor do I think it is a bad thing to have boys like you, I certainly hope and pray that it is not the only way these bright and amazing 16 and 17 year old girls judge their worth and assess their futures.

It was after that moment and this documentary that I suddenly realized that I have incredible power. I have power to show these girls what they are capable of and the power to show them more images, better images, images that show the totality of what it means to be a woman, images that show the array of options they have and the fulfillment that can come from doing something that is wholly your own, that’s worth does not come from the approval of another. I can show these girls that I am a leader, an independent 20-something woman who lives on her own, supports herself, and finds fulfillment in her work. I can teach them to write their own stories and find their unique voices. I honestly have never felt so powerful as when I realized I could work to unleash the power inside them.

And that is what I plan to do. I’ve already started planning a project next semester in which my students analyze and write research papers about an underrepresented groups’ portrayal, or lack thereof, in the media. (As a teacher of predominantly students of color, I also think its vital to open their eyes to the media stereotypes of the other groups to which my students belong.) I then plan to unleash their voices – arming them with keyboards and cameras, I’m going to ask my students to tell their stories, to find those who represent the powerful and inspiring people in their families and communities, to show that we as women and, really, all Americans, are much more than the media is currently showing.

And I couldn’t be more excited.

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About the series: Powerful Woman Monologues are compiled in response to the media’s representation of women as inspired by the film Miss Representation. If you would like to participate, email me. Any kind of creative contribution is welcome from anyone.

Special thanks to Ashley of Little Leaf Photography & Design for graciously creating the badge for our series!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2012 5:22 pm

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!! Gosh, I want to print this out and take it to my students right now. You are right, we (teachers like you and me) do have the power to show our students something different. I love your project idea and I may have to do something similar as I am so tired of both the girls and boys in my class being inundated with poor examples of female (and other underrepresented groups) power. Amen!

    • January 23, 2012 11:24 pm

      Thanks! I’m so glad you feel the same way! It’s always good to remember the power we have as teachers and to use it wisely 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. Life In Development » Blog Archive » The Powerful Woman Situation
  2. Powerful Woman Monologues: A Round Up « Belle Renee

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