Last week students from Sydney High Boys school released a video on social media to coincide with International Women’s Day. The video showed the male students reading out quotes they had collected from women on why feminism matters to them. There was much praise for the male students as they spoke out in support of feminism.
Good stuff, right? Male students standing up for their female counterparts in a way that got a lot of attention is hardly a bad thing.
However, students from Sydney Girls High (the sister school of Sydney Boys High), saw the situation differently — and for good reason.
In an open letter printed in The Sydney Morning Herald, the girls point out, rightly that the fact that this video went viral proves that more people sit up and take notice of the discrimination women face when it is told by men.
“The fact that a tokenistic video, which appropriates women’s voices and reinforces the idea that women’s experiences must be voiced by men in order to be validated, has gained international praise is troubling.”
When she spoke out in support for the girls' open letter, feminist writer Clementine Ford pointed out, “They are 100% correct when they highlight that men who speak about feminism are praised and platformed in mainstream places while women who discuss the same things from a place of experience are derided and, in many cases, subjected to vicious abuse.”
“As female students we experience first-hand the objectification and devaluing of women by male students,” stated the letter.
In fact in this news.com.au report, it states that students from the girls school have experienced harassment, intimidation, and even threats of rape from the students at the boys school following a controversial bake sale.
The girls school had organized the bake sale to promote the gender pay gap, by offering a 20% discount to female customers. This was intended to highlight the fact that women are likely to earn significantly less than their male counterparts in their lifetime.
At the announcement of the discount the boys retaliated by proposing a bake sale of their own, which they advertised with this description: “Too long have men been oppressed by dominant women so come along this Friday for our bake-sale to support our cause.”
Addressing their issues with the video, the open letter reads: “While we believe it is an important initiative promoting feminism by Sydney Boys, the reality of sexism at boys' schools similar to and including Sydney Boys has failed to be addressed by the video."
For the girls it seems the video may be too little, too late. Let’s hope the video helps to transform discriminatory behaviour of boys towards girls.
The letter concludes that their intention is not to discourage “further support of feminism," but to simply ask the question why were male voices needed in the first place.
So the question is, would this video have been as powerful if the quotes were read by women themselves? The answer is, it should be.