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What I Learned About Feminism From First Graders

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

As a little girl, you are taught certain things. Lessons on being ladylike are taught before multiplication, and yet we’re expected to know it all. I can remember having teachers look at me with drifting eyes because I was different. With unruly hair and a loud personality, I didn’t fall under the perfect categories they expected me to and I wasn’t the only one to notice. Because of the expectations placed on us from a young age, girls pin point weaknesses in each other in order to feel like they are the best. This is why, when I faced an unexpected job as a first grade teacher, I couldn’t help but find myself intrigued by the behaviors of the students – particularly the girls.

For four weeks, I worked as a substitute teacher for a class of energetic and diverse first graders. While teaching has never been high on my list of career dreams, I found myself in an opportunity to try something different and gain experience that I couldn’t turn down. I assumed I would walk into the classroom and teach the kids a few things, but after a month I found I had actually learned a lot more from them.


I quickly began to notice that a lot of things have changed since I was a first grader; conversations about the latest IPhone and their favorite Youtuber stars filled the room on a daily basis. The boys obsessed over Minecraft and the girls over Disney characters I couldn’t recognize – but certain things remained the same. Girls would whisper on the playground or shoot up their hand the moment a question was asked in order to be the first to answer. They would point out anytime any other girl was doing something incorrectly while simultaneously showing off that they knew better.  At less than a decade old, these girls are already being pitted against each other and told that certain behaviors are only meant for boys. I can distinctly remember a moment when one girl told another to stop whistling because she had been taught that girls shouldn’t  do so.

I always assumed, with a society that has made so much progress, that girls would be more supportive of each other, but I found quite the opposite to be true.  Between the ages of six and seven-years-old these girls were already bickering and trying to bring each other down, but the moment a boy needed help they were more than willing to do so. They were all striving to be perfect in the eyes of the teacher, but all I could see was lessons that needed to be taught.

The main take away from my experience was that despite all the progress we’ve made towards an equal-opportunity society for all genders, there is still a lot more work to be done. It’s time for us to stop pitting young girls against each other and expecting perfectionism that will never be achieved. The truth is, that same little girl whispering on the playground will eventually grow up, get a job, and be the woman trying to bring down her female co-workers in order to succeed. Instead, it is imperative that we teach boys and girls the same way and most importantly to respect each other. All students should feel like they can achieve anything.


Editing, Writing, and Media major at FSU. 
Her Campus at Florida State University.