To the Teacher:
This activity uses tweets to have students consider some of the events that put feminism on the front burner in 2017 - from the women's march to the #MeToo movement.
Consider following up the lesson with discussion of some of the issues raised, especially sexual harassment and abuse. See our lesson on Environments that encourage harassment - and how to change them, which builds on the #MeToo sexual harassment awareness campaign.
Photo: International Women's Day March in LA, 2017, by Molly Adams.
Gathering: Feminism Word Web
Ask students for their associations with the word "feminism" and record their ideas graphically on a web chart. Making webs often stimulates creative thinking. To make one, write a core word, in this case "feminism," in the center of the board or on chart paper and circle it. Student associations with the core word are written so that they radiate out from the center. Draw lines from the associations to the core word to create a web. Related ideas can be grouped.
Encourage associations while energy is high. Ask open-ended questions to help prompt responses if the group is slow to engage. As energy tapers off, ask students to read what's on the web and ask some or all of the following debrief questions:
- What do you notice about the web?
- Are there generalizations we can make about what's on the web?
- Based on the words in this web, can you try to come up with a definition for the word "feminism"?
Share with students that "feminism" was Merriam-Webster's "Word of the Year" for 2017. Merriam-Webster's definition of feminism is: "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes" and "organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests."
Compare and contrast these definitions with those students came up with.
Check Agenda and Objectives
Feminist Timeline 2017
The word feminism was a top lookup throughout the year according to Merriam-Webster, with several spikes that corresponded to various news reports and events. The general rise in lookups tells us that many people were interested in the word; specific spikes give us insight into some of the reasons why. As part of this next activity we'll look at events in 2017 that may have caused some of the spikes Merriam-Webster noted over the course of the year.
Print several sets of these tweets and put them into envelopes. Provide each small group with an envelope containing a set of tweets and invite them to organize the tweets chronologically and look them over. Then, in their small groups, invite students to discuss:
- What do they notice about the 2017 events shared in these tweets?
- What thoughts and feelings do these tweets bring up? Discuss.
- Which stories had you heard (about) before? Which stories are new to you?
- Are there similarities/differences between the stories published more or less widely in the news in 2017?
- Do students feel there are tweets missing from this time line? If so which?
Provide students with the timeline below (or use the pdf version) explaining the various events mentioned in the tweets in more detail. Continuing to work in small groups, invite students to pick one or two tweets that resonate with them. Give each student up to a minute and a half to explain why a particular tweet, or two, resonates with them. Next invite students to discuss the following questions:
- What else did you learn about the more detailed descriptions of events discussed in this hand out?
- What do the events highlight about women, feminism and gender?
- What do the events highlight about other marginalized groups?
- What do the events highlight about the world beyond the U.S.?
Bring your class together inviting students to share some of the main themes discussed in their small groups (without breaching confidentiality, i.e. sharing people's personal stories without their explicit permission):
- What did the discussion in your small groups revolve around?
- How does all this tie back to feminism?
What is one wish you have for women, or for the feminist movement, in the coming year?
Feminist Timeline Handout
(Also see this pdf version.)
January 21 - Started by a Facebook post and organized in just 11 weeks, the Women's March brought together millions of women and men in cities across the country, and world, to protest gender oppression. While initial organizers of the march were mostly white, the organizing committee was quickly broadened, and women of color both led and participated in the march in huge numbers. Some 500,000 people marched in Washington D.C., where Donald Trump had just been inaugurated - after coming under fire for bragging about his assaults on women. At least 408 marches were reported to have been planned in the U.S. and 168 in 81 other countries. It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.
February 6 - During a debate on the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren as she read from a letter by civil rights activist Coretta Scott King opposing Sessions' earlier nomination for a federal judgeship. McConnell interrupted Warren, saying: "Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." The Senate then voted to prevent Warren from speaking on the floor for the remainder of the debate. But McConnell's words set off a social media firestorm, and turned into a feminist rallying cry.
March 7 - The day before International Women's Day, a Wall Street firm installed The Fearless Girl sculpture, by Kristen Visbal, to demonstrate the lack of gender diversity and equal pay in the workplace. The little girl statue was placed right in front of the iconic charging bull statue on Wall Street, but the little girl stands up, firm and fearless, to the bull.
March 8 - American women celebrated International Women's Day with a one-day strike in solidarity with women across the world, including the Ni Una Menos ("Not One Less") movement against gender violence in Argentina, as well as Poland's massive grassroots movement against the elimination of abortion rights. In one Virginia school district, so many teachers called in sick that the public schools shut down. Organizers highlighted how, as inequality has grown and the social safety net has shrunk, women have been forced to work longer hours for stagnant or declining wages, while simultaneously taking on a larger burden of care for their families.
March 15 - The U.S. women's national hockey team threatened to boycott the world championships due to stalled contract negotiations. Days of meetings ensued with USA Hockey, the governing body of the sport in the U.S. On March 28, after almost a full year of negotiations, the athletes prevailed: The players would be better compensated and USA Hockey committed to advancing girl's and women's hockey through programming, marketing, promotion, and fundraising.
May 14 - For Mother's Day, organizers with Southerners on New Ground, the Movement for Black Lives, Color of Change, and other groups raised more than $250,000 for "National Mama's Bail Out Day." The campaign freed at least 30 women in Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and other cities, who were being held in jail before trial (mostly on minor charges) because they could not make bail. The campaign is part of an effort by 25 black-led organizations that wanted to collaborate on bail reform.
May 25 - The U.S. Women's National Soccer team, which had been involved in negotiations with U.S. Soccer over equal pay for over a year, moved another step forward as the Senate unanimously approved a non-binding resolution calling on the U.S. Soccer Federation to "immediately end gender pay inequity and to treat all athletes with the respect and dignity those athletes deserve." At the end of March, the team had filed a federal complaint accusing U.S. soccer of wage discrimination. Their argument: The women players earn significantly less money than their male counterparts, despite the fact that they dramatically outperformed the men's national team for years and brought in millions more in revenue.
June 2 - Wonder Woman opened to high acclaim in theaters across the country. The female-led and directed film became the highest grossing superhero origin film of all time.
June 27 - Women's rights activists wore red robes and white bonnets based on "The Handmaid's Tale," the 1985 novel and popular Hulu series, to protest proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood. Other Handmaid's Tale-inspired protests took place in defense of women's reproductive rights across the country.
July 27 - During a House Financial Services Committee hearing, California Rep. Maxine Waters questioned Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on why he hadn't responded to a letter she'd sent about President Trump's financial connections to the Russian government. When Mnuchin evaded the question, Waters repeatedly declared that she was "reclaiming my time," a phrase used to reset the clock when people stall during questioning by a House member. Tributes to this tough senior legislator, a black woman, spread across social media.
July 31 - Actress Yvette Nicole Brown marked Black Women's Equal Pay Day (which recognizes the additional seven months a black woman, on average, must work to make as much money as a white man does in a year) by posting a tweet about pay inequity: "I found out that as a series regular I was making just a smidge over what a white man was making as a GUEST star," Brown wrote, "Dude was just visiting."
August 11 - Esteemed civil rights advocate and law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw's explanation of intersectional feminism went viral. Crenshaw coined the phrase nearly 30 years ago at the University of Chicago when describing the "intersectional experience" as something "greater than the sum of racism and sexism." Intersectional feminism examines the overlapping systems of oppression and discrimination that women face, based not just on gender, but on ethnicity, sexuality, economic background, and a number of other identities.
October 5 & 10 - A New York Times article written by Jody Kantor and Megan Twohey revealed sexual harassment allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein dating back to 1990. On October 10, the New Yorker published a story by Ronan Farrow detailing the stories of thirteen women who say that Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them between the 1990s and 2015.
October 11 - The Chicago City Council passed the Hotel Workers Sexual Harassment Ordinance, which requires hotels to develop anti sexual harassment policies and provide employees who work alone in hotel rooms with panic buttons. The law was passed after Chicago hotel workers came together for a "Hands Off Pants On" campaign earlier in the year, to help protect Chicago hospitality workers from sexual harassment and assault. A union survey in Chicago in 2016 found that 58 percent of hotel workers and 77 percent of casino workers had been sexually harassed by a guest.
October 15 - Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: "Suggested by a friend: 'If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me Too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.'" Within 48 hours, the hashtag was tweeted nearly a million times, according to Twitter. Some people simply tweeted "me too" while others opened up with intimate details of abuse they'd never before shared in public.
October 16 - Actress Alyssa Milano recognized Tarana Burke, the black woman activist who started a #MeToo campaign ten years earlier.
October 19 - Tarana Burke expressed concern about the #MeToo hashtag going viral without being centered on women of color: "Women of color, queer folks, differently abled folks and other marginalized communities — we always have to insert ourselves into this conversation. That's not a new phenomenon. And this work can't grow unless it's intersectional. ... Sexual violence knows no race, class, or gender, but the response to sexual violence absolutely does. Until we change that, any advancement that we make in addressing this issue is going to be scarred by the fact that it wasn't across the board."
November 6 - Women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates made by sweeping into office in state and local elections. "Gender played a huge role in the campaigns this year," according to a Virginia House Democrats' pollster: Women running for office in Virginia took the Virginia House of Delegates from Republicans for the first time since 2000. Cities in Minnesota and Montana elected their first black mayors, and Charlotte, NC, elected a black woman as mayor for the first time. Virginia elected its first Latina and Asian American delegates. Across the country, Americans elected at least eight transgender candidates.
November - In the lead up to a "Take Back the Workplace" march in Los Angeles on Nov. 12, Latina farmworkers wrote a letter of solidarity to the women and men in Hollywood who had come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault - and called attention to the situation facing farmworkers: "We do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen. We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packinghouses that are out of sight and out of mind for most people in this country ... Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist, and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security."
November 15 - Wonder Woman lead Gal Gadot confirmed rumors that she refused to sign up for the superhero sequel unless accused Hollywood sexual harasser Brett Ratner was dropped from the franchise going forward. A month earlier, Gadot backed out of a dinner honoring Ratner, where she was to present him with an award.
December 12 - In a special election for the United States Senate in Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore, a man accused of sexually abusing multiple teenage girls at a time when women all over the country were speaking out against sexual harassment and assault. It was a stunning election upset in a traditionally deeply red state that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump a year earlier.
December 6 - Time Magazine named The Silence Breakers of the #MeToo movement its "Person of the Year," acknowledging the power of the movement in 2017. Questions quickly arose about why Tarana Burke, the black woman who founded the movement, wasn't on the cover.
December 21 - Tarana Burke and Alyssa Milano joined forces with UnicefUSA to say #HerToo. In an article in the Guardian, Burke and Milano pledged to build on the power and solidarity of #MeToo to embrace #HerToo: "#HerToo is about our deepest desire to ensure the dignity of every woman and girl is honored. It's about our personal dedication to building a culture of respect where it is sorely lacking. It is about work we all must undertake ... to end discrimination and violence against girls and women - and against all children suffering violence and harassment - worldwide, through education, protection and policy reform."
December 31 - #MeToo Founder Tarana Burke kicked off the NYC Times Square countdown to the New Year.