Fight Club

December 04, 2012 by Bill Ivey

After a morning chat with my wife, I decided to check in on my various social media accounts before heading out to the Wash 'n Wire, giving my cat a few extra minutes of post-breakfast lap time. My first, and as it turned out only, stop was Facebook, where the first post was from "Toward the Stars" referencing "Fight Club," an article in "The Telegraph" about the Asgarda tribe in Ukraine. Composed entirely of women and led by Katerina Tarnouska, the tribe follows the traditions of the ancient Amazons, training in the martial arts and "[learning] life skills and sciences in order to become ideal women."
Most years, at some point in time, my students ask whether female-dominated cultures exist, and I file this away should the question arise this year. Ukraine is a country where women are subject to sexual trafficking and gender oppression, and that is a contributing factor to the existence of this tribe. So does their existence serve to demonstrate the power of women taking control of their lives or is it sad commentary on the depth of damage that can be done by institutionalized sexism? Or both? Well... my students can wrestle with those questions should the topic come up.

Scrolling down, I came almost immediately on another "Toward the Stars" posting referencing a new law in Israel that requires models to have a BMI of at least 18.5, the borderline between being healthy and being underweight. Inês Almeida, the founder of the organization, was asking for reactions, so I commented, "Mixed feelings, actually. A positive first step but one that still keeps the focus on how women look and the locus of control external to women themselves. Maybe it's an essential first step. But ultimately, I believe, we want women's self-esteem to come from within and for physical appearance to be more connected to general health than specific and arbitrary external standards."
Of course, one of the main aspects of our school's mission is to develop that internal resilience and sense of self that feeds and supports the individual voices of our students and alumni/ae. Again, I can be all but guaranteed that this topic will come up at some point in time this year in my Humanities 7 class (I've already seen questions that connect to it as they have begun the work of designing units), and this article could provide a great point of discussion.

The morning leaves me feeling simultaneously saddened and hopeful. There is so much work to do and such a long journey ahead. And at the same time, the work is being done and the journey is progressing. What strategies will be the most successful in advancing this work? What role will my students play in it? How will they connect, network, support each other - for one thing, when Facebook, Twitter, and iPhones seem quaint, as is bound to happen, what tools will they have and what possibilities will those open up? Sometimes, I have almost as many questions as my students. And that's a good thing.

Meanwhile, the fight continues. And that's a good thing too.

Written by Bill Ivey

A dedicated member of the faculty, Bill Ivey is the Middle School Dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. He teaches Humanities 7 and the Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. Bill is the advisor for MOCA, the middle school student government, and he coordinates and participates in the middle school service program. Among his many hats, Bill also coordinates social media for Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

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Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Alumnae, gender, All-Girls, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, Beautifully different, Acceptance, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, girls' school, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education