She slaps a sanitary napkin on the whiteboard and takes out a vile of fake blood. Pouring the blood onto the absorpt cloth, she looks out at the class waiting for them to react.
“Miss, Why? Why? Why would you do that?” one boy shrieks. Other students pull their chairs up to cover their eyes.
“Well, menstruation is perfectly normal,” she explains.
Then students watch a film documenting ways in which various countries treat menstruation. Giving pupils a chance to explore contexts different than their own, they jot down notes on what happens in each place and their opinion of that particular treatment of menstruation.
The video shows a community that locks women into huts for all seven days of their cycle, while another depicts a woman smearing menstrual blood all over her body as performance art.
Students discuss their thoughts about how each culture views menstruation.
The teacher brings them back to their initial reaction to the napkin hanging on the wall. How is the pad with blood on the wall disgusting when it is a natural part of a woman’s life?
She explains to me that she tries to use the most extreme examples to expose students to different viewpoints.
“Just think about, I am the one who can tell them everything. I am the one who is the door to their education. They can not tell their parents, or ask their parents; they might feel shame. I want to be the one who is exposing them to the most extreme things, so they think, “I’m ok." It’s ok to watch porn, it’s ok to love yourself, it’s ok to be different or have a fetish, or think about religion and culture with sex. It’s ok to have an opinion, but you should know there are other values. I’m the door to talk about everything”.
This school has a significant proportion of students with Turkish and Moroccan migration backgrounds. Knowing that many of her students are Muslim, she called up the Mosque before beginning their unit on sex education to ask what topics she should not discuss during Ramadan. The Mosque explained that other than encouraging self-love (masturbation), there were no restrictions. She told me that although she shares the same complexion as her students, she is not religious, but wants to make sure she understands each pupil's background.
This woman is radical. She is courageous. And she is my new shero (She-Hero). By giving students the opportunity to explore communities from across the globe, she opens up discourse about diverse views. What does it mean to be a woman in different countries? By intentionally learning more about her students' backgrounds, she constructs culturally relevant pedagogy that allows learners to explore the relationship between sexuality and religion. Most importantly, she provides an example of an educator boldly facilitating authentic conversations about intersectional identities.
A note about intersectionality: The part of the lesson that I found phenomenal and representative of intersectional feminism was that the teacher embraced that there isn't one story of being a woman. Culture and gender intersect in ways that uniquely shape the experiences of women all over the world. Similar to how viewing sexuality and religion at an intersection, and not as mutually exclusive, allowed the teacher to create a culturally responsive way to teach sex education.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions you have! Thank you for reading!!