The State of Feminism Today at U-32

This article was written by Evelyn Rocha, a junior in the U-32 Journalism class.

 

Feminism is about equality. It’s about fighting the patriarchy. Everybody having equal rights. Fighting misogyny and sexism,” said Mayla Landis-Marinello.

 

Mayla is a sophomore at U-32 who is currently learning about reproductive justice in the Pilot program to fulfill health and social studies requirements. In this study she is guided by her mentor Kayla Becker, a reproductive health educator and an independent psychospiritual body worker. Mayla also works with her fellow sophomores Leela McCann, Ella Thomas, and Annaliese Eckhaus. Here is their health website: Health Education and Rights (HER).

 

A Picture of the Reproductive Justice Pilot Group’s health poster (Evelyn Rocha/Chronicle)

 

“Learning it with Kayla helped me connect to my body and feel much more empowered and positive about my female body. And I think it would just be very cool if more people would have experiences like that in health class,” said Ella Thomas.

 

The group is currently working on a mural related to their study. They have also learned about past legislation like the Chamberlain-Kahn Act and the Comstock Act. They have put up several posters about these acts around the school.

 

“We’ve been learning about these really horrible things that have happened. And we’re working on educating people about them and doing what we can to acknowledge what happened, and work toward a better future,” said Mayla.

 

The Reproductive Justice Pilot Group’s poster about the 

Comstock and Chamberlain Kahn Acts (Evelyn Rocha/Chronicle)

 

“[Feminism is] a thing that’s been going on for well over 100 years, and it’s been a really slow process,” said Bodi Hollister, a junior at U-32 and a member of U-32’s Men Of Strength (MOST) club.

 

Feminism’s history is long and complicated, it includes many different perspectives and has gone through many iterations. “There’s been a lot of different movements and stages and pieces of it,” said Mayla. “And there’s always times when people have certain assumptions of what feminism is.”

 

There have been 4 major waves of feminism. According to History, the first wave was between 1848-1920, the second wave was between 1963-1980s, the third wave was from the 1990s to the present and the 4th wave is the present. Every wave was defined by certain events and values. 

 

Mayla is especially interested in intersectional feminism. Feminism is defined as “belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” 

 

Intersectionality is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”

 

Mayla’s definition of feminism combines both intersectionality and the traditional definition. “For me, it’s everybody having equal rights, everybody being included,” she said. However, Mayla acknowledges that there have been times in history and recently where inclusion is not the norm. 

 

“It’s hard to know what that word means to people.” Ella said. “It has been a very only upper class white women thing. So you have to define it for yourself. And ultimately, it’s less about the word you use, and more just trying to find equality.”

 

An example of this in feminism is women of color’s exclusion from the early suffragist movement that started in 1848. According to the National Park Service, black women were never allowed in the National American Woman Suffrage association. When Mayla discovered this information in a book she said that it “was really surprising to me. And so that just made me a lot more interested in intersectional feminism.”

 

A poster made by Mayla’s pilot group was defaced, along with a poster from The Conversation, which was torn down. “That made me very angry,” said Mayla.

 

Feminism has been debated in the United States for centuries and is still a very present issue today. “It’s a thing in history that is pushed to happen…it’s not always successful, but it’s an idea that’s always there,” said Ainsley Gross, a junior at U-32.  

 

“It’s just been an issue for as long as we can remember,” said Ella

 

Bodi said, “Today I feel like it’s a heavily talked about thing and we still see protests.” Bodi mentioned that his mom and his sister are heavy influences on him and introduced him to feminism. “It’s been talked about in my family a lot. I remember going to the Women’s March as a kid…It’s always been something really emphasized within me.”

 

Movements like #MeToo and the recent anniversary of the first introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment 1923 are some of the recent developments related to feminism and gender equality.

 

Abortion has also been a recent debate topic. In the summer of 2022 the historic precedent of Roe v Wade (1973) was overturned by the Supreme Court with the decision of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.This ended the federal right to abortion. Protestors poured out onto the streets of America, holding signs saying “My body my choice” while the opposing side held signs that read “Save your baby.”

 

“Abortion has become a pretty big thing…” Bodi said. “Because it’s something that’s looked over a lot and really needs to be talked about to be acted on…. It needs to be brought up and heavily addressed.”

 

Women’s sports has also been a commonly debated issue connected to feminism.

 

For example, according to the New York Times, Caitilin Clark, the WNBA’s newest #1 draft pick has a salary of $338,056 while Victor Wembanyama, last year’s #1 NBA draft pick is paid a salary of $55m. The pay gap has been a topic around men’s and women’s sports for a very long time.

 

Additionally, in August 2023, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, New York, Ottawa, and Minnesota joined to become the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). “There’s a lot of things that aren’t always an opportunity for women. Today we’re trying to create that opportunity for people especially in this new generation,” said Ainsley.

 

The MOST club has also been brought to U-32 in the past years and is led by teachers Mark Brown and Nicholas Holquist. The MOST club is meant to be a place for young men to discuss and prevent sexual violence.

 

According to MCSR (Masculinity, Community, Strength, Respect), MOST club is “the country’s premier primary violence prevention program for mobilizing young men to prevent sexual and dating violence. MOST Club provides young men with a structured and supportive space to build individualized definitions of healthy masculinity.”

 

In April, the MOST club put up posters to support Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

 

MOST Sexual Assault Awareness Month poster (Evelyn Rocha/Chronicle)

 

The MOST club additionally has a club for women called WISE (The Women Inspiring Strength and Empowerment). MCSR describes it as a club that “offers a separate space for elementary, middle, and high school girls and young women to explore key learning areas of development such as self-esteem, emotional and social intelligence, leadership, gender-based violence prevention, and healthy relationships.” 

 

There is currently no WISE club at U-32, but there are clubs like The Conversation and Seeking Social Justice (SSJ).

 

The Conversation is a high school club that meets on 2nd and 4th Thursdays every month and focuses on raising awareness for changing “the culture of harassment and violence based on gender, sex and sexual orientation in the community.”

 

SSJ is a high school club that meets every Tuesday in the Library at callback. According to their page on the U-32 HS Callback Groups website, they “are committed to actions and dialogues that help create an anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable community for all.” SSJ was responsible for the raising of the Progress Pride Flag at U-32 and numerous other activism-centered events.

 

“So there are things that are happening to move in the right direction, but our school definitely needs a lot more work. And not just our school, but our culture in general,” said Mayla.

 

Randy Brown, a science teacher at U-32 has noticed dropping female enrollment in his STEM classes such as AP Physics and AP Computer Science. “Some of the issues with feminism to me that are painful, is that on the one hand, it’s like striving to get this equal access…but no one’s going into these areas. And some of these [classes] are really, really beneficial. It’s sad to me.”

 

“Why is it so warped?” he continued. “Why is it so hard to get more than 5% of girls in the school to take a computer science class?”

 

Randy’s aunt was actually in the first graduating class of Worcester Polytech that allowed women to be civil engineers. He believes that a feminist is “a person who feels that all people regardless of sex should have equal access to education, should not be barred from job opportunities, should be respected. It’s an issue of equity and respect.” 

 

He remembers learning about feminism in a negative light when he grew up in Southern Vermont and he was in high school when the first female governor of Vermont, Madeleine Kunin, was elected in 1985

 

There are many different ways that people were introduced to feminism. “I remember learning about it at a really young age,” said Bodi.

 

“I don’t know when I started thinking about it,”said Ella. “It’s just always been something that’s part of my life. And I’ve started noticing it more with the things I’ve been learning. And reading books about it, and just paying more attention.”

 

For the future of feminism at U-32, Mayla thinks the school should have an equality club that includes all genders. She thinks if the school has two separate clubs “That’s further dividing by gender. And I don’t think feminism even needs to be about that. It’s about equality. It’s not necessarily just about women’s rights at this point. I think we should have one equality club.” However, she does still think the clubs should be able to break off in different sections from time to time.

 

“I feel like MOST could definitely be more of an inclusive thing,” said Ella.“If not, then I wish we had a feminism club.”

 

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