The Artemis Society — which calls itself “a feminist organization that aims to empower women, and encourage and teach gender equity to Westport’s future generations” — took note of yesterday’s “06880” post about reactions to a project undertaken by Staples High School’s Women in History class.
In response to the students’ open letter to the school community, Artemis posted its own open letter to the class:
We are the Artemis Society. We are your mothers, your sisters, your parents’ friends. We are the women you see every day. We will not go back.
We will not stay silent while any person attempts to silence the voices, or impede the rights of trans or cisgendered women, or their allies. We believe in intersectional gender, religious, sexual, and racial equality. We aim to bring awareness to our children, and to educate them through peaceful activism and protest. For your future. For these reasons, we are compelled to state the following in response to the sexist, degrading and misogynistic response to the “Feminism Wall” in the Staples cafeteria.
To the “Women in History” students and those students who made and contributed to the Feminism Wall: You are courageous. Social progress is often the natural consequence of struggle and discomfort. Don’t be afraid, and don’t back down.
Gender inequality is real. Congress is comprised of 83 congresswomen out of 435 representatives, and 21 women out of 100 senators. Women earn 23 cents less for every dollar earned by a man who has the same job. Women who work in the household earn $175,000 per year in imputed income, which is neither recognized nor valued by the majority of society.
This is insufficient. Shout it from the rooftops. You have the power to change this, and you have already begun to do so. Your “Feminism Wall” will eventually help dismantle the institutional walls of sexism in Westport, and wherever your voice takes you.
It has already started a townwide conversation. Be proud. Speak up for more marginalized groups who do not share some of your privilege.
And despite the common misperception that it must have been girls who made this wall, Artemis acknowledges there are strong male feminist allies who may have contributed as well. Your wall was defamed with vile comments, defaced, and sexualized. You have them on the run. Go get ’em!
Westport is filled with dynamic, intelligent and educated women. Don’t buy into the sitcom stereotype, because underneath our white jeans and our yoga clothes, we wear armor! We are your sisters, and we stand beside you.
To the students who defaced the Feminism Wall: You proved sexism exists at Staples.
There is still time to learn and change. Don’t be afraid. Be better. Ask yourself why this wall made you so uncomfortable. Was it fear? Was it social pressure? Do you truly believe the things you wrote?
To the boy who wrote the girls in his engineering class are not his equals: You are correct. They are your superiors. But you can be equals if you conquer your bias and insecurity.
When we tell young feminists to fight, it is not to fight against you; they must fight for themselves. You must fight to learn for yourselves.
To the students who sexualized the wall by simulating body fluid with moisturizer: Women and girls are not objects for the benefit of your gaze or pleasure. We vow to remind our daughters they will not be subjugated or intimidated by such acts. Feminism is not a dirty word.
Some of you wrote that feminism is “retarded” and “gay” and “autistic” and “cancer.” There is nothing bad about being delayed, gay, autistic, and seriously — cancer?
These are your peers. These are your equals. Respect them! If feminism is a waste of paper, you would not have wasted the paper to say so.
Our young women of Westport will “go back to the kitchen,” for a lovely meal you prepared to congratulate them on earning that promotion, winning that election, and shattering that glass ceiling.
Finally: If you are a parent or guardian, talk to your children about the importance of social equality. The Westport schools should absolutely teach gender equality and gender studies at every age level, in age-appropriate ways. The Westport schools vow to teach emotional and social awareness; kindness with sincerity; principled thoughts and actions, and a love of learning.
Let’s do this!