Tag Archives: Staples High School “Women in History” class

Artemis Society Reacts To “Feminism Wall”

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.

The Artemis Society posted its own message to Staples’ Women in History class, outside the 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.

The “Feminism Wall,” Phase 3.

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 the earlier Post-Its on the Feminism Wall.

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!

“Women In History” Class Learns Powerful Lesson

This year — for the first time in almost a decade — Staples High School offered a social studies course called “Women in History.” As students learned about the many roles and perceptions of women in US history, they also considered their own experiences.

Motivated by International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, and their experiences discussing feminism and sexism at school, class members created an interactive exhibit outside the cafeteria. Their 3-part “feminism wall” provoked many reactions.

In response, the class wrote an open letter to the Staples community:

It was shocking, we know. No warning. Red paper, black paint. We asked you to complete the statement: “Feminism is…”

From our perspective, we created a space for opposing opinions. We expected it to reveal the complexities and stigmas surrounding a broad movement. We were not looking for a particular response. We hoped that offering anonymity would lead to visible juxtaposition, contrasting ideas side by side.

Things played out differently than planned.

Phase 1. First, we stuck our own Post-its to the wall. “Feminism is… intersectional.” “… not just for women.”  “…empowering.” “…relevant. “…something I thought I didn’t need.”

The first phase of the “Feminism Wall.”

People noticed the sign. Some smiled. Some were angry. Most were confused.

‘When the period ended we walked away, not realizing the wall could not be left alone. While many people offered valuable insights across a broad spectrum ofo perspectives, others had written: “Feminism is… for fags.” “…retarded.” “…gay as fuck.” “…a waste of paper.” “…cancer.” “…autistic.” “…go back to the kitchen.”

Some of the Post-Its on the wall.

Someone squirted moisturizer on the banner, an uncomfortable suggestion.

In phase 2, we asked people to complete this prompt: “Feminism isn’t…” An army of students, using their spare time to mass produce hateful and mocking Post-its, went so far as to claim it “property of the Staples meme group.”

Post-its cover Phase 2: “Feminism isn’t…”

All of this happened even though the wall was in a heavily trafficked public space — outside the cafeteria — with ourselves and administrators regularly monitoring it.

People told us we were stupid for doing this again. They pleaded with us to try something else.

But we left it up — on purpose. We wanted people to think. We wanted them to be uncomfortable. To be confronted with feminism and its varied reactions. That was the point. 

Phase 3. As we hung a new banner, we were surrounded by students. We were bombarded by voices. “HOLD THE BANNER UP SO I CAN READ IT!” demanded one boy. “Where are the Post-its?” asked another.

“It’s not interactive anymore,” we countered.

“I’ll just get my own paper then.”

We tried to hang our exhibit as the crowd — mainly boys — desperately shouted their feelings, trying to speak louder than that one, big word. 

The “Feminism Wall,” Phase 3.

The most common question we were asked during this process was, “What did you expect?” This was a subtle denigration of our hard work — as if the resulting disrespect, vandalism and disorder were inevitable. Clearly, we should have tried something else, presented our ideas in a way that wouldn’t create a hostile environment. But we didn’t.

To those who genuinely participated in our galleries: thank you. We don’t care if you are a feminist or not; we value your opinions. Thank you for offering your ideas, thoughts and quotes.

To the administrators, teachers and coaches who took the time to come into our class and discuss the many issues surrounding the installation and the condition of all students at Staples: thank you for your time, insight, candor and support.

To the many teachers who had open conversations in your classes: thank you. When the wall became a target of hatred, you gave people a safe outlet for further conversation.

To those who supported our exhibits but never participated: we wish you had. 

More reactions to the “Feminism Wall.”

To those who participated in the vandalism, the hatred, the bullying: please reflect. If there is one question we want the answer to, it’s this: Why did you react this way? People recognized that their behavior was shameful; they said that they were doing it “just to be funny.” Is that the reason for reckless apathy?

Do you think we were asking for it? Do you think that it’s our fault that other people responded inappropriately? Don’t you think we should address the real problem here?

We didn’t create a hostile environment. We exposed what already existed at Staples. And from this experience, we began to ask ourselves an important question: Are males and females equally supported in the community?

So even if you aren’t a feminist, that’s okay. We thank you for taking the time to read this. Really, we just want to know: Are you ready to have a respectful conversation about gender equality?

When you are ready: 

  • We would like to see gender equality studies taught at elementary and middle schools
  • We would like to see Staples become a more inclusive environment of different perspectives and ideas across the spectrum
  • We would like to see students, parents, teachers, administrators — everyone — engaged in conversations about real life issues in and out of the classroom.

We need to see a change.

Sincerely,
The Creators of the Feminism Wall