Feminism. It may seem like a scary word to some. Images of a world of women and men with equal rights come to mind: progressive reforms such as equal pay, equal representation, and a gender fluidity that can be embraced by men and women in society. Just atrocious.
It is this stigma to the feminist movement that one club on campus is attempting to change. The Female Empowerment Movement Club at Granada Hills Charter High School is addressing the need for gender equality with their screening of the documentary “Miss Representation,” on March 6.
With the aim of educating students on campus, FEM Club created a unique event that embraced the ideals of open-mindedness, acceptance, and interconnectedness; values that feminism itself also strives to promote. Shown in Rawley Hall, attendees were asked to bring donations for the local Los Angeles Women’s Shelter as admission to the event.
Working together to bridge her club’s goals and the Community Action Service (CAS) projects of others such as seniors Shany Ebadi and Julia Tapia, FEM Club president and senior Sophia DoQui organized the event hoping to convey the seriousness of the issue at hand, while also creating an accepting and personable environment for attendees.
“With this event, I think the thing we were trying to accomplish was a dialogue. It’s unrealistic to expect people to jump out of their seats and run down their streets in a protest of everything they’ve been taught their whole lives,” DoQui said. “But what we wanted to do was shed light on important issues that we get told are ‘getting better’ even though there is minimal proof. We wanted to provide an opportunity for the audience to question what has been taught to them, and from there they have the choice to participate in the change or not. Either way, they gain new insight into the way gender and gender standards are portrayed in the media.”
Weaving personal interviews of women in positions of power and young girls with depictions of women in the media, “Miss Representation,” strives to shed light on the stereotypes and negative effects of the under-representation of women in media. Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the documentary has won countless awards, and it was evident as to why as students shared their thoughts after being impacted by the film.
“I never noticed the sexist stuff in movies, and some of the movies that they showed, are like my favorite movies. Like I love them, and they’re so messed up. It’s just like, ‘Woah, what’s wrong with me?’ It’s scary,” junior Lola de Marcos said.
Senior Natalie Hovsepian assured de Marcos that nothing was wrong with her as she went on to comment on the ominous and disturbing nature of today’s society that often claims that gender equality has been achieved.
“People say, you hear it all the time, that feminism is obsolete. It’s pointless, because we’ve come so far, and that’s frustrating to hear because there’s so much that is affecting us so deeply and can manifest itself in very physical ways. It seems really outside of you, like a metaphysical thing, and then you think about it and you realize that it’s lending itself to rape culture, it’s lending itself to abuse, it’s lending itself to all this violence and all these problems with getting jobs that is very physical and very immediate,” Hovsepian said. “We can’t say that we’ve come so far and we have nowhere else to go when the problems are still the same, they’re just hidden. It’s almost become a little more sinister because they’re so hard to find, hard to pinpoint.”
With the prevalence of television, social media, and the Internet in a young person’s life, the media wields a large amount of power over the messages and images that are portrayed to the next generation.
According to a study carried out by the National Institute on Media and the Family, both boys and girls in the fifth-grade who were 10 years old expressed dissatisfaction with their bodies after watching a music video by Britney Spears or a clip from the TV show “Friends.”
Unrealistic expectations have been created for both men and women in the media, and these unattainable portrayals have become a staple for the media today. The psychological toll that this patriarchal media has left is clear, as one study reports that, at age thirteen, “53% of American girls are ‘unhappy with their bodies.’ This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.”
“We tell children in general, not just girls, to look at Hollywood to our source of role models and inspiration for who they aspire to be, yet we don’t tell them look at members of Congress,” senior Kyle Alfaro said.
Alfaro’s sentiments ring true, yet we currently don’t have equal representation in our own government as “women make up 51% of the population and 56% of all voters, yet Congress is only 17% female,” according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics.
There is a flaw in the infrastructure of our nation as women don’t have an equal say in the policies that govern our country, and that lack of representation trickles down to young adults in schools as they question their own place in society.
DoQui saw a need for feminism in her own campus at GHCHS when she began the process of founding FEM Club.
“I noticed a huge amount of hostility from guys and girls alike when I mentioned the word ‘feminist’ or even ‘female empowerment.’ The initial response was a mixture of uncomfortableness and laughter. I noticed that nobody was actually talking to the students about what feminism is, and how much the stigmas of gender play a role in our everyday lives,” DoQui said.
In order to get a conversation about feminism started, attendees at the FEM Club movie night defined their own limits through a writing activity that seniors Rachon Sweiss and Anne Rivero implemented as part of their CAS project that is geared towards promoting literacy and sharing writing. Attendees were asked to write poems that identified their own views of masculinity and femininity. After watching the film, attendees then revised their poems and shared their powerful messages out loud.
Attendees at the FEM Club movie night passionately discussed what they had seen in “Miss Representation” after the film, and events like these are steps towards achieving the goal of gender equality. DoQui was touched by the motivation and awareness that the event had inspired in students, and hopes to start a change that will put this newfound awareness to work.
Now when you hear the word feminism, what do you think?