Feminism | Posted by Rachel B on 06/26/2013
Will Girls Really Rise?
I recently watched the documentary film “Girl Rising” with my high school (of about 80 students) and subsequently helped to lead a forum to discuss it. The movie artistically illustrates the stories of nine girls in the developing world who overcame seemingly insurmountable barriers to get an education that culturally only their male counterparts are entitled to. Their struggles included extreme poverty, bonded servitude, sexual harassment, rape, physical abuse and gender discrimination just for starters. Most of the stories ended positively with the girls overcoming their oppressive situations and making better lives for themselves, but others, such as the girl from Afghanistan, did not fare as well. The bravery these girls exhibited by speaking out (they could be killed for this effrontery) should be lauded.
Once the movie concluded, the forum commenced. It was lead by my female classmates and myself who posed questions to our peers in the audience. The lack of enthusiasm in the room was palpable and the conversations were going nowhere until I put forth a scenario to my male classmates. “What if” I said, “tonight our principal called every female student’s house and said that we are no longer welcome to attend school? What, if anything, would you do?” Immediately there were loud conversations being had amongst the group and I eagerly waited for hands to fly up and male voices to offer the many impassioned ways they would protest this outrageous turn of events. I waited. And waited. Finally, a boy in my class (who is considered the smartest student in the school) raised his hand. With relief and awaiting his insightful reply I called on him. His rejoinder was this, “Obviously that would never happen here and that fact is a perfect example of how great and fair our society is.” Wow! I was shocked into silence, taken aback by his ignorance. Even more shocking were those sitting beside me, all girls, all my peers, who did not seem fazed! So, in keeping with the decorum we had in place, I held my tongue.
Who would have thought this straight A+, Ivy-league-bound boy could be so oblivious to what goes on literally right next door? Our school is located in a well-to-do neighborhood and is less than 1 mile from the border of one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the state. This town has a high crime rate and very low graduation rate (41%). Only 16% of all 8th graders meet the standard English requirement and it was recently in the news because a prostitution ring had been discovered there. Over 50% of the population of this town is women. Who does this boy think he is? How is he so sheltered and unaware? Or, is it that at his young age he is already conditioned to be part of the patriarchy and can easily ignore the ills of society because it doesn’t affect him directly?
Yes, Girl Rising did present the issue of girls’ education in a beautifully made documentary showing much hope for the future of girls in other countries, but it did not seem to play on the heartstrings of many of my schoolmates. The film gave no “Do Now,” no useful information to help continue this fight in the U.S. and abroad.
So the job lies squarely on our own strong female shoulders. We need to be more vocal, we need to educate boys and girls alike and explicitly state the struggles that we women today are STILL dealing with before we are too old and tired to fight. Write a poem, paint a picture, transcribe a letter, give a speech, make a documentary without flashy cinematography, do something! Let’s show all the oblivious, privileged men out there what needs to be done and just how to do it– they need all the help they can get.
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