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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  • Chloe H. @ at 12:30 pm, June 26th, 2013

    I also watched the documentary “Girl Rising” with my all girls school. The girls of my school were very moved by it, even those who don’t know a lot about feminism and gender inequality. It is a shame that such an intellectual boy would say something so ignorant.

  • Katie @ at 3:25 pm, June 26th, 2013

    Nicely written! Indeed it is a shame. Stay strong girls, be vocal about your beliefs and help make the world a better place for everyone!

  • Matt SS @ at 4:48 pm, June 26th, 2013

    I’m not sure why you were surprised that he said that. What does being the smartest kid in school and going to the Ivy League have to do with it? Intelligence is not the opposite of ignorance.

    As far as ills that don’t affect him directly, do you think that feminists or other progressive groups are immune to this? Not caring about distant, and this term is relative, people is a function of human nature unless that human is trained differently.

    Some of the most intelligent people in the world are self interested Objectivist Libertarian capitalists.

  • Florence @ at 9:25 pm, June 26th, 2013

    Your indignation speaks to how the subject touched you , obviously, as it touched all of us present in the room.

    I was present at the screening and what WAS palpable at first was shock and sadness- NOT a lack of emotions. In fact, the student association that brought the movie to us, and has been funding a girl’s schooling for 4 years now, raised a record amount in the following two days. Also, the school, following the interest of the participants, is considering picking the conversation in September.

    Leading a public discussion is an art. In all honesty, our lack of skills there reflected more on the conversation than the supposed lack of interest or care that you are mentioning.

    Lastly, you are not quoting the young man accurately, I believe he was questioning the question, its plausibility, thanking that we live in a place where we are not facing the same ordeals pictured in the movie. He was not saying that we are NOT facing any challenges in regards to women’s rights in our country.

    In fact, I hope you bring to our discussions next school year the very good point you made about what is happening rigth next door to us.

    In sisterhood,
    Madame

  • Katie B @ at 5:16 pm, June 27th, 2013

    Nicely written! It is a shame @Chloe but also an opportunity to learn and teach because, as Matt put it, not caring about things that don’t effect you directly is a reality. That is why not only making young people aware of these issues but also empowering them to lead and effect social change is so important. Congrats Rachel, you have taken a step in this direction! Keep it up!

  • Birdy& Bambi @ at 10:43 am, June 28th, 2013

    Cool blog- we really enjoy it!

    Check out our blog if you like to:

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    Best,
    Birdy and Bambi

  • Rachel @ at 9:36 pm, June 29th, 2013

    Madame-

    My point was that the student would not entertain the idea, he simply dismissed the possibility that any unfair treatment of girls is possible. He would not engage in the conversation of Women’s Rights in this country which directly affect Women’s Rights in other countries. Because of the powerful nation that we are, we need to have more women in leadership positions that can and will affect change here and abroad. Not trying to diminish the money raised for the schooling of the one girl at all, but attitudes need to change and more conversations need to be had if we are to have a significant influence in the world.

    In sisterhood!

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 10:08 pm, July 4th, 2013

    It’s so good that you held a forum for this in your school. Keep up the good work! It’s so important to raise consciousness like this.

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