Hermitage High students fighting the good fight for gender equality

A group of kids at Hermitage offers you the chance to see a great film and asks for nothing in return but your presence, which will do a lot.

Just when you thought the world had a one-way ticket to Doomsville, up pops Hermitage High’s United Feminists group. This student organization began last year and continues to carry the banner–growing in size and impact, and learning a lot of things about what they want their mission to be.

Gender equality seems so simple and obvious. But “feminism” is still a dirty word, and one that in its very existence reflects the Gender Problem–in order to be cool with gender equality, you have to label yourself a thing, leaving the default, unlabeled person to be…not cool with gender equality? That turns feminism into an “other,” and “other” is not exactly what teenagers love to be.

Gabriella Hutchinson, a junior and as close to an organization head as United Feminists allows there to be, works really hard to improve this situation. “I just want to be able to inform those who just don’t know what the term really means about the issue and the impact that it really, really has.”

Feminism is gender equality. It’s a stupid word. Ignore the word. Call yourself a regular human being and remember that the opposite of “feminism” is “sexism.” Embrace the cause, and accept nothing less. Be willing to look into yourself, your actions, and everything you think is normal, and recognize the things you do that contribute to the stereotypes and marginalization of women. You are not a bad person, but you (and all of us) have been brought up with a certain amount of embedded, often harmful things that we need to call by name.

Also, kids, this is the way of progress. Be in front of it.

To try to further the group’s aims, United Feminists present the film Miss Representation. Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the documentary explores the media’s underrepresentation and misrepresentation of powerful women, and touches on how women fare in pop culture. Hutchinson likes the message of the movie: “Everyone at my school–and it’s the same in every other high school–is concerned and consumed with popular culture, and the way women are portrayed in the media is so terrible, shining a bad light on female politicians and professionals and women as a whole.”

Last year, the club screened Girl Rising, which dealt with females around the world who are sold into slavery and other horrors, and the screening generated some well-deserved attention. This year, United Feminists wanted something that could speak directly to the experiences of young people.

Faculty sponsor Curt Fritts explained how crucial it was to show teenagers something relatable. “The idea of feminism in general is sometimes difficult to explain to high school students. Particularly the males believe it has to do with being overly feminine, and there’s a lot of preconceived notions. A lot of students simply don’t know what it means, but the more you explain the idea of gender equality and treating people fairly, the more people realize they are indeed some form of a feminist.”

The original founders of United Feminism–which included Gabriella’s friend Emma Burn, who has since graduated–approached Fritts about becoming a faculty sponsor. He’s seriously proud of these young women AND men who worked hard to raise the funds necessary (matched by their principal Andy Armstrong) to offer a free viewing for the film (which costs money to license for a screening).

Gabriella Hutchinson hopes that students as well as community members attend the free performance. It’s a great way to show young people that gender equality is one of the worthiest of all causes, and it’s also a great way to show those kids that this is something super-cool adults are into as well. She’s convinced that if schools have more groups of this type, they could make a different not just in their schools but in the surrounding communities as well.

What’s in the future for Hutchinson? A current volunteer at the YWCA, she has an unmistakable passion in her voice when she speaks about the years ahead. “I just want to have a career where I can help people. I just want to HELP people who haven’t had the same advantages as I have.”

For heaven’s sake, Gabriella, just promise us you will stay in town!

Miss Representation

  • Thursday, March 26th • 6:00 PM
  • Hermitage High School, 8301 Hungary Spring Road
  • Free! And you can just show right on up.
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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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