A View from High School

As a sophomore in high school, my everyday consists of sitting in classes and discussing geometry, chemistry, English, medieval history, and Latin. I am lucky enough to go to a school where both teachers and students are concerned about current politics and events, and there is constant conversation outside of classes about these things. Unfortunately, classes on government are not always the highest priority. We students get small glimpses into the various ways government can work during our history classes (I’m sure that next year in U.S. History, I’ll have much more exposure), and there are some clubs which further the discussions that we begin throughout the day, but I wanted to get a closer look at what goes on at the State House for my annual required project. Shadowing at the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators was particularly interesting to me because of my growing concern for women’s rights. As the time for college application slowly approaches me, I’ve become increasingly aware of sexual assault on college campuses, and the debate between pro-life and pro-choice supporters. I am quite aware that these issues could very well affect me or many of my friends in the near future, and so coming to the Women’s Caucus to take a look at how the legal process surrounding them has been wonderful and informative.

In addition to the concerns that I have about my future, my experience as a girl going to school also fuels my concerns over women’s rights. Though sexism is not a prominent part of my daily life, lit bits of it appear occasionally, and it always throws me off guard. This mainly manifested itself during my years in Middle School when I, and many of my female peers had concerns over the school dress code. Essentially, the dress code required that girls not wear tank tops with straps wider than the width of three fingers and that shorts should not be above a girl’s fingertips when her hands were at her side. Theoretically, I was completely fine with all of these stipulations, but when all of the girls in our grade were pulled aside and told that the reasoning behind the dress code was to protect us from boys who were “always watching our bodies,” I become seriously upset. The boys did not have nearly as strict a dress code, and if I had gone and complained about a boy’s body distracting me during class, those would have definitely been disregarded as my own problem to deal with. If a boy in my class couldn’t function because he was too busy staring at some girl, that should have been his own problem to deal with as well. I felt blamed for a problem that was in many ways out of my control; there were only so many places to buy clothes from, and only so many of those places which sold clothing that followed the dress code which I liked. Despite all of the problems with the dress code, all of the girls were resigned to not complaining about its reasoning, because we didn’t feel that we had any power to voice our opinions.

Young women in my age range have a greater opportunity than ever to connect with each other over women’s rights issues through social media and the internet, and I believe that the Massachusetts Caucus of Women can help to facilitate this interaction. I understand that the Caucus has accounts on both Twitter and Facebook, but there is a lot of variation in terms of what platforms girls me age prefer. For instance, I am always checking my Instagram feed but never use my Twitter, because the photographs I get to look at are often very powerful or moving to me (National Geographic and The British Museum flood my feed). I went to the Women’s March in Washington over the weekend, and their Instagram account provided easy access to important information about the event for me. However, I have a close friend who does not understand the appeal of Instagram at all, but is constantly checking her Snapchat because it is a much more lighthearted app. Funnily enough, National geographic also has a daily story on Snapchat, and I end up reading many more stories from that outlet than I ever did before I had social media. The Women’s Caucus may reach more people my age by expanding the number of social media platforms it is active on, and this process of managing multiple accounts may seem a bit gratuitous, but I think that it could prove very effective in gaining awareness from younger women.

By: Maia, Commonwealth School - Project Week completed at the State House