Friday, April 11, 2008

GUEST POST: Feminist Awakening at 14

Samantha French, age 14, is a student at Writopia Lab,, a writing enrichment program located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She's written an incredible piece for Girl with Pen and though it's longer than the usual fare and I still haven't figured out how to do jumps (help, anyone?!), I'm publishing it in full because it's just so well written. Go Sam. Did I mention Sam's 14?! Here she is. -GWP

As we all know, the buzz around America’s college campuses is Barack Obama and how he represents change for America. According to the media, he has overwhelming appeal to the country’s so-called “youth.” And it’s true. The phrase “yes we can” is being inhaled faster than pot brownies and Jell-O shots at a frat party. However, what the media seems to be consistently ignoring is the opinions of the country’s real, good old-fashioned, disenfranchised youth: high school students. Who are almost unanimously pro-Hilary.

OK, so I’m dreaming.

As a female freshman in Bard High School Early College, one of New York’s more liberal high schools where nearly two-thirds of the student body are females, there is not huge support for Hillary, which makes me sad. Many people at Bard, both male and female, support Obama because they are “tired of the Clintons” (a notion which they have obviously been fed by their parents. Think about it: the last time a Clinton was in office they were eight at the very most).

At first, I agreed with them. My dad’s a die-hard Obama supporter and so are a lot of my friends. But the turning point came for me when I saw how upset and truly devoted Hillary was to the race after her defeat at the Iowa caucus. The moment that the cameras revealed her sad eyes, I realized that I was seeing in her something rarely seen in any presidential candidate: a human being. While my father continued to be very pro-Obama (re-recording Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock,” titled, I Want Barak,)—and put pressure on me to agree with him—I felt a connection with Hillary after that night.

A “conversation” with a boy in my English class the next day clinched it for me. At 9:00AM, the morning after Hillary’s Iowa defeat, I came into my English classroom and sat at the table, looking around at my fellow students, their tired eyes skimming the pages of the New York Times or finishing up homework at the last minute, some finishing their Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Suddenly, I found myself in a debate with other kids about the caucus the previous night and who was for whom. Our teacher was quick to join in, turning it into a discussion which lasted for a good part of the class. The conversation turned to the obvious gender/race issue and one boy was quick to raise his hand when the question of what we thought about a female president came up.

“Well,” he said. “Because she’s a woman, it’s likely that she won’t really be able to perform her duties at ‘that time of the month.’”

Hold on. Rewind… OK, what did he just say?

The girls in my class instantly reacted with high-pitched comebacks and shouting. My friend stood on her chair and said rather loudly, “OH MY GOD COULD YOU GET MORE UN-P.C. PLEASE?” Another girl shouted: “I get my period too, but I come to school every day! I walk up and down stairs!” There was so much noise that I could barely get what I was saying out, so I stood up on my chair and screamed: “SERIOUSLY JUST SHUT UP. I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY AND IT’D BE NICE IF YOU ALL COULD HEAR ME!” The class instantly became silent.

“OK, so,” I took a deep breath and sat back down. “Hillary is probably post-menopausal so that is a completely invalid argument.” A chorus of agreement sounded from the girls.

The boy, who was recovering from all the screaming, replied defensively. “Well, it was my grandma who said that about Hillary.”

“And your grandmother’s how old?”

“80-something.”

“Your grandmother grew up in a society where women were seen as housewives and probably the last time she went through a menstrual cycle was in the 1970’s when women were still fighting for their rights!”

It was the moment that those words came out of my mouth that I realized I was totally pro-Hillary. Everything my father had instilled in me about Barack Obama melted away. Though I still care about the policies presented by each candidate, it ended up coming down to something bigger. It became about realizing the importance of taking a feminist stance in modern America and how important Hillary’s campaign is to feminist history. Not only do I agree with her healthcare policy and her method to get out of Iraq, but I also feel that she is hugely inspiring.

Since my “feminist awakening” as I guess you could call it, I have signed up for Hillary’s website and watch coverage of her rallies. Just today, I watched a video of a rally of hers in North Carolina where Hillary spoke to a huge audience of predominantly women. When she was taking questions, a young boy told her that both of his grandparents had died of heart disease. He asked her what she planned to do to prevent that from happening. She smiled warmly and promised the boy and the rest of the audience that if she were to be elected she would fight for equal health coverage and protection from such diseases. It is moments like that that make me feel that Hillary would be an amazing president; I believe her historical commitment to health care together with her maternal, relatable qualities would benefit America greatly.

My friends try to convince me to switch to being pro-Obama, and though I may sway a little at times, I’ll get an e-mail from the Hillary campaign or read an article about her and it reminds me of why I love Hillary so much: she has a genuine connection with the people. She is kind of like a mother-figure in that she is very compassionate and approachable, but also very powerful

My generation has witnessed turmoil and corruption during Bush’s terms as president. What we need now is a bad ass mom (with a bad ass track record) to whip this country back into shape.

33 comments:

Rachel said...

Great, great piece! To have such intellegence and clear thinking even in the face of peer and parental pressure is a terrific acheivement many adults can not match.. Samantha, you are the best!

El Profe said...

An extraordinarily well thought-out piece filled with sensitivity, nuance, intelligence and hopefulness for the recovery of our browbeaten nation. Samantha is a person of insight. New voices such as hers are what will be needed in the world that she is inheriting. Bravo Samantha

For Parents & Caring Adults said...

Great piece! I loved seeing a teen feminist featured on this blog. -Lacey, Managing Editor, orb28

Michael G. said...

Terrific piece. You have almost convinced me, though not quite. It's great how you stood up for Hillary - and I guess women in general - after that classmate of yours made that crack about menstration. Really well written too; I couldn't stop until the end.

Vicky said...

Gloria Feldt posted this on her politics blog, which is where I stumbled across this piece. I loved it :)

Patti Binder said...

Congratulations on such a well written, smart speech! Stand up and shout it from the roof tops-- your message, your voice needs to be out there!

ChefSara said...

Samantha for president in 2036! Such well thought out opinions from a young woman courageous enough to take a stance against her parents and most of her friends and teachers is where true hope for the future of this country is found.

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