Graphic by Briana Mendez-Padilla and Michael Lozano
Feminism. What is feminism? Google defines it as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” But feminism can mean different things to different people. Some say it’s about equal rights under the law, others say it’s about being empowered to do work that defies stereotypes. For some, it’s respecting our bodies.
Recently, women’s rights and women’s empowerment has been put on the spotlight. A record of 127 women have been elected to Congress. We saw many firsts with the first Muslim congresswomen and the first Native American congresswomen elected. With the #MeToo movement, women are making themselves heard and challenging norms on who’s responsible for men’s sexist behavior.
As women, it is important to feel represented and supported in any atmosphere. But what of those spaces we encounter daily? For example — schools. Have our schools kept up with the change?
Female students and teachers from Long Beach Polytechnic High School were asked to grade their school (A+ to F+) on how feminist their school is. Below are their responses.
Sara Schol, English Teacher
How feminist is Poly? C+
“I’m thinking about interactions on campus, I’m thinking about representation in certain administrative offices, I’m thinking about positions that we would typically relegate to women such as secretarial and administrative assistant positions.
I feel like we still have most of those stereotypically female roles filled by women and, likewise, I feel like the stereotypical male roles are still filled by men. I don’t know why specifically that is when there are plenty of female candidates out there who would and could enjoy competing in those same spheres.”
Leslie Salgado, Poly Junior
How feminist is Poly? C
“There is not enough actual representation of feminism. There’s not enough support to show for it. Poly needs more programs to support women.
I believe that there is a bigger problem among students, as girls are constantly being referred to in a derogatory manner. Girls who are not as conventionally attractive are mocked if they call out a boy’s behavior, as the boys resort to calling the girls unworthy of making judgments due to something as insignificant as looks.”
Eddy Joylyn Souter, English and History Teacher
How feminist is Poly? C-
“If we’re talking about things like hiring practices, having men and women be considered equal I think LBUSD is pretty good with that. But there are things the administrators can control, for instance, the ridiculous school dress code that is extremely sexist and does give the blame for some people’s behaviors on other people.
As for grading Poly, there used to be on the grade book a thing I could put like, ‘not working to capacity.’
I think that a lot of these issues could be more easily solved. We need to do more education. I think we’re too narrow on our focus which often is ‘go to college.’ Not that I don’t think college is important but I just think we need to realize that the whole world is not high school. We need to prepare for what’s happening outside of high school.”
Lizette Karina Ramon, Poly Junior
How feminist is Poly? C
“I would give Poly a C because of the lack of attention to the rules they make in regards of the dress code for guys. Boys get minimal limits with their dress code while a girl showing her shoulder is against the rules. Guys can be see sagging their pants and nothing is said about it.”
Elizabeth Sanches-Martin, English Teacher
How feminist is Poly? A
“The young women I have been privileged enough to teach are strong-minded, proud, and determined young ladies.
I work in a hallway surrounded by influential female role models who lead by example. They put up with nothing and expect everything, as we all should. We empower young women to question, observe, defend, and promote the wellbeing of each other… With a campus of over 5,000 students, one would assume that it would be a struggle keeping all students in line, but it is not.
There is an air of pride and respect at Poly, one that defies the suffocation of gender typing and racial inequality. This is a very special place, as are the students and staff who make it what it is.”
Najma Aliel, Poly Junior
How feminist is Poly? D
“Poly only has a female leadership academy. That’s it. Look at administration, it’s all guys. Feminism isn’t really shown throughout campus. It’s not like women are being discriminated but they’re not being empowered either.”
Chelsea Chhem, Poly Junior
How feminist is Poly? B+
“Although Poly does offer a lot of equal opportunity for students there isn’t a lot of roles specifically for female leadership. A lot of feminists on campus have to reach out to programs out of school to be a part of something because it isn’t being fulfilled in Poly.”
Interviews were slightly edited for brevity and clarity.