Feminist in a Catholic School

by Kelly Darcy

I read an article today about how hard it really is to be a young feminist, specifically between the ages of 14 and 18, right in that tragic high school time frame. I thought about how my experience with finding my voice as a feminist was very difficult in my high school. I went to a private, catholic high school; not my first choice, but it was all I knew. I was raised, however, to be a feminist by most standards.

I knew my first try at a having a feminist voice was being silenced when I first questioned the uniform dress code I was forced into for 13 years. I was never allowed to wear pants growing up, only skirts and jumpers, and I was sick of that. I had to wear a girl’s button up that was made completely differently than the boy’s shirts; it didn’t fit all girls’ bodies and since we had to get all of our clothing from the same uniform store that worked with my school, the shirts for 3rd graders were based off of one girl’s body and that body wasn’t mine. I wanted to play and run around but we were told that running around in skirts and jumpers was inappropriate, yet we weren’t allowed to wear pants. I’m positive this memory is the beginning of my feminist mindset.

I try to ask other people about how their high schools handled feminists and if there were any people questioning the double standard set at that influential age. From the few I’ve talked to they said no one really stuck out, or they never heard of it, that is. After seeing this article and seeing other people claiming to relate to it, I wondered how many people’s claims and challenges were swept under the rug in their schools. I know mine were. I had a tough situation because I was never in a public school so I was forced into an abstinence only sexual education, which was only 1 week of us learning about STD’s and watching a birthing video. There was a rumor that a teacher used to watch it backwards. I asked my teacher if this was true and she claimed that “he’s just trying to be funny with it” and that was the closest answer I received about it.

I’d love to know if anyone else has had issues like I have had in my high school as a feminist in an institution preaching against feminism. I got into many fights and problems with teachers and students who tried to tell me that my thoughts were wrong because it wasn’t what was in the lesson plan. I hope to be a good outlet for the girls who have thus reached out to me after I graduated claiming that the school is putting them down about their clothing, hair styles, opinions, etc. So I ask that if someone younger than you–sibling, cousin, friend–comes to you wondering if they should even bother with their thoughts, tell them that YES, THEY SHOULD. It gets better. Remind them that any of their thoughts about wanting equality are not worthless. I was told that wanting equality with what bottoms we could wear in school was stupid and not worth it but it wasn’t just about that. It was so much more. I see that now, but I wish someone had told me to keep with it then. Keep encouraging the youth. It matters.

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