Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sam French Featured on Girl w/Pen

Today's Profile: Samantha French, 14

Samantha and I had lunch two weeks ago with Deborah Siegel, the author behind the popular feminist blog, Girl w/Pen. Deborah, who will be teaching a workshop this summer at Writopia, was so impressed by Samantha's surprising personal/political story that she invited her to "guest post" on her blog. Samantha was thrilled by the offer and came to Writopia every day after school for the following two weeks to work on her first opinion piece written for an adult audience. In the end, Deborah's readers--which include mostly academics and journalists--were also impressed by Sam's articulation of her personal journey and re-posted her piece on their blogs throughout the blogosphere. While Sam's political views do not represent the official views of our community, we are proud that she developed such a well-written, passionate piece with us. Please help Sam celebrate her wonderful accomplishment by reading her first widely read opinion piece:

Feminist Awakening at Age 14
By Samantha French

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-Hillary.

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?”


“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 70’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 tough mom (with a tough track record) to whip this country back into shape.


Lily said...

I happen also to be a supporter of Hillary Clinton in the presidential race and I can't deny that much of my support comes from a desire to see a woman in the oval office. Still, polls have proved that people definitely don't automatically vote for Clinton if they are women or Obama if they are black. So I totally agree with you but want to emphasize that I wouldn't support Hillary if I didn't believe that her stance on issues like healthcare, the war, immigration, the economy and the middle class were better than Obama's. There is something to be said for being defensive at times when you need to stand up for a cause--especially when the cause becomes larger than politics...I guess it will be a long time before politics transcend gender and race.

Rebeccca WS said...

Lily, thank you for the poignant response to a poignant piece. You both are amazing thinkers and people. :-)

Carol said...

I was an Edwards supporter, and since he dropped out, I have found the remaining two candidates in the Democratic race less than perfect. This, of course, is not new. The last time I felt a presidential candidate was perfect was when Bobby Kennedy was running and I was too young to vote anyway.

I like Clinton's plans on healthcare, and her grasp of issues. I strongly want to vote for her because I too am a feminist who finds the idea of a woman president very appealing. But I don't care for some of her campaign tactics, I was disappointed by her vote allowing war in Iraq, and her vote on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Obama, on the other hand, has less experience, and I don't like his healthcare plan as well, but I find him very inspiring. I like his attitude and his willingness to forgo lobbyist's campaign money. I strongly want to vote for him because I believe the first mixed-race president will open new doors, and his presidency could re-vitalize this nation.

So you see, I am torn about who should win the Democratic primary. But in the end, I will vote for whichever of these two is chosen. What really inspires me to write this response is you, Samantha. It is so very good to hear from someone your age who is giving such thought to the process. I just shake my head in disbelief at the comment of your classmate. I was your age during the 60's - and I remember the "second wave" of feminism. I suppose that during that time, it was natural that all my female friends were feminists, just as I was. Many people have the idea that equality for women was achieved in those days. We came closer to it, but fell short of business and financial parity especially. We have some way to go to complete equality. Since then, the radical right element of the Republican Party has turned the term "feminism" into a dirty word. I don't feel that way, and I am glad that you don't either. To me, being a feminist simply means you believe women are capable human beings, and should be accorded the respect and opportunities due to all human beings. Thank you for your opinion piece making just that point.

Yael Wiesenfeld said...

A sentiment that I agree with entirely. I support Hillary because of her positions on a variety of issues (just like Lily does) as well as the experience she has which Obama is deplorably lacking. However, I agree that if I were three years older I would have difficulty not voting for a woman. Our sex may have finally secured most of the same rights as men, but we have yet to reach the same position in many fields (politics being one of them) and it is immeasurably important to stand up for that.

Emma said...

This was a fantastic piece. I also support Hillary Clinton because I like her policies on healthcare, the war in Iraq, the environment, poverty, etc. I admit too that I would love to see a woman in office. Thing s are looking bleaker for Hillary now but I think she can win this election... with support from people like you and Rbecca and Lily and Yael... and if not this election definitely 2012! :-)