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Silence and signatures

International Women's Day draws celebrations, controversy

Mar 17, 2017


Michael Korsh

On March 8, students signed posters outside the classroom of Ms. Maggie Temple, Social Studies, with encouraging and empowering messages in recognition of International Women’s Day.

When walking through the halls on Wednesday, March 8, HHS students were able to stop in the West Wing to sign one of two posters, both echoing the worldwide celebrations of International Women’s Day. The poster was put out by Ms. Maggie Temple, Social Studies, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Temple’s poster project, along with the Feminist Club handing out red ribbons during lunches, were the two events that took place to commemorate International Women’s Day at HHS.

Schools and other organizations nationwide participated in demonstrations for International Women’s Day. One of these was  “A Day Without a Woman,” organized by the same group that planned Women’s Marches on Jan. 21. In a “one-day demonstration of economic solidarity,” according to their website, “A Day Without a Woman” encouraged women to take the day off of work, refrain from shopping (except from women and minority-owned businesses), and wearing the color red in solidarity with participants.

Celebrations of International Women’s Day made a significant national impact. In Alexandria, Virginia, for example, over 300 staff members filed for the day off, leading the district to cancel school.

It was really apparent to me that our presence was political, and the sound of our voices was heard as a protest.

— Ms. Beth Ocar, Language Arts

Here at HHS, demonstrations for International Women’s Day drew a different impact: controversy. On March 8, female staff members planned on participating in a two minute walk-out at the beginning of the day to show students the impact of women in education fields. This would have been followed by a short announcement over the loudspeaker recognizing the importance of the day.

When the announcement was presented on Wed. morning, it was forwarded to Human Resources, and was later shut down. Ms. Beth Ocar, Language Arts, who planned the celebration, felt crushed by administration’s disapproval.

“It was the single most ironic day of my teaching career of 28 years, and it’s made me wary as a woman…I didn’t realize that women’s rights are controversial. There was no acknowledgement of our intentions, but instead we kept hearing about the last-minute nature of the celebration, of our contractual obligations, and how this concern comes from Human Resources— none of which felt like reasons why it was so hurtful,” Ocar said.

According to Mr. Doug Bullinger, Principal, there is specific criteria for announcements in Hopkins, and the biggest one is reflection of HHS’ values.

[Administration] would love to read an announcement, as long as it’s approved, and reflects HHS’ values,” Bullinger said.

Ocar believes that administration’s view of their celebration diminished the purpose of the day itself.  

“It was really apparent to me that our presence was political, and the sound of our voices was heard as a protest. So for me, something that wasn’t political became political. We didn’t intend to protest, but we were treated like we were,” Ocar said.

Temple clarified that International Women’s Day doesn’t aim to make a political statement, despite widespread misconception.

“Truly, how can one call IWD ‘political’ unless one does not recognize women and girls realizing their full potential as a basic human right? So, it is vitally important that we acknowledge and validate women at HHS; that we inspire our students to realize that potential,” Temple said.

Ms. Felicia Homberger, Language Arts, also helped organize the event, and expressed her disappointment about HHS administration’s inability to recognize the teachers’ intents.

“Our goal was to educate our students about what International Women’s Day was, and what A Day Without a Woman was, and to get our students to think and talk. That was our goal,” Homberger said. “It was not a protest; it was not a demonstration; it was not in support of a candidate.”

Bullinger said that although the teachers were unable to contribute, there are other ways to take action for the rest of March, which is recognized as Women’s History Month.

“I am disappointed that nothing happened, but some students are working on things we can still do this month as contributions,” Bullinger said.

Although International Women’s Day came to a close, Homberger, like many women throughout the world, feels that there is still much work to be done.

“The intention was always to educate. And we still feel strongly that this education needs to happen,” Homberger said.

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