That Doonesbury strip, written back in the 70’s during the height of the still nascent Women’s Movement, is one of my all time favorites. At that time, the character, Joanie Caucus, ran the local daycare center where she watched over, among other 3 and 4 year olds, young Ellie. Joanie was also a new and enthusiastic feminist and spent much of her time raising the collective consciousness of her young charges about critical women’s issues. Four-year-old Ellie was a zealous convert to the movement, and longed for a sister with whom to share her newfound passion (she already had 3 brothers). So when Ellie’s father calls the daycare center to deliver the news that Ellie’s mom has just given birth to a little girl, Ellie’s reaction is understandable. And hilarious.
The feminist pendulum has swung back and forth a few times since then.
Whole generations of women have embraced or rejected the label based on the prevailing perceptions or misperceptions about just what it means to be a feminist. So, for the sake of this post, can we just agree that a feminist is anyone who is interested in the many issues that have a direct (and lasting) effect on the lives of women? Can we just agree on that much for now? Because, there are a lot of them. Issues that effect women. What position we take on those issues and how we advocate for or against them is what politics is all about, and another subject altogether. Can we also agree that the story of women down through the centuries, the many contributions women have made to society, and the struggles women, in particular, have endured over time are all worth knowing about as part of the greater story of human history? We can? Good. Because, if you had said “No”, I would seriously have to question why you were spending anytime on a girl’s school blog. But, since you’re here, you must also know that a course called “Women’s Studies” is a welcome addition to any curriculum and cause for celebration. You’ll find such course offerings on most college campuses now. I don’t know how many high schools offer such a course, but here again, Notre Dame Prep is ahead of the curve. NDP has offered a Women’s Studies elective to seniors for more than 15 years now. It is a popular course, currently taught by Gail Caltrider. Among other things, Gail is a wife, mother, professional, and breast cancer survivor – a strong female role model for young women, if ever there was one. In Ms. Caltrider’s class, her students not only learn about the role women have played throughout history, and the many contributions women have made to transform the world, they also learn about and discuss issues that directly impact women today. These include such issues as women’s health (they just had an upper school assembly on breast cancer), women in politics, and what it means to be a working woman in the United States with all its inherent challenges. In addition, the girls are taught about the role of women in society from a global perspective. More importantly, however, the girls also learn how their own decisions and behavior directly impact the way women are viewed by all of society and what role they can play in promoting a positive female image. To that end, this week the class will sponsor a school wide project entitled, “Strength from Within.” I sat in on the class as they discussed the event. I can’t tell you what they have planned or it would spoil the impact, but I can tell you, they have some very thought-provoking and stimulating activities planned. I love that this course is not only available to NDP seniors, but that they are encouraged to share what they learn with the rest of the school.
Now, to me, that’s “sisterhood” at its best.
And, in the spirit of inclusivity, please let it be known that the Middle Level will be hosting its Third Annual Yard Sale at Notre Dame, this Saturday, October 12th from 8AM ’til 12 Noon. All proceeds will support further development of the Middle Level Garden. Email Sharon Moser at firstname.lastname@example.org or Elizabeth Pennington at email@example.com.