By Maeren Hay ’23
The topic of being a woman in this day and age has somehow become controversial. At times, it can get overwhelming to understand femininity and womanhood as a young adult at our school, which is why on Sunday, September 18th, a group of inquisitive FGS students and Abigail’s Circle members took a step towards their education and cognitive enhancement within this topic. They attended a live recording of Common Ground with Jane Whitney, hosting special guests that consisted of influential women and their uncensored opinions on women’s rights.
The speakers started the conversation by mentioning the term “shadow pandemic”, which they claimed to be the outstanding number of women and mothers who were greatly affected during the peak of the Covid Pandemic. A high percentage of care workers are females, and these women were unfairly overworked and underpaid during the pandemic. Mothers were also negatively affected because working mothers were more likely to be expected or forced to homeschool their children, taking away from their careers.
Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, as well as politician and author, shared that she disliked the term, “[just] girl boss your way to the top!”. This popularized phrase is harmful because it undermines the work and struggles women have to climb in order to achieve equitable success and respect. The main reason she created Girls Who Code was to help young girls gain footing in a field that they are frequently pushed out of. Reshma reminded us of cultural influences that restrict women, such as Barbies’ phrase “I hate math, let’s go shopping instead!”. The stereotype that women are worse at math and science scares and pushes girls out of succeeding in these fields; As Reshna said, “more girls are now discovering they love coding, and they’re good at it too!”.
Gretchen Carlson, who was infamously known for getting fired from Fox News because she attempted to report a sexual assault incident, talked about injustices in the workplace. She told the audience about non-disclosure agreements that big companies make employees sign, thus limiting workers from being able to report or sue for a variety of legal issues; such as sexual assault cases. Gretchen has triumphantly helped change a major labor law: the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act. She has also been crowned Miss America in 1989, and although most feminists would disagree with her participation in a beauty pageant, Gretchen shared that she needed the prize money for her education, and she had a really strong talent she wanted to share. Later in life, she helped the Miss America organization eliminate the bathing suit contest in the pageant, to focus the contest on more important things like public speaking and the talent of the contestant. Her activism and story inspire many women in the U.S.
The third guest, Faye Wattleton, is a reproductive rights activist, and the first African-American president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. At the beginning of the discussion, Faye shared that she was not surprised by the recent Roe v. Wade outcome, but she was still upset. “We don’t ask men to go to war against their will” she said, attempting to engage pro-life supporters on fighting for the right to choose. Throughout the taping of Common Ground, Faye Wattleton pitched in on topics with extreme intelligence and experience, and it was wonderful to hear her encouraging words like, “If you really engage, things can change”.
Common Ground with Jane Whitney is an important tv program that needs our help to keep them on national television. Watching their shows and attending their live recordings at Wamogo High School could be crucial for their survival. Lets engage so that polarizing conversations can change.