Seniors discuss equality during Panel on Women

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Jackie Shannon ’18

Every Day Six, Sacred Heart Greenwich Upper School seniors gather in the Lennie and John de Csepel Theater for the capstone English and Theology course, Senior Seminar in Literature and Thought.  At the Senior Seminar class’ Panel on Women January 26, eight seniors spoke to their classmates about gender barriers in relation to the coursework. 
The panel tied in the course’s texts with current global women’s issues and investigated the characteristics of strong women in the twenty-first century. In their speeches, several panelists emphasized the need for better education systems for females.
Seniors Anna-Luisa Brakman, Genevieve Capalongo, Erin Carroll, Morgan Johnson, Katie Kablack, Lilly O’Sullivan, Molly Smith, and Jenna Whelan were the featured panelists.
“One of the things that we try to do is to encourage women, in general, and promote the discussion of women’s issues.  We also encourage students to be brave and strong enough to stand up for themselves, and to be educated enough to know what they are talking about,” Upper School Theology Department Chair and Upper School Theology teacher Mrs. Phyllis Pregiato said.  
Anna-Luisa emphasized that women and men are equal, but they are not the same while relating it to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.  

Jackie Shannon ’18

“As we saw in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Lenina’s ostentatious and promiscuous actions achieved nothing in terms of furthering equality. We cannot and should not fix the social, political, and economic issues that women face by rejecting anything and everything that society has historically deemed “feminine.” Women can still be strong while maintaining the values that females have been taught for centuries: grace, poise, kindness, empathy, emotional intelligence—rejecting these values in the name of feminism and modernity because women hope to appear stronger and more “masculine” is actually counterproductive,” Anna-Luisa said. “Women and men are not the same. Both are equal in value and dignity, but they are not the same. You don’t have to try to be like a man to be a strong woman.”
Genevieve also related her ideas to Brave New World, stating that women create their own images, which controls how society views them.
“A strong woman should defy the norms of society by bettering herself and the people around her. She knows where her boundaries are, demands respect and is independent. It is ultimately up to women themselves if they want to be strong or to be perceived as weak and be degraded,” Genevieve said.
Erin and Morgan spoke about society’s viewpoint of mothers and strong women in today’s world while relating it to Brave New World and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.  
“We need to change our perspective. I encourage us to open our minds and see that mothers are not weak. Rather, they are an integral part of our society and if a woman wants to choose that path for her life, she should. We should not let our career and family goals be defined by what others want from us. What we should do is evaluate what we want for ourselves, whether that be a career, a family, or both, and reach for that goal,” Morgan said.
Jenna also used Brave New World to point out the inequalities between men and women. Jenna believes that if girls had fewer insecurities, then they would be able to focus more on their education and be strong leaders in society.      
If insecurity among young girls could be stopped, instead of competing for boys, social status, and “the ideal body,” girls would be able to focus more on their education. They would grow up to become pro-active members of society and preach self-worth and the importance of not conforming to societal expectations,” Jenna said.  
In addition, Katie referenced Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, a novel about the Holocaust, in speaking about human dignity.  Katie recognizes the need for respect for women, which she believes will lead to unity and balance between males and females.  
“Sadly, the harshest critics of women are often women themselves.  If change is to come about, we must ensure that we are first united within our own gender. If we cannot respect each other, we are less likely to be respected by others. We must be active in spreading our message and reaching our goals. Nothing great was ever accomplished by simply talking without taking action,” Katie said.
Overall, this panel highlighted that women’s issues are still present today, and how women’s education helps the society grow.
“We often see that when women are educated, the whole society starts to grow and improve.  One of the things that Madeleine Sophie taught was the idea that if you educate women, you really educate the whole community, and that’s the same mentality that we are looking for today for education of women throughout the world,” Mrs. Pregiato said.
-Jackie Shannon, Staff Writer