News: First ‘TEA Talk’ Hosts Feminist Club

Photo Credit: Skylar Macmillan

Senior Georgia Reid, president of the TEA Talks club, hosted the M-A Feminists Club in a discussion surrounding the school dress code.

This past Wednesday marked the debut of the first TEA Talk at M-A, hosted by senior Georgia Reid, president of the club ‘TEA Talks.’ The Talk featured presidents of the M-A Feminist Club, who discussed their experiences as young feminists and their intentions following the open letter to the administration regarding the dress code, sent earlier in November.
 
The club, TEA Talks, aims to create a platform for discussions on topics relevant to the high school experience at M-A, by hosting members of the M-A community, including faculty, alumni, parents, and students.
 
The Feminist Club, which started simply as a Facebook page over the summer was chartered as an official club in September by presidents, seniors Ursula Jongebloed, Annika Roise, Emma Heath, and Valerie Taylor. This past semester, their primary focus has centered around the dress code and how it applies to girls.
 
The clause of the dress code that requires female students to cover a certain amount of their bodies teaches “that a girl is responsible for distracting boys and she should dress in a way that reflects positively on her family, her culture, and that’s her responsibility to make sure that other people are not distracted,” said Jongebloed, “implying that there is something shameful and wrong about bodies.”
 
The M-A Feminists also take issue with how the dress code is currently being enforced. By taking a girl out of class to go home and change in order to avoid a “‘distraction,’ [which] might have caused a male to lose focus for a couple seconds,” said Roise, the code values a male’s education over a female’s.
 
However, while the club is against this “preemptive” enforcement, they made clear that if people dress in a way that causes classmates to lose focus on their studies, it is appropriate for a teacher to report them. “Once it becomes a distraction, [and] it seems people can’t get work done in class, that is the point at which [they] might take action against what someone is wearing,” Jongebloed explained. The presidents made clear that this principle applies not only to girls who dress provocatively but also to students who violate other clauses of the dress code, including bans on clothing displaying gang colors and explicit messages.
 
The Feminist Club’s letter to the administration, received an enormous positive response and broke page view records on the M-A Bear News website.
 
“The Carlmont Feminist Club actually saw the letter and got in touch with us,” said Taylor, and “they’re going to do something similar at their school which is really cool.” After the letter’s publication and its oustanding reception, the presidents decided to consult with Ms. Kennel to further their cause.
 
She agreed with many of their main points but argued that the petition only represented the opinions of the club and thus, a very small group of people, and she asked to see a survey of the opinions of the greater student body. “We didn’t think she was expecting that we’d do it,” said Roise, “but we did.”
 
Earlier this week, the club administered a survey to multiple classes of all grade levels, equating to several hundreds of students, both male and female. Though the responses haven’t yet been tallied, Heath noticed that “a lot of the males crossed out the whole section on ‘How many times have you been dress-coded?’ like it doesn’t apply to them, [showing] the discrepancy between male and female enforcement.”
 
The official results are to be released soon, hopefully by the end of next week, according to the club presidents. Thereafter, the club hopes to appeal again to the administration and accomplish what would be a monumental change in the school’s history.
 
The TEA Talk club plans to continue hosting speakers on the PAC stage, beginning next semester. Reid encourages members of the M-A community who are interested in presenting to contact the club via e-mail.
 
A video of the talk will be published next week as an update on this story and on the M-A Today YouTube channel.