Paris Courtney, one of my daughter's friends since kindergarten, from when Paris still combed her hair with a stuffed snake, is finishing up her senior year in high school doing the wow-is-this-way-too-much-work International Baccalaureate program.
Her required senior project includes a poster of the Webster's definition of the word feminist, "A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes."
“I thought, that’s a pretty neutral standpoint,” said the artist.
But this definition turns out to be so controversial her principal, in Portland, Oregon, the bastion of liberalism, won't let her display the poster at her school.
Principal Mark Neffendorf finds the posters, "disruptive" and "subjective."
Because dictionary definitions are like that.
Like the American flag, the word feminist has been culturally appropriated, the word is now so loaded we can't even use it, or even its definition.
We get upset when ravers wear war bonnets, not understanding the meaning behind the symbol. The appropriation of the word feminist, the word being twisted and deformed until its very definition can't be displayed in a hall of education, is just as egregious an abuse.
What kind of education system does this? What kind of educator says, "I don't want you to learn the meaning of a word?" And if that word is loaded with cultural significance, what an opportunity to investigate the phenomenon.
Maybe through art, the perfect forum for exploring meaning.
Being a feminist has been maligned as a wish for selfish fulfillment by female professionals. But it's those who have the least who gain the most. We must stand up for them. Paris's principal must stand up for them.
Does he think female genital mutilation, sex slavery, unequal pay, access to contraception, domestic violence and access to education worldwide aren't issues? Does he not fear that his senior girls might be raped next year in college, but doesn't have to worry about that with the boys?
And if this principal gets fired, it won't be a statement on his entire sex's capabilities.
If Paris were a boy, studies show that she would have gotten more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often. I hope with this incident, she gets the attention she deserves.
"Feminism, the radical notion that women are people." said Dame Rebecca West.
Portland, Oregon, 2014. The word feminist is still radical.