Trying to maintain an inclusive student body

Su Jin Nam

“Harvard-Westlake strives to be a diverse and inclusive community united by the joyful pursuit of educational excellence, living and learning with integrity, and purpose beyond ourselves.”

We’ve heard these words of the mission statement many times from President Rick Commons, enough for the student body to make jokes about it, because most of us feel that those words are already a reality. And most of the time, we follow them.

Most of the time, Harvard-Westlake lives up to the goals Commons has set before us. However, recently, there has been an alarming number of people who recoil at any discussion related to feminism.

What disturbs us the most is not that people don’t believe in feminism. It’s more so the extremely aggressive and hostile reaction to the very idea of feminism.

The political climate on campus is fairly liberal, and Harvard-Westlake promotes a community that is open to student ideas and encourages us to speak our mind. At the same time, we’re expected to respect and listen to each other’s opinions.

Recently, more and more people in our community are identifying as feminists. However, it seems that many people immediately forget our values of respect and open-mindedness when confronted with feminism. Women who do speak up are attacked with a tirade of insults such as “bitch,” “self-righteous,” “man-hater,” “dyke” and “feminazi.”

Women’s rights advocates are considered so terrible by some on campus, that they are compared to racist, fascist, anti-Semitic mass murderers.

Men who identify as feminists aren’t taken seriously and are regarded as effeminate or some kind of traitor to the pack. This denunciation violates the expectations we should have for each other about a purpose beyond ourselves.

Feminist men are assumed to believe in the movement with the motive to attract girls. If they truly believe in feminist values, they are labeled by their peers as “gay,” or “having a mangina.” And we wonder why more guys aren’t feminists.

These kinds of disrespectful and close-minded attacks on feminists only discourage the kind of healthy discussion that our school tries to promote. There are strong people who are unaffected by these insults and will continue to assert their beliefs.

However, not all people possess that type of unrelenting strength. If you call someone a “bitch” every time they try to speak their mind, they will eventually lose the courage to express their thoughts.

When they see others being abused into silence, those who share the same opinions tend to live in fear and are unable to speak up. Before you degradingly label someone else’s beliefs, remember that your words and actions have an impact on the people around you. You have to remember that you have the ability to tear down the concept of respect that our community is built on.

We aren’t asking you to identify as feminist. All that we hope is that when you meet a feminist, you will listen to them and their experiences with an open mind and make the genuine effort to understand their points of view.  And even if you do end up disagreeing, you can do so respectfully, in an educated manner, without insulting or belittling their beliefs.

Harvard-Westlake is proud of its inclusive community, and we hope feminists do not become the one exception.