Board of Selectivity?

The Unspoken Selectivity of the Scituate Board of Selectmen

Emma Golden, Managing Editor

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In this day and age, the idea of feminism and gender-neutrality are volatile topics, often generalized and militarized to the most extremist core in passing reference or conversation. These broad and encompassing titles are often damaging to the public perception of such issues, however. Feminism, simply put, is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Far too often this basic request for singular equality is lost in the pizazz and extravagance of radical groups.

The unfortunate new-age face of feminism has become a man-abhorring, no-bra-wearing, crazed woman. It is these rare extremists, these secular, radical parties that have incited the “feminazi” brand and have ultimately gifted upon feminists everywhere a general societal disgust. As women and men alike fight for the simplest sense of equality, a predisposition in the masses, long fostered by an ill-educated society that wields the label “feminist,” not as a title but as an insult, prevents much forward progress.

How, then, can feminists find a way to perpetuate their sentiments and enact change without projecting an extremist image? Mr. Matthew Mulder, a substitute teacher in the Scituate Public School system, has proposed one solution: change the title of the Board of Selectmen. Mulder pointed out that “about twenty towns” in the greater Boston area have transitioned from the title “Board of Selectmen,” which inadvertently excludes women, and instead replaced it with the more modern and gender-neutral “Select Board.” In addition, Mulder would like to add the title “selectwoman” to include all current and future female members of the Board.

Although the change seems small, SHS junior Anna Svensson spoke about the importance of female representation in positions of power as well as the antiquated system of gender hierarchy still present in modern society. Svensson stated that having a title for a selectman but not a selectwoman “just continues to enforce the stereotype that women shouldn’t be in positions of power and that if [we] changed it, that would be really beneficial for kids.”

Mulder specifically approached Scituate High School’s newly founded Feminism Club to help him spearhead the proposal. Senior Genna Goodman, the club’s founder, stated her excitement and willingness to embark on the venture with Mulder. She believes that the title “should be gender-neutral so that nobody is offended, and everyone is regarded as being on the same level.”

Senior Shannon Donahue also expressed interest in getting more involved in town affairs. She believes that the club’s involvement in town affairs can act as a platform for further awareness about feminism and its true messages. She stated, “Our parent’s generation is teaching us about feminism, and their stance on it is definitely skewed. It’s important to start from the beginning and make sure everyone has all the facts before they start making judgments.”

Junior Callie Moos is another member of the Feminism Club who feels that working with Mulder to change the Board title is indicative of a more relevant message. Moos said, “You learn a lot of your views from your parents, especially those that are more bigoted. It’s important to educate different generations and not just the people in our school about feminism so that people aren’t just blindly raising their kids to follow something that isn’t true.” Moos, along with many other members of the club, see their involvement with the title change as a chance to educate Scituate on the positive role feminism can play in the local community.

Maura Curran is currently the only female member of Scituate’s Board of Selectmen. When asked about her experiences as the only female on the Board, Curran stated, “I don’t really view myself differently, nor am I treated differently. I think my personal experience and local experience on several boards in the town over the years sets me apart more than being a woman does.” Curran also revealed that the idea of changing the title has never been breached, although she is open to the change because “the term Selectmen does not really represent the body of government anymore.”

Despite the obvious benefits the change poses, there are downsides to consider, too. As Curran pointed out, the change is not a priority in town politics, and it would require a year-long Charter review, for which citizens need to volunteer. SHS sophomore Avery Carriuolo also noted, “A lot of people in Scituate are raised on tradition and so by [the title] being changed, it’s breaking tradition and people might be opposed to that.”

Breaking of tradition and need for manpower aside, the changing of the title of the Board of Selectmen is representative of something larger than a high school club petitioning for town advancement. It represents a chance for education, a chance to break down stereotypical barriers, and a change for true feminism to dispel its often unfavorable characterization.

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Board of Selectivity?