Hold the Right People Accountable

February 17, 2022

A post made by a fellow female student with 1100+ likes, 1400 comments, and just one tag. A movement led by two students, yet the female core organizer faces the brunt of it. 

At the time of the first controversial post, student Macy Ferenstein tagged herself and her counterpart, Travis Spongberg, who equally organized, publicized, and led the protest against the mask mandate in schools. When a rebuttal to their argument was posted, backlash was dramatically disproportionately targeted towards Ferenstein, placing the majority of responsibility on her.  

Ferenstein herself attributes this to her account being public, which allowed anyone who wanted to see the post to see it regardless of their following status, also allowing them to share it. This is how her Instagram story, which was originally supposed to only remain up for 24 hours,  spread like wildfire across social media platforms. Meanwhile, Spongberg’s account, and all the publicity for the movement he was posting, was kept private.

Ferenstein quickly went private after being met with attacks and threats. Even so, she continues to face the brunt of the negative response, on all social media platforms. While Spongberg himself has wrongfully received several threats and has been a target of online hostility, Ferenstein has been made the face of the movement in the eyes of the public.

It is important that we begin to internally recognize our own biases, and hold the proper people accountable, including ourselves, for preserving and creating an environment which cultivates the hatred and polarization both parties strive to end,”

This situation reflects many others in which women are held to a dramatically different standard than men. In some cases, regardless of how insignificant or how notable, the problem is the woman.

Sexism in politics can have the effect of discouraging women from organizing campaigns and protests to further their political views. Research suggests that male political candidates are far less likely than female candidates to be referenced by their gender, because men are accepted as the norm within politics. 

Focusing on a female activist or candidate’s style and personal attributes ignores their substance and leadership abilities. Media coverage and public commentary on women in politics often includes sexist language which reinforces gender stereotypes. 

Ironically, much of the hatred comes from other young girls. Women who would normally argue on the existence of sexism carried out by men are now carrying it out themselves. To perpetuate this hatred starting at the high school level can be damaging for young women exploring political activism, especially when the hostility comes from another woman.

By no means do we argue that hatred should be directed toward both core organizers, because respectful discourse leaves no room for hatred. Rather, it is important that we begin to internally recognize our own biases, and hold the proper people accountable, including ourselves, for preserving and creating an environment which cultivates the hatred and polarization both parties strive to end.

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