Gender role equality: RHS senior intern raises awareness

For most Ridgefield High School seniors, the month of June is synonymous with prom, graduation, and summer plans.

But for Cara MacKenzie, it’s been all about raising awareness on gender roles.

The RHS senior, who is treasurer of the school’s Action for Gender Equality club, has been working as an intern at the Women’s Center in Danbury this spring, and is getting ready to host a panel discussion at the Ridgefield Library Tuesday, May 13 at 7 p.m.

“I was thinking that I might go into social work and I am really into feminism,” she told The Press this week. “I’m super vocal and that’s what I’m interested in. I am an activist for gender equality so I thought maybe I should get into contact with the women’s center. I actually had a friend refer me, I had a phone interview with my direct supervisor and then got the internship the following week.”

MacKenzie wasn’t always a self-proclaimed feminist.

She said in middle school she realized that being a girl meant that people expected her to act and speak a certain type of way, and she did not like that.

She also opposed the gender-related insults used by her peers in the hallways and in classrooms.

“The idea that you insult a man’s masculinity by making him feel feminine, and that’s bad, what message is that sending to girls?” MacKenzie said. “Saying a boy ‘throws like a girl’ should not be an insult if girls could equally be as strong as boys.”

New friends

Entering high school, she befriended students with similar feelings about gender equality and started to become more involved in the community.

“It seemed very simple,” she said. “Women deserve the same rights and, as I got older, I learned more about the types of gender roles that are in play here in Ridgefield.”

Part of her senior year internship at the Women’s Center is mediating the panel next week.

The discussion will feature a representative from the center, a fellow RHS student, a teacher from the high school, and a professor from Western Connecticut State University.

MacKenzie hopes that the variety of perspectives on her panel will help start a conversation in Ridgefield about gender roles and equality.

“I just want to raise the awareness here in town and also bring attention to the women’s center because a lot of people don't know it’s there and it is filled with amazing services.”