Fountain Valley High sophomore Isabelle Abbott had been seething, ever since she spotted a crudely sketched – and, she believed, crudely stated – poster intended as a humorous barb at Battle for the Bell rival Edison High.
Decorated with a hand-drawn stubbly leg, the poster read: “Edison Girls Don’t Shave.”
“Why should women have to shave?” Abbott, 15, remembered thinking when she saw the poster Monday. “It’s not a requirement. Hair is natural. This is a form of body-shaming.”
Abbott asked her friends involved in school government to share her disgust with Associated Student Body (ASB) members, who are in charge of festooning the hallways with spirited messages for Battle for the Bell week, when excitement rages about the football showdown with Edison that takes place tonight.
Yet the poster stayed put.
On Tuesday, Abbott decided to take matters into her own hands. During lunch break, she ripped down the poster while a friend filmed her display of anarchy. The video went viral – at least at Fountain Valley High – when another buddy posted it on Twitter.
— care (@carolinedevitaa) October 27, 2015
Soon, everyone was talking about Abbott’s deed – and everyone had opinions, pro and con. Teachers held classroom discussions about how the situation might have been handled better from everyone’s standpoint.
“I think what she did was too extreme,” said senior Michael Mac. “That poster has been recycled for years and no one has complained before.”
Brandon Luong, a junior, didn’t get the joke: “It’s not witty or creative. It’s just stupid.”
Kristie Hoang, a senior, expressed mixed feelings: “I commend her for speaking her mind, but she went about it the wrong way. I didn’t find the sign offensive, and I’m usually the first one getting vocal about women’s issues.”
Abbott, a good student who is not in the habit of making waves, remains confident that her defiance was justified – despite negative and even rude comments on social media.
“People I don’t know walk up and give me a high five,” she said. “I’m really happy I did what I did.”
The poster minimized all females, not just Edison girls, she said.
“I hope the school will be more careful about these posters in the future,’’ Abbott said.
That’s a good bet, said Fountain Valley High Principal Morgan Smith, who had not seen the poster.
“While I wish the student had gone directly to the ASB rather than complaining through a third party, I absolutely understand her concern,” he said. “We need to be empathetic and see things through all people’s perspectives.”
Abbott’s mother, Maribel Moran, said her first reaction was worry when she learned about her daughter’s act of rebellion.
“I thought, ‘Oh, no, they’re going to reprimand her.’” she said. “But I am proud of her. I have a little activist!”
Morgan said administrators have not even considered punishment.
“This has been a teaching moment for all of us,” he said.
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