Social Justice Council

Dedicated to social justice at ASL

Rosetta Lee: How to Communicate Diversity

A couple of weeks ago, ASL had the honour of welcoming Rosetta Lee. Lee is a biology teacher at Seattle Girl’s School in Washington State and an expert on Social Justice. On Tuesday, Lee gave a speech in the school centre on the subject of privilege, the day before she had lunch with some of the Social Justice Council on the same subject.

In our discussion, someone asked the question: “How do you stay calm in the face of hostility? When someone makes an ignorant comment, how do you respond to them getting angry when you correct them?”

Lee then said something that I thought was very poignant. When speaking about the popularly labeled “privileged guilt”, Lee explained how that feeling is in fact shame. I can personally testify to this. When I went through the process of recognizing my privilege, I did not feel guilty that I, for example, am of higher socio-economic class than another seventeen year old. I have done nothing (that I am aware of) to prevent anyone else from being in my position. Instead, I feel ashamed, because I’m no more deserving of this position than anyone else, yet here I am.

Lee also explained how people sometimes fight their “shame with shame”. When faced with the fact that you are benefiting from a system through means other than your own merit, one reflex is to try to delegitimize this claim. “I’m not privileged. I may be white, but I’m a teenage girl, so I’m oppressed by ageism and sexism. Therefore, I cannot be benefiting as much as you’re telling me”.

Here’s the thing, privilege is not synonymous with flawlessness. Everyone has problems, that’s just a given. To have privilege isn’t to be sitting on a yacht in the south of France sipping on a Martini. It’s to have one less thing to bear in everyday life. As a white cis (meaning the gender that I identify with matches what I was assigned at birth) female, no one is avoiding being near me on the sidewalk or clutching their bag a little bit tighter. But for others, that happens everyday, and I imagine that it is very tiring.

Towards the end of her presentation, Lee showed us a cycle of social justice advocacy. The last step in the process was to use one’s own privilege to aid the furthering of other people’s progress. I would think for Lee, as well as myself, this is the ideal place for every advocate to eventually get to. I recognise this is hard to do, but the point is that we all try.

Written by : Sydney Martin ('16)

Laura Bates Visits ASL

Laura Bates, the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project and author of "The Everyday Sexism" book as well as a journalist who was featured on the BBC, visited ASL today.

She had spoken to the Gender Equality Group earlier this year. Encouraging them to keep combating sexism in their everyday lives and being more aware of what they were say. Do you insult other girls/women for patriarchally imposed ideologies? Do you recognise that  the media manipulates our perceptions of beauty? Do you cause people to stop and think about what they believe and are saying to others?

Then today, the 10th of March, she spoke to the middle school about gender stereotypes, the portrayal of women in the media, the objectification of the sexes. She asked them to question those double standards that we see in our daily lives. Why is someone saying you throw like a girl a bad thing? Why are some people encouraged to have many partners and others are shamed for it? Why do we only see a singular portrayal of women in the media? Why are emotions viewed as shameful for men? What does it actually mean to "man up"?

During conference time the High School had an assembly where Laura Bates spoke about gender stereotypes, sexual assault, rape, and the meaning of feminism.

She explained that the reason why feminism is called feminism rather than humanism is because 1) humanism is a different concept and 2) the "fem" in feminism acknowledges the historical oppression of women throughout time.

Feminism is simple the belief that all genders should have social, political, and economic equality.

And, in order to include all genders in the discussion of gender equality she explained that gender stereotypes hinder all genders. Men have restraints on how sensitive they are expected to behave and what subjects they are expected to study in or excel in, just like women. The argument that "boys will just be boys" makes little sense. It means that boys are born to exhibit an affinity for sports, sciences, and leadership roles, that minor sexist comments are just jokes, that they aren't perpetuations of sexist ideologies.

She talked about how rape cases should be taken more seriously. More than 1/4th of the UK believes that if someone is drinking they were in some way provoking sexual assault, that 1/3 of the UK believes that if you are flirting with someone "you are asking for it" so to speak.

It is up to us as a society to change those perceptions.

In the cases of sexual assault it is up to us to take a stand, to not turn away and act like what is happening to someone else is not our problem because it is our problem. Some people will say, "Imagine they were your sister, your mother, your cousin, your best friend." But, I would argue that they are a person. It doesn't matter if they are a man, a woman, or anything inbetween.

The fact that they are a person alone should constitutes our respect, and our willingness to step in when we see an injustice.

She also spoke about the topic of rape.

Just be be clear, all cases of rape are the fault of the rapist.

Many people would argue, "well what if they are falsely accused?" The percent for falsely accused rape cases are the same as those of other crimes. We wouldn't hear of a robbery and question if the person "stole from themselves" for tax purposes or insurance or something. And, as for the phrase above all cases of rape are the fault of the rapist because if someone lied, then the person wasn't raped and therefore the person wrongly accused isn't a rapist, so they don't apply to this phrase.

In the Middle School as well as in the High School, and in the rest of the world for that matter, the discussion about gender equality has been running rampid. Laura Bates, as a guest speaker has brought in new ideas and points of reference for this discussion not only in our community but the greater global community that we as individuals are associated with.

By the High School Gender Equality Group bringing in Laura Bates, it has allowed High Schools and Middle Schoolers to take this discussion further. Tomorrow High School representatives from the Gender Equality Group will be facilitating discussion in Middle School advisories around this topic of gender equality, gender stereotypes, safe relationships, okay and not okay teasing, and how to have the confidence to stand up for yourself.

This has been an invaluable experience for the entire school and we hope to have this conversation to continue further. We invite all community members to take part on our online Laura Bates Discussion Forum and if people are in school today to partake in a Gender Equality Group meeting during lunch. All are welcome!


International Women's Day

International Women's Day, the 8th of March, is a day of celebration dedicated to bringing awareness around the accomplishments of women in the past as well as the present but also a day to remind the world of the constant struggle for gender equality around the world.

This year has been marked by a large resurgence of the feminist movement around the globe.

Emma Watson stood up in front of the United Nations and made a speech about the launch of the new campaign "HeForShe" which is a campaign by the UN Women to try and get more men and boys around the globe in on the gender equality conversation. To spread the word that "feminism by definition is the believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." - Emma Watson, UN HeForShe Campaign Speech, 2014.

Beyoncé stood up in front of the world at the VMAs and declared herself a feminist.

President Obama Launched the "It's On Us" Campaign to end sexual assaults. 

It has been through the influence of many feminists throughout the ages that abolition finally took hold in the United States. It has been through the influence of many feminists throughout the ages that women today have the right to vote, have health care, are able to work and make their own income, own property, and more.

However, in countries around the world women still can't go outside without an escort, can't own property, can't vote, can't gain an education, are sold in child marriages, are seen solely for their child bearing ability, are objectified and seen as property. With every passing year we have the ability to change all that.

To implement gender equality around the globe.


Black History Month

Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights activist, once said, "Our nation is a rainbow—red, yellow, brown, black, and white—and we're all precious"

This month we celebrate the lives and accomplishments of Blacks and African Americans throughout history. The Social Justice Council has placed many posters around the school in commemoration of this month of awareness. Additionally last month for Martin Luther King Jr. Day we placed a large poster at the Top Orange staircase and had students complete the phrase, "I stand for...". So that students could reflect on what forms of activism they actively support and believe in.

With key African Americans Historical Figures including:

  • Frederick Douglass: an African American slave who was an important abolitionist.

  • Harriet Tubman was yet another abolitionist and a Union spy, risking her life on many occassion, she is credited with transporting 300+ slaves via the underground railroad to freedom.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. a leader in the African American Civil Rights Movement who famously gave the "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington D.C.

  • Jackie Robinson the first African American to play in Major League Baseball and aid in breaking down segregation in sports.

  • Malcolm X: an African American human rights activist.

  • Rosa Parks: the famous civil rights activist who started the bus boycotts and fought against segregation.

  • Elizabeth Eckford: one of the Little Rock Nine students who would aid in the desegregation of schools in the south, Elizabeth at 15 arrived earlier than scheduled and was named the first student to integrate a white southern high school.

  • Angela Davis: Viewed as a radical social activism in her early years continues to fight the fight to stop oppressions of all kinds throughout the world.
  • Coretta Scott King: a civil rights activist and leader, an author who advocated for African American equality, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s wife.
  • Michael Jackson: A world renowned singer and activist.

Many thanks,


Mental Health

At a recent Unity in Diversity forum on mental health, students and teachers explored mental illness at ASL and beyond. First, the group came up with a list of mental illnesses most prominent in the ASL community, such as depression, eating disorders, and ADHD. For each illness, attendees were to use the whiteboards to respond to four prompts for each illness: symptoms, assumptions/stereotypes, media portrayals, and questions. Following the meeting, I met with the HS counselor, Ms. Oliver, to get the answers to the questions posed by people at the meeting.

What is the brain chemistry behind depression?

There are so many different theories around mental health in general, but what we do know is that factors like genetics, socioeconomic status, racism and poverty combine to make up a huge part of your mental health. We don't always know if one person’s depression is biological or even if it’s caused by one thing in particular, but the important thing for people to know is that depression is treatable and it needs to be treated by a professional; it’s not something that you can will away.

How can I help someone whom I suspect may be going through depression?

Listen to them, friends just want you to listen, they don't want you to solve the problem. They just want you to stay their friend because they probably realize that you can't fix their situation. Listen to them, but make sure that you're setting up boundaries. If they have a serious problem, they need to talk to a professional about it and not use you as their therapist. If someone you know does attend therapy, encourage them to take their therapy seriously, and if they tell you something that seems really important, encourage them to tell their therapist about it. Often times people tell friends these things to test it out and see what someone else says or to see whom they really trust, but they need to address them with a professional. Also, take care of yourself, and maybe talk to someone yourself. It can be really draining to have a friend who is going through depression.

Do external factors (e.g. jobs, climate, season) play a role, or can drugs really “fix” it?

Medications really do work for some people, but there’s no one way to [deal with] depression; sometimes medications don't work for people. External factors, however, 100% contribute to depression. People’s life situations and the way they were raised, for example, play into depression. Also, to answer a part of the first question, season can most definitely play a role in depression; Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subset of depression in which the onset of a depressive episode coincides with a regular time of year and in which full remissions occur at another time of year.

What is body dysmorphia and who has it?

Body dysmorphic disorder is a disorder in which one believes that one’s body is flawed to the point where those thoughts become intrusive, body dysmorphia affects many people. There was a study done a while ago with young women who were shown a picture of their own bodies in minimal attire and were made to wear goggles that they were supposed to adjust until they looked as big as they thought they were through the lenses of the goggles. These women ended up completely over- and under-representing themselves; nobody ever got it exactly right.  Also, Body Dysmorphia is classified under the anxiety disorders, not under the eating disorders.

What are some symptoms of eating disorders?

Some of the signs of eating disorders are suddenly starting to count calories, exercising to burn calories, sudden vegetarianism, excessive running, hiding food, and hoarding food.  Symptoms vary depending on the particular diagnosis.

When do body dysmorphia or eating disorders become issues beyond a general self-deprecating attitude?

Any mental health disorder must affect one of the core areas of functioning: Personal (hygiene, sleep, health, thoughts and feelings), Social (family, friends) and Occupational (School, workplace). However, the thoughts and patterns associated with disordered eating can be problems regardless of whether or not an eating disorder can be formally diagnosed. Some of us engage in disordered eating, but not everyone has an eating disorder. For example, some people view dieting as an eating disorder, as it is aligned with many of the aforementioned signs of eating disorders (e.g. counting calories, excessive exercising).

To what degree is behaviour as a result of eating disorders attributed to conscious decision versus involuntary action elicited strictly by the disorder?

It doesn't really matter, in a sense, because something can consume you even if you feel that it’s involuntary. Involuntary means things like breathing and blinking and heartbeats, whereas an eating disorder is actually a very thoughtful thing. There’s a lot of time and effort put into it. It’s like an addiction; sometimes people with eating disorders know they're not supposed to be doing what they're doing, even when they're in treatment, but it’s so hard not to do it. If a person is suffering it is important to show them compassion and help them in any way we can.

How can I enter a conversation with someone about body dysmorphia or eating disorders?

It can be hard to have these conversations, because people really don't want to talk about it. But first of all, people with eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorders are seeing themselves through a particular type of lens that isn't allowing them to see the reality of their bodies. Your best bet would be to encourage them to tell an adult about it, because anything you say about their body or their eating is going to be met with some type of defense, generally. You are not going to be able to talk someone out of having an eating disorder.

Dominant beliefs around food, body image, and weight contribute to eating disorders. You should challenge these beliefs every single time something negative is brought up, and you should watch the way in which you talk about food and the way in which you talk about your body and other people’s bodies, especially around younger people. These negative patterns can be contagious, so if you have a friend who is experiencing disordered eating, you should talk to someone about it yourself.

Are eating disorders common, or is there something about ASL?

They're very common. There’s nothing about this school that makes them more common. In fact, it’s not really cool anymore to talk about wanting to be skinny or not liking the body that you're in because that’s not what young empowered women do anymore, so people, especially girls, will find a new way to talk about their bodies. They do it under the guise of “health,” but what they actually want is to be thin. It’s the equating of health and thinness that is one of the problems here.

How does one know when to get help about anxiety?

You should always ask someone about it, even if you’re just wondering, even if you just have a question or are having a bad day. People are often worried about going to seek help for a variety of reasons: 1) they won’t be understood 2) they're nervous about talking to a stranger 3) They are worried if they start talking about it, they'll open up the “floodgates” 4) They will be a burden to others.  This is not the case.  Mental health professionals are there to help and they will be understanding of you, even if you don't have a diagnosable disorder, anxiety is a part of living and you might be able to get help on a small scale.


Written by: Angie Kukielski and Ms. Oliver

Edited by: Julia Leland

2nd Meeting Notes



So in todays meeting we covered several topics.

  • The use of the n-word in the ASL community and how to combat the use of such a horrendous slur in our school and in our entire general language use.

  • We discussed body image and commentary and how to work on reminding one another to respect each other, particularly in the case of ones' body.

  • We discussed the possibility of adding a discussion feature to this website so that conversations can be carried out in a safe and neutral environment.

  • Assigning roles for different aspects of the Council:

    • The social justice bulletin board

    • The website

    • This blog

    • Clubs coordinator

  • In addition we also discussed supporting current club projects and we talked about possible future projects.

    • Discussing the growing islamophobia in Europe

    • The loopholes in media/news reporting of current events



Introducing the Social Justice Council

Hello ASL,


We are the Social Justice Council. Our purpose is to discuss and aid in bettering the Social Justice environment in the greater ASL community. One of the Council’s many goals is to create a safe space where difficult topics can be discussed, a safe space where facilitated discussions can take place where we are able to embrace and listen to everyone's opinions.


The Council is made up of a mixture of representatives from all grades and many different clubs such as:

  • Unity in Diversity

  • Middle East Club

  • South Asia Club

  • Gender Equity

  • Gender Sexuality Alliance

  • Latin America Club

  • Seeds of Peace

  • Etc.


We as a Council maintaining such community norms as:

  1. Be fully present.

  2. Speak from the “I” perspective.

  3. Be self-responsible and self-challenging.

  4. Listen, listen, listen, and process.

  5. Lean into discomfort.

  6. Experiment with new behaviours in order to expand your range of response.

  7. Take risks, be raggedy, make some mistakes – and then let go.

  8. Accept conflict and its resolution as a necessary catalyst for learning.

  9. Be comfortable with silence.

  10. Be crisp; say what’s core.

  11. Treat the candidness of others as a gift; honour confidentiality.

  12. Suspend judgment of yourself and of others.


We had our first meeting Friday, November 21, 2015, and have had weekly meetings since then.


This blog will be updated on a weekly basis updating you on discussions and ongoing topics of interest.


The current Council member profile pages can be find on this website. Please feel free to contact any member of the council with concerns or commentary related to social justice.


Wishing you the best,