So Long, Farewell

Seisen News

So Long, Farewell
Cristina Varriale

After three years at Seisen International School, and six years total abroad, I have decided to return to the USA to be closer to my family.  I have very mixed feelings about leaving Seisen, especially at this particular time.  

We are still in the midst of a global pandemic.  Recent studies have already shown a sharp increase in mental health disturbances, particularly with regard to depression and anxiety, in young people.  I know that now more than ever, the wellness and social/emotional/mental health of our students is a top priority.  As someone who has deeply cared for the students of Seisen, I feel extremely guilty leaving at a time when I might be most needed.  Thankfully, I feel comfort in knowing that the teachers, staff, and administrators at Seisen will prioritize the mental well-being of our students, and that they will continue to be deeply cared for.

I am also sorry to be leaving when in the midst of this pandemic, the world has also reached a reckoning in the pursuit of social justice.  The global Black Lives Matter movement has raised awareness of the critical need for justice and equality for our sisters and brothers who have suffered from racial oppression for far too long.  We are all being called to reflect on our own privilege and to question how systems- political, media, and even educational, have perpetuated this oppression. 

As a Catholic school, we have a particular obligation to fight oppression and injustice, and to stand with all our sisters and brothers who are marginalized and disenfranchised, just as Jesus did.  In a recent Time magazine article, Pope Francis is quoted as saying ““We cannot close our eyes to any form of racism or exclusion, while pretending to defend the sacredness of every human life.”   I am so inspired by the students of Seisen International School who have already sprung into action and started a dialogue about anti-racism, including preparing a 50 page document of resources.

In addition to becoming anti-racists, I think it is important to acknowledge the need for allyship to all oppressed communities- including the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants, refugees, people with different physical and mental abilities, people living in poverty, and especially as an all-girls school, women.

As someone who grew up in a white, middle class, suburb of New York, I enjoyed much privilege.  It was not until I had my first job that I began to truly appreciate oppression.  My first job was a youth minister at a local parish.  As with most forms of modern day oppression, the discrimination I faced was not overt.  It came in the form of microaggressions.  For example, as a woman, I was not allowed to proclaim the word of God from the church altar nor was I allowed to administer the Body of Christ unless I was wearing a skirt or dress.  Women were forbidden from wearing dress pants or pant suits.  

When I look back on this, what I feel most angry about isn’t that this rule existed, but that I willingly complied and spoke illy of women who tried to challenge this.  What I recognize now is that I was actually displaying signs of internalized misogyny.  

Internalized misogyny or internalized sexism is when women normalize certain negative beliefs and behaviors, and many times, this manifests into something called “horizontal violence” towards other women.  Normally, this violence isn’t physical, but instead comes in the form of gossip, body shaming, disempowering, and a general feeling of mistrust toward other women.  In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg speaks about how women in leadership positions sometimes push down and disempower other women because they feel there are too few seats at the table.  Though I have compassion for this fear, I strongly believe that women need to be focusing more on building each other up.  As young women, I am calling on each of you to set the example.

The first part of becoming an ally is reflecting on our privilege and our implicit bias.  Our students have done an amazing job of putting together some resources on how to do this through an anti-racist lens.  I would like to leave some resources here on how to do this through an anti-misogynist/anti-sexist lens.  This is just a start, and I would welcome more suggestions and recommendations.

Women and Internalized Misogyny 

What Does Misogyny Look Like? New York Times  article

U.N. Report: 50,000 Women A Year Are Killed By Intimate Partners, Family Members NPR report

Lean In by Cherly Sandberg

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders, Ted Talk by Sheryl Sandberg

“Nanette”, Netflix special with Hannah Gadsby

To my colleagues, the parent community, and most especially, to the students:  please know how much I have enjoyed working with you and learning from you these past three years.  I will miss you all so much, and hope that you remain in touch.  And to say goodbye, I will leave you with a clip from one of my favorite movies.


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