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Author Rachel Cisto

Guest post: Why I need feminism

By Rachel Cisto

I am a feminist.

I’ve never said that out loud. It’s not because feminism is a new, radical idea. I’ve never labeled myself as a feminist because these days, just the word “feminist” elicits whispers and strange looks from women, or jokes and cries of ‘man-hater!’ from men.

Which I find quite strange, since the dictionary definition of feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal opportunities.” People are shaming me for wanting to be treated like an equal? Men think I hate them because I want to be treated the same? Most of the issues I find are from people who don’t seem to understand that.

Author Rachel Cisto

Rachel Cisto

And it’s those reasons that make me a feminist. I need feminism. Women like me need feminism.

I need feminism because my male coworkers will get viewer emails talking about the stories they cover…and mine will say “your hair looked horrible” or “honey, you need a stylist”.

I need feminism because the public will base their evaluations of me not on my journalistic ethics or the way I cover my stories, but on the fact that I’m not a size 0 – and society is 100% okay with that.

I need feminism because I’ve overheard boys at my sister’s — co-ed — sports games muttering something about how it was so wrong that she won…instead of the boys.

I need it because I’ll do the same job as my colleague at the desk next to me…for a dollar less. And I’ll get a dollar less not because I’m bad at my job, but because my colleague is a man.

I need it because the last time my family bought a car, the salesman shooed 18-year-old me away when I tried to argue about an unfair price by saying “It’s your daddy’s car, sweetheart. Why don’t you let the adults talk? I think there’s some girly magazines in the front lobby.” That same salesman, later in the ordeal, told my mom that “the men didn’t need her opinion”.

I need it because I’ve met politicians and sources who look down on me because I’m a young woman, as if my gender will affect the way I write my story. One of them even wrote me back after they saw the finished piece to say “you did that pretty well, for a girl.”


I need it because the dress code for women is often more strict than the one for men.

I need it because when I moved from rural New Hampshire to Hartford, the first thing anyone asked me was if I was going to start carrying pepper spray. Or if I was going to take self-defense classes. And someone taught me how to hold my keys like a weapon. Someone else shamed me for not being afraid of the city at night.

But, trust me, feminism isn’t all about women either.

MEN need it because almost every insult you can think of has something to do with their masculinity. “You throw like a girl.” “Look at that girly-man wearing pink.”

Even when men are body-shamed, it’s done by comparing them to women. They’re made fun of for having “man-boobs”, as if having them connected to women in any way makes them less of a man. They say it as if being a girl is degrading.

It’s not about being “better” than men. It’s not about taking the world from them, or making women superior, and it’s certainly not about hating them.

It’s about treating everyone with respect. It’s all about being equals.

(Originally published in The Hartford Courant).

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Rachel Cisto, of Weare, N.H., is a senior at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Conn., majoring in journalism and minoring in politics and government. She is a reporter for the University’s Student Television Network, the Campus Correspondent and editor-in-chief of Her Campus Hartford, and a mentor for FIRST Robotics Team 1922, from John Stark Regional and Hopkinton High School.


Why we’re thankful all year

With so much unrest in the world today, at times it is hard to see that there is clearly still so much to be thankful for.

As a little kid, my dad showed me, by example, that dedicating your career to helping others makes for an extremely fulfilling life; my mom showed me that it was important to always be there for my brothers and me; my babysitter (who was more of a grandmother to us) taught me about unconditional love (and also that I needed my butt kicked once in a while!) I’m not sure any of us can ever fully comprehend how significant these roles are in our development. But I do feel that working with young girls who struggle with abandonment has opened my eyes in ways that inspire me to fight hard for these young girls.

As a young adult I had the good fortune to stumble upon a little girl who most would consider pretty abandoned. Fast forward many years and now I can look back and realize that this relationship not only fulfilled my life in ways I could have never imagined, but it mapped out the course for my dream job of empowering as many young girls as possible through building.

It takes a great deal of revenue, dedication and time to keep Girls at Work, Inc. operating, but more importantly, it takes a group of committed individuals to help our organization grow to extend the reach to many more.

Today I am extremely thankful to have a committed and talented group of individuals who see the true value in our mission of watching girls grow as we empower them through building, taking them far out of their comfort zone. Because of the skill and dedication of everyone from our Advisory Team to our Board of Directors to our many volunteers, our momentum is now stronger than ever before.

Because of these folks, we just celebrated our most successful Musicfest yet! In the beautiful auditorium at the Art Institute, filled with our individual supporters as well as our business sponsors, Common Man, Gabi’s Smoke Shack, Molloy Sound and Video,  Charles Schwabb and Mike Bonacorsi, there was no denying the energy was magical. And as always, a wonderful selection of musicians managed by our dear Chelsea Berry filled the room with wonderful music that featured our “star builder gone musician” Ava Liponis who left people speechless! An incredible bonus to our event this year was not only the appearance of Governor Maggie Hassan, but the time she took to speak on behalf of the work that we do. How wonderful to have support from a Governor who truly cares about our youth and is willing to share her time with us on such a special night.

I am also extremely thankful to all of the organizations that work tirelessly to raise additional funds to support a partnership with us. With so many nonprofits operating on a shoestring budget, yet doing such critical work, we are proud to continue to join forces with such wonderful organizations as Child and Family Services, Circle Program and our newest partner Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Manchester, just to name a few. We are also very excited about our new after-school partnerships. Together we really do accomplish more.

So if you don’t have a young person in your life who is in a better place because you believe in them… Stop. Look. Listen. I would be willing to bet you would not have to look far to find one.

Wishing you all a cozy and warm season of giving.


Showing strength

Girls Leadership Camp at Kimball Union Academy, led by the amazing Brooklyn Raney, is one of the wonderful organizations with which we partner in New England.  The program is designed to promote assertive self-expression, teach important life skills, allow girls to practice leadership in a variety of settings, and inspire them to reach their full potential.

This week at GLC we worked with three different groups of girls; each group built a different project. Most of the girls were first-time builders; those who had built with us last year were excited to tap into the skills they had uncovered last summer.

Teaching girls how to use power tools safely and trusting them with power tools gives them an opportunity to live up to that trust. It is so powerful for both teachers and students to see the transformation. Not only do the girls get the opportunity to challenge their own beliefs about what they are capable of, they are also challenged to trust themselves. Our second group of builders was a good example: As they completed constructing the garden benches, they began to cheer and “high five” each other. But they didn’t sit on the benches. When we suggested they sit down on the benches they had just built, it was amazing to see how quickly their self-doubts surfaced. Sure, they learned how to use all those power tools, overcame a lot of fear and shattered some stereotypes in the process, but to sit on something they built? Internally, they were worried: Would the benches actually support some weight?

Then, our first young builder sat on the bench she had built with her partner. She and all of the other builders were so awed to see it support both of them. Their disbelief was shattered when she yelled, “You guys, they’re ‘sitonable.’” That’s a direct quote!

The time we spent watching those girls grow through building was priceless. We tip our (hard) hats to Brooke and all of the other wonderful women out there creating environments for our girls that allow them to tap into their true powerful potential.

Girls at Work, Inc. is a non-profit organization that offers our services to organizations that work with girls from group homes, low-income families, with incarcerated parents or parents in rehab. (While our focus is at-risk girls we don’t turn anyone away.)  We also work to build partnerships with youth organizations that focus on girls at risk. We rely on funding and sponsorships to help subsidize the cost of our program. Please consider donating to our cause!