Mother, daughter look at feminism

(Photo by Hannah Shirley) Michele and Mary Shalaby.

This story is part of our Women’s History Month series.

SHEFFIELD — For Michele Shalaby, 48, and her daughter Mary, 16, Women’s History Month means two slightly different things.

Mary, a junior at Mount Everett Regional High School who’s currently studying the way women stepped up during World War II in her advanced U.S. history class, said she thinks of it as a time to look back at how far women have come and to think about where they’re going.
For Michele, it’s a time to be more reflective on how her own experiences have shaped her.

“When I was Mary’s age, I would not have called myself a feminist,” Michele said.

Michele’s background is in business, and she is the current chair of the New Marlborough Select Board. In addition to her elected position, she is the volunteer coordinator and human resources manager for Volunteers in Medicine, and also does costume work for the Mount Everett theater department. Previously, she has sat on the Eagle Fund Board, the Flying Cloud Institute Board and the New Marlborough Cultural Council.

As a businessperson, Michele said she saw firsthand the difference in the way women were treated and the opportunities they had, and once she got into government, she noticed it even more.

She said there’s no particular instance that comes to mind – rather, she said when she’s on a board, questions might be directed toward the man in the room, or in newspaper articles, a man might be quoted more often than a woman.

“It’s much more subtle, and if we’re not looking for it, we might not even notice it,” she said.

Mary has heard stories like her mother’s about sexism and misogyny — she thinks they’re horrible, but she said she personally has never experienced anything like it.

“I’ve never felt oppressed,” she said, crediting that to the fact that she’s grown up in a community where everyone knows everyone. “I’ve grown up in a different time than she has.”

Mary isn’t sure what field she wants to go into yet. She’s interested in economics and philosophy, and thinks she may like to take on a career in business or politics. At school, she sings in several choruses and is active in theater, Model United Nations, and the Mount Everett Mixed Radio station. She’s been in student government since seventh grade and is now in her second year as the school committee representative. Previously, she served as the student council president and vice president. She’s also a member of the National Honors Society and on the prom committee.

Like many of her friends, Mary said she doesn’t constantly consider the fact that she’s a woman as she navigates the world.

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