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A school’s decision to airbrush the word “feminist” off a student’s T-shirt in an official class photo has sparked outrage online.
Sophie Thomas, an eighth-grader at Clermont Northeastern Middle School in Batavia, Ohio, wore the shirt when her class photo was taken in March, but she said she was shocked this week to learn the word on her top was removed via Photoshop in the final version.
“I was in class and they were passing out the photos to those who ordered them, and my friend got one so I looked at it so make sure I wasn’t making a dumb face or anything,” Thomas told TODAY.com, saying that’s when she realized the word “feminist” was missing from her black shirt.
“I was upset,” she added. “I went to the principal’s office and she told me she blacked it out because it’s offensive to some people.”
The school said it made that decision only after contacting Thomas and her mother.
“It was not a very good picture,” Ralph Shell, superintendent of the Clermont Northeastern School District told TODAY.com. “The parents were contacted, the young lady was contacted, it was agreed to take the thing off.”
“They said it was OK to remove it,” he added. “The principal said, ‘If you want the original with that on there, you’re more than welcome to have it. But the one that’s going up on the wall is the picture without it.’ The principal met with the mother and daughter face to face here at the school.”
But Thomas and her mother say that’s not how it happened. Christine Thomas, Sophie’s mother, told TODAY.com she only met with the school’s principal after her daughter saw the edited class photo.
“They didn’t contact us before,” she said. “It’s upsetting. It’s been an interesting week.”
But she added that she’s proud of how her daughter handled the situation when meeting with the principal.
“[The principal] apologized and said, ‘What do you want from this?’ And Sophie said, ‘I’d like to help more people understand what feminism is and why we need it,’” Christine said.
Michael McIntire of Glutz-McIntire Photography in Cincinnati, who took the photo, said that Sophie’s family is welcome to order the unedited version. He added that he occasionally makes noticeable edits to school photos, like removing hand gestures.
“If someone is flipping off the camera, that’s not suitable,” McIntire said.
But as soon as the Internet caught wind of the edit, support mounted for Thomas, who says she just wants people to understand what feminism really means.
“People around here misconstrue the word,” she said. “Like, ‘Oh, you’re a feminist so you hate men.’ I just want to spread equality, and a lot of people here don’t agree with me.”