BU student publishes article to encourage all ‘force ripe’ girls

December 23, 2021

Brandon University (BU) student Amanda Hutchinson is helping to lead the way for a new generation of Sheroes.

A Sociology major at BU, Hutchinson had the opportunity this year to have her writing featured by the Caribbean Sheroes Initiative. Hutchinson’s essay was published in a toolkit produced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote gender equity.

Hutchinson modestly describes her involvement in the project as a “pure series of accidents.”

A woman smiles

Amanda Hutchinson’s article, The Positive Power of a Force Ripe Girl, has been published by UNESCO in a toolkit to promote gender equity in the Caribbean.

“The person who led the project is my aunt, who does a lot of civic work and is a published author in Jamaica,” said Hutchinson. “I’d previously done some newspaper work locally at the Jamaica Observer, have been published in online magazines and had done a bit of work with the Brandon Sun, and she really liked my writing. I knew relatively little about the size of the project, but I was honoured to have been able to work with so many women who were advocates for gender equality within Caribbean society.”

Hutchinson wrote the article The Positive Power of a Force Ripe Girl based on her childhood growing up in Jamaica. She described how the term ‘force ripe’ was used as a derisive term to describe girls whose boldness of expression stepped out of societal norms. In Hutchinson’s case it was a fondness for bright-red lipstick as a child that caused her to be shamed by others. Hutchinson wrote that leaving her home to study in Canada helped her realize that being force ripe should actually be viewed as a badge of honour, allowing her the confidence to grow and embrace challenges in her life.

“Moving away from Jamaica was honestly a blessing and a curse,” Hutchinson said. “As much as I was homesick and experienced loss and tragedy being away from home. I was able to grow, explore mental health through BU and ask questions I’d never been able to ask back home. This piece was met with a mixture of praise and expected criticism. Still, leaving I got to realize that these cultural norms that place restrictions on women’s behaviour aren’t real. They don’t exist.”

Hutchinson is working toward graduation from BU with her Honours degree in the spring of 2022, and she’s still considering what her future holds. But, inspired by her experience at BU, and a high school teacher in Jamaica who instilled a love of theory writing, Hutchinson is thinking about becoming a sociology professor herself.

“I wear my culture on my sleeve so to speak,” Hutchinson said. “Being able to discuss the way that cultural narratives impact how young women are able to express themselves is so important to me. This project was purely independent of BU, but I took knowledge from Gender and Women’s Studies, specifically what I’d learned from Professor Corinne Mason, for this piece. It is stressful to grow up walking on the tight rope of what is acceptable behaviour for a young lady. Dr. Mason gave me the space to question why that was the case in my assignments for her classes.”

The toolkit can be read online at: en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/caribbean_sheroes_initiative_knowledge_tool_kit_202106012.pdf.