CAPE ELIZABETH — Hadley Britt isn’t afraid to stand up for her beliefs, even if it means publicly challenging a presidential candidate.
“Ms. Fiorina, how do you call yourself a feminist if you are taking away my basic right as a woman to choose what to do with my body?” the Cape Elizabeth High School senior asked Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina at the New Hampshire Primary Student Convention last week.
Britt, 17, received 16 seconds of applause, according to the Boston Globe, after she posed the question.
“I wasn’t too worried, but I figured it’d either get a really positive or really negative response,” Britt said this week. “It was about 50/50.”
Britt attended the convention, hosted Jan. 4-6 by New England College at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, with the AP government class taught by Ted Jordan. Jordan usually takes the class to Washington, D.C., each year, but decided to take the group of 46 seniors to the convention instead.
Around 500 students, mostly college students from around New England, attended the convention, according to Jordan. Over the three days, students heard almost every presidential candidate speak and were able to ask them questions.
“It was great for the students to ask questions and hear answers without the filter of the media,” Jordan said.
He said he was very proud of his students and impressed by the questions they asked. Britt said she tried to ask each candidate a question, but the one she asked Fiorina was the most controversial.
“I was met with a lot of eye rolling,” she said. “A couple of kids were like, ‘Hadley’s at it again.'”
Students from other schools were even harsher. Britt said one group approached her and asked why she is pro-choice and why she supports “killing babies.”
She said everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, and it only becomes a problem when others want to use their beliefs to take away the rights of others.
“I don’t care what you do, I just want that choice,” Britt said.
She also said many young women thanked her for saying what they were too nervous to ask.
“It was really reassuring to know there are these people with the same views and goals as me and I was able to speak up for them,” Britt said.
Britt also engaged Fiorina when they briefly met after the convention, and Fiorina told her she is pro-life because her husband was almost aborted as a fetus. On her website, Fiorina says she is pro-life and, if elected president, would want to ban abortions and defund Planned Parenthood.
Britt said Fiorina’s personal experience shouldn’t be a reason to take away someone else’s rights, and that this didn’t answer her original question. Fiorina also didn’t directly answer the question about being a feminist when Britt first asked it. The candidate told Britt and the crowd that women “have that right realistically.”
“She didn’t say the word ‘feminist’ once,” Britt said. “It seemed like she gave a copy-and-paste answer. It was very indirect, very political.”
Britt, however, has been using the word “feminist” for some time.
“I’ve definitely called myself a feminist since third or fourth grade, when I first learned what the word meant,” she said.
She said her views and outspoken ways have given her a reputation in school, but she doesn’t mind.
“A lot of people would say I was loud and obnoxious, but I would try to channel that into something positive,” Britt said.
Being educated and understanding the issues she cares about is important, she said, and it’s starting to change the way people perceive her.
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better reactions from kids and adults,” she said. “It’s not, ‘Oh, she’s talking,’ it’s ‘She knows what she’s talking about.'”
Britt, who will turn 18 in time to vote in the November elections, said she will continue to educate herself on the all the candidates. Although she said she’s “kind of torn” on who to vote for, she will be voting as a Democrat and wants “to see a woman president so badly.”
Britt said she wants to attend debates and possibly get involved in campaigning over the coming months. She said every young person should vote, and it’s more important now than ever.
“I think the whole millennial generation is the first generation to face all of these new issues,” she said. “I think we have a lot of pretty pivotal decisions to make.”
Cape Elizabeth High School senior Hadley Britt received compliments and criticism after asking Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina a question about feminism and women’s rights at the New Hampshire Primary Student Convention last week.