TW: mentions of sexual assault and rape culture
So any self-proclaimed teenage feminist knows school is a cesspool of sexism. From irritating boys to haughty teachers, we face sexist comments and uncomfortable situations all the time.
For example, I just started my third year of high school on August 9th, and I was extremely disappointed to find that I’d been placed in the physics class of a notoriously sexist, racist, epitome-of-white-privilege teacher, who we’ll call Mr. M. I was wary, but open-minded, because I like to form my own opinions of people based on my personal experience. The first two days went great. He seemed like a chill teacher, no obvious red flags. A little nutty, but aren’t all teachers?
Then Friday came. And boy, was I wrong.
The entirety of the first week at my school is dedicated to teaching the ethical behavior and values that are considered important to being a good student on campus. On Friday, Mr. M went through the lesson on cyber-bullying, with all the typical lectures on not sending nudes, saying rude things online, and hurting people through the internet. Then, the topic of people taking your picture without your permission came up. He proposed a situation, where someone snaps a picture of a girl wearing something that is “pushing the dress code”, (Red flag # 1 – the concept of the dress code is inherently sexist.), and spreads it with rude comments attached. The girl with the supposedly “provocative” clothing is upset over how she looks in the picture, (his implication being that she thinks she looks like a h*e”), and gets angry. Mr. M then proceeds to say that the only way to take control of that situation is to not “push” the dress code in the first place.
First of all, there are multiple things that are unrealistic about his imaginary situation. If the girl is wearing something that is not “dress code appropriate” to school, she is already aware that people will see her, because school is a public place. Never mind if you believe in dress codes or not.
Logically, why would she be upset about the “implication of her clothing” when she made the choice to wear that to a public place?
Another obviously foolish allegation made here was that the cyberbully wasn’t really at fault. Why would you blame the victim? The girl whose photo was taken without her permission, and subsequently was the subject of rude comments and bullying, is the victim. She shouldn’t have to get dressed in the morning for school with the threat of someone doing something inappropriate to her. What’s next? She wears something with bra straps showing and just expect a boy to snap her straps? She should just expect people to treat her poorly? What kind of school teaches their students to just expect bullying? Isn’t that what rape culture is? Just telling people to expect sexual assault or r*pe?
So what’s an appropriate response to a situation like this? My immediate response was to argue. Other people started snickering and smirking. I think, realistically, if you’re not willing to speak up for what you believe in, you don’t believe in it strongly enough. But it also makes sense that high schoolers aren’t always headstrong and usually care about what people think about them, and/or don’t want to ruin their relationship with a teacher. And that’s understandable. I think the alternative response to speaking up and respectfully disagreeing with your teacher would be to reach out to administrators and/or teachers through email who will understand the situation and advise you on how to respond. You can also speak out to others through social media and other mediums. There are various ways to make sure that these incorrect ethics aren’t spread through the mouths of ignorant teachers. Remember that you are not alone in these experiences, and that staff members, especially women, (take the comma section out) will usually be understanding of your perspective.
Situations like this will always make you feel helpless. But remember that even though you’re a young woman, you’re a strong young woman. You can speak up for yourself. You do have a voice. Feminism is all about using that voice.