Boys Will Be Boys and Girls Will Be… Blamed
Freshman orientation. My husband and I sit together – never a good idea in situations that require decorum. But… this was for the fifth kid and, quite frankly, we were over it. But my ears perk when the speakers turn their focus on the subject of dating violence. It’s been an issue at this high school, but I have only heard about it in hushed voices. This is the first time officials seem to be addressing the topic in a public forum, so I tune in.
Unfortunately this school official only dances lightly around the topic, and within seconds it was all over.
And then with a big smile the official announces the upcoming Powder Puff game, a charity football game where girls put on sexy makeup and pretend to be “real” football players.
Ha ha ha! Classic comedy.
I wonder if the speakers will make the connection between trivializing women participating in aggressive behavior and trivializing a woman’s free will in an aggressive dating situation?
No, they will not.
Will they address the fact that the condescending name “Powder Puff” infantilizes female athletes, and not taking girls seriously leads to a sense of entitlement over their bodies?
No, they will not.
Will they talk about the way these small messages reinforce an overall culture of institutionalized misogyny?
Oh, most definitely they will not.
So, my I raise my hand. And the conversation goes like this:
Me: “About the Powder Puff games, don’t you think it trivializes —”
Me: “The infantilizing name may lead some to believe —”
Me: “Don’t you think it seems a bit 1950’s —”
Me: “I am concerned —”
Principal: “It’s a great charity and the girls LOVE IT! Next question. You. Go ahead.”
Then next questions make the principal more comfortable, and I go home to write a letter. I send a copy to the superintendent. Shockingly, neither the principal or the superintendent acknowledged my concern.
But don’t worry kids, it gets worse.
A few days later the high school’s police officer (yes, an armed officer who walks the halls of this educational institution, but that is for another blog) gave a talk to the kids about social media and privacy.
“Girls,” he began (because when talking about issues of respect and privacy, it is important to clearly define separate rules for each gender), “don’t take photos and share them. Guys are going to share them. That is just what we do…”
“And boys, don’t send pictures to a girl and then make her mad, because she is just going to share them ”
There it is people. Sound familiar?
Of course it does. This officer had the good sense to put into a few sentences what we are all expected to believe and accept. Girls would not be exploited if they didn’t make themselves so damn exploitable (“Girls, don’t take photos and share them”), and boys (and grown men) can’t help themselves (“that is just what we do”) and it is the fault of girls. Sorry sisters, this is all on you!
As I said in my follow-up letter to the principal and superintendent:
Either way, girls are held responsible for the exploitation of photos exchanged in trust. Boys are given a pass. This is an alarming message coming from an institution concerned about dating violence. Boys are not responsible for their actions, so girls better protect themselves?
Where have we heard this before? I mean, besides EVERYWHERE? Oh, I know. In the recent rape case where a judge told a rape victim “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” Then addressed the rapist “I want you to tell your male friends that they have to be far more gentle with girls, they have to be far more patient and they have to be very careful to protect themselves.”
Let me paraphrase for this disgusting example of a judge:
Girls, if you were not such sluts you would not have all these problems. Boys, girls are cray-cray – you gots to treat them like the irrational, emotional tasmanian devils they are. You know that chick will unleash her evil uterus witch powers on you just as soon as you forget to tell her she is pretty – and then the whole system is stacked against you, so protect yourself you white, privileged male.
To reiterate, these messages are coming from judges and police officers. I do not feel protected or served by either of these men.
Let’s start placing these things in context, friends. Let’s start realizing that dress code drama that is nothing short of humiliation porn and ultra-short rape sentences for white males all contribute to a world where one out of every six American women will be a target for rape in her lifetime. (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence). This alarming statistic does not exist in isolation.
When I pointed this all out to the principal and the superintendent of schools, I received only one response from the principal. He told me the school police officer was only relating his personal experience, so it was all good. I invited him to take the Mangiacotti Test. The Mangiacotti test replaces gender with race into a sentence, and if it feels wrong (and it should almost always feel wrong), DON’T SAY IT.
For example, if you feel uncomfortable saying “Asians will be Asians” – don’t say boys will be boys.
If you feel gross saying “Blacks shouldn’t wear short shorts to school” – don’t say girls shouldn’t wear short shorts to school (when in fact no one should because ass sweat on a seat is gross, regardless of gender).
No matter what this officer’s personal experience is, it is not ok for him to stand in front of a group of young adults and tell them what boys will inevitably do and what girls will inevitably do. Gender has no place in a discussion about dignity and respect because these actions are based on character.
Long story even longer, I pulled my daughter out of that school and she now homeschools. I am not handing over her fierce heart and brilliant mind to an institution guided by a principal who will not listen to or thoughtfully consider the damage they might be doing to young men and women. I will also not stop making “a big deal out of nothing” because trauma is on the line. I will not support subtly degrading messages in events like the Powder Puff games simply because it is tradition.
You know what else was once tradition? Slavery.
And I will keep applying the Mangiacotti Test to conversations that hold any gender references.
I hope you will too.