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The Root of Violence Against Women
Sexual Harassment brought down Herman Cain
We treat boys and girls differently
I am the advisor for the newspaper at the high school where I teach. We had trouble publishing our first issue and it finally came out today. I gave it to our administration at lunchtime. When my fifth period journalism class came in we started getting it ready to be distributed. We were almost done, and had distributed several of the papers when I got a call to stop distribution and come to the Principal’s conference room.
This is my first year and most of my staff are junior and senior females. I have two males on my staff. The rest of them are women and all are Latina with just one African American. They constantly complain about the way boys treat them on campus and the fact that they feel that the staff, in general, ignore it. So, hidden among their really well written researched articles on teachers and their commentary on makeup and the 1%, was a few of the least offensive pick up lines that they were surely going to reject. The headline said, “Assured to be Rejected! Pickup Lines” and the two that were really edgy were, “How do you like your eggs: scrambled, poached, or fertilized,” and “My name is what you will be screaming tonight!!!” They ran them without any commentary and I warned them at the time that they might take some heat, but I understood what they were saying. They were trying to say how hypocritical it is to be offended by these simple words when they are put into print, when we allow them to be verbally raped every day.
Every year I fight a battle with some male students in my classes who feel they have the right to say anything they want about any female on campus. One year, I had a student who had problems touching girls inappropriately and this year I have a student with whom I am constantly in touch with his parents about his mouth. I have an excellent base of parents but I have had the occasional mother say to me that, “Boys will be boys!” and I politely remind them that they will not be in my classroom. However, I believe this goes to the heart of why violence against women is so difficult to put an end too and why the GOP war against women is so dangerous. The root of the tree of violence and inequality for women lies at our hypocrisy in the way we treat boys and girls.
We talk about how sexualized our children are all the time, however, they are no different than their parents. We live in a society where sex is a multi-billion dollar institution. It pays to hate sex and it pays to love sex. However, we still have a gender problem when it comes to sexual equality. We expect boys to be boys and girls to take it. But when they do not it becomes a scourge on society and its norms. Our words reveal our actions and as a society we often say to women that their bodies are not their own and they should just accept it. We talk about ending rape and violence against women but we allow their minds and emotions to be raped over and over again with male sexual harassment and innuendo.
As for my school, we have a sexual harassment policy. But, if we suspended every boy who said something sexual and inappropriate to a girl, we would suspend more than half of our male population. However, isn’t it ironic that when the victims of this harassment put the least offensive of the suggestions and innuendos in print, they are asked to justify it? Well, at least they decided against censoring it but it remains to be seen what will happen when the paper hits the streets. Stay tuned.