By: Katrina Williams
I have seen the movie Mean Girls more than I’d like to admit. Mean girls do exist and bullying is bad; however, I’m rarely exposed to a true “Mean Girl” experience. Like any other Monday, I sat down at my lunch table with a piece of pizza and entered into the realm of high school drama. This day’s drama was particularly interesting. I came to learn that a few of the boys from the senior class had created something similar to the movie’s Burn Book. They had rated a number of females by attractiveness, intelligence, “bang-ableness”, etc.
Immediately, the effects of the horrendous action were obvious when I saw a girl who had dated one of the boys crying in the counselling center. You know what the guys were worried about? Homecoming. In fact, that was the extent of most of their concern. “I just hope I didn’t lose my homecoming date because of this,” Oh, but the comments didn’t stop there. I heard one of the boys involved yell out, “This is why this happens, because girls are crazy!!” I may or may not have dated this kid a few years ago. Alright, I did. I think that’s why it was especially difficult to hear that. I was embarrassed to know that I had dated someone involved in such a sexist and disrespectful action. I could have spoken up, but I didn’t. I convinced myself that not speaking up would decrease the conflict and tension. Honestly, I think I just felt as though my words wouldn’t amount to anything. I was surrounded by a group of guys who were all making the same comments with regards to their female peers. I wasn’t going to change their minds, or at least I thought. My responsibility in that moment was to defend myself and, really, the entire female population against the horribly sexist comments being made by these seemingly immature boys. But I didn’t. I used the response of my coach to justify my actions, or lack thereof. I expected my coach, who was a female, to react with disdain. I expected her to kick the boys off the soccer team, or at least verbally destroy them. She didn’t. Her reaction was telling the boys that they were not allowed to talk about the situation while at practice. I tried to make sense of it. Maybe she just wanted the boys to concentrate, or maybe she wanted to decrease the spread of inaccurate information. Now that I reflect on her reaction, I know that it only kept the boys from realizing how completely messed up their actions were. As a female, she should have stood up for these girls and shown the boys the error of their ways. Then again, I should have done the same. I spent that night disappointed in myself. I felt as though I disrespected my girlfriends. Was I just as bad as those guys for not speaking up when I so clearly should have?
Fast forward one week: I’m sitting on the sidelines of the soccer field, next to three of the five boys involved in the so-called “Chick-tionary”. They’re sitting on the sidelines because, as their punishment, they must sit out on ONE soccer game. Hold on, they have to sit out on ONE SINGLE soccer game? I would have let out a scream if I were actually able to say anything at that moment. I had an overwhelming desire to jump-kick someone (of course it would have been one of the boys). The other two boys who were not on the team got off scott free. I felt betrayed by my school and my educators. At my school, students are taught to respect the race, culture, and religion of others. We are a 5-star leadership school and one of the top 20 schools in state. How does the punishment of these boys reflect leadership or excellence? How does it promote respect? Really, the decision to let the boys off only kept administrators from having to deal with it any further. The lack of punishment combined with the silence of teachers and their opinions kept many of the students from reacting honestly. I know this because that’s how I felt. I let my desire for zero conflict come before my desire to explain why objectification is so effing awful, as those above me did. I kept myself from speaking out and keeping the conversation alive because I didn’t want to annoy people.
I think about the days surrounding the conflict and really only feel angry at myself anymore. I can see that my lack of expression kept the door open for future sexism. I can see that my silence only lessened the defense for the girls in my school because every girl was effected. We all felt the betrayal of the boys and our educators, whether we realized it or not. My opinion may not have been enough to alter this decision, but maybe it would have been enough to challenge future conflicts. I’ve seen the impact voices have on social injustices, but I chose to put my fear before my otherwise outspoken and fiercely feminist attitude. I can’t be silent anymore. I will no longer allow for the sexual objectification of the female body, to the best of my ability. My voice may only be one, but my opinion is held by many other strong-willed individuals. If I speak, I will lead the way for others to do the same. There’s no excuse for me to leave the door open for future sexual harassment.