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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Do We Want Girls to Think?

Is it me?  I don't think so.  Lately there have been a swelling of stories that involve misogyny. 

First up, is this story from ThinkProgress from West Virginia where a high school brought in a faith-based speaker to talk to the teens about abstinence.  I think all high school should be talking to teens about sex and abstinence can certainly be part of that discussion. 

But this discussion was not just saying "wait kids."  In fact, the fliers that advertised it said "God's plan for sexual purity." 

Stenzel has a long history of using inflammatory rhetoric to convince young people that they will face dire consequences for becoming sexually active. At GW’s assembly, Stenzel allegedly told students that “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” and “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.” She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection.

The student body vice president, Katelyn Campbell, refused to attend the assembly.  

Instead, she filed a complaint with the ACLU and began to speak out about her objections to this type of school-sponsored event. Campbell called Stenzel’s presentation “slut shaming” and said that it made many students uncomfortable.

But her principal did not agree to disagree.  Instead he called her into his office, threatened to call her college of choice (Wellesley) to tell them what she did.  ( But Wellesley has welcomed her with open arms.)  He drove her to tears and she believes other students will never again speak out because he will retaliate against them as well.


Despite being threatened, Campbell is not backing down. She hopes that filing this injunction will protect her freedom of speech to continue advocating for comprehensive sexual health resources for West Virginia’s youth. “West Virginia has the ninth highest pregnancy rate in the U.S.,” Campbell told the Gazette. “I should be able to be informed in my school what birth control is and how I can get it. With the policy at GW, under George Aulenbacher, information about birth control and sex education has been suppressed. Our nurse wasn’t allowed to talk about where you can get birth control for free in the city of Charleston.”

Then you have a CEO, this would be Michael Potter of Eden Foods, who is suing the Obama administration over parts of the health care mandates.  He doesn't want his female employees to have birth control.  He said to a Salon reporter:

“Because I’m a man, number one and it’s really none of my business what women do,” Potter said. I’m in the food business. I’m qualified to have opinions about that and not issues that are purely women’s issues. I am qualified to have an opinion about what health insurance I pay for.”

Let's not forget Peter Hansen, a New Hampshire legislator who, in an official legislative electronic mailing list on the topic of using deadly force in public,  referred to women as "vagina's."   This is telling because New Hampshire has many women at the top of the government food chain including their governor and an ALL-female delegation to Congress.  Oh and the speaker of the state house and the chief justice of their Supreme Court.

And yet, Hansen didn't worry at all about sending this e-mail out.  He says the comment has been "misinterpreted."  Finally, he apologized saying he was "embarrassed, to say the least." 

As well, we are seeing this uptick of stories about girls who get drunk and very bad things happen to them and pictures get taken.  Somehow, though, the stories always come back to the victim as the cause of the crime rather than the behavior of those who committed the crimes.  (And let's not forget the number of GOP politicians who simply don't get what rape is.)

One school where students are talking - and quite frankly - is Palo Alto High in Palo Alto, CA.  I lived in Palo Alto (where Stanford is located) and it's quite the upscale school.  They gather stories from rape victims - at their school - and the results are astonishing.  But they are talking and this is a good thing.  This link is recommended ONLY for parents with mature teens. 

Honestly, I'd be a bit worried if I had a daughter.  It's 2013 and we STILL have these attitudes?  And from people who shape our laws?  It's all out there in the ether and it's troubling.  I wonder what girls think when they hear these stories and what they face someday when they enter the world of work.

8 comments:

RosieReader said...

I have two daughters, 16 and 18. It is amazing to me, too, that we're still dealing with these issues. How can a society make such wonderful progress on rights for our LGBTQ citizens in 20 years, and yet still be so backwards regarding our treatment of women?

I have to say, though, that the "upside" of stories like these is how it is politicizing my daughters in ways I certainly haven't been able to acomplish. They won't "join the cause" just because a bunch of middle aged women like me tell them that things were even worse in the old days, and dammit, they should be grateful for the work we've put in. But bless her heart, after listening to all the Republican crazy talk about abortion in the election, my eldest devoted her primary college essay to explaining why she's pro choice. She said to me "if it hurts me at some colleges that's okay. I wouldn't want to go there anyway."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Rosie. Young women may not want to be called feminists but if they act like it, I'm good with that.

Anonymous said...

Have to admit I LOL'd at the principal threatening to report the girl's actions to Wellesley. He probably got her a scholarship! Because while I agree that things are bad, they are not bad all over.

Still waiting for the day the Tea Party freedom-lovers embrace freedom of choice and equal opportunity for all.

Name said...

Don't miss this guest column in the Seattle times by a local teenager

The rise of sexism and misogyny in a Facebook era

http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2020793295_gracegedyeopedxml.html

Charlie Mas said...

I am father of two daughters, 18 and 16, as well as a husband, friend, and colleague of women. I regarded myself as someone who had gone a long way down the road of acknowledging my privilege as a man and working towards gender neutrality until my elder daughter started bringing home some of what she was learning at NOVA. It's a long, long way for me to get where I need to go, and even longer for a lot of other people in our culture and longer still for people of other cultures.

The culture is an aggregate of the individuals, so my making progress as individuals and passing on that change, we can move the culture.

It's not enough to change yourself; you have to spread the change to others. It's not a job that any one of us can do. We all have to do it, which means that we each have to do it.

hschinske said...

I have two daughters and a son, and I'm in a way almost more worried about my son growing up in this kind of culture. Not that I think he would do anything like this, but I don't suppose the mothers of the perps thought so either.

Helen Schinske

Unknown said...

Misogyny is not new. I guess we are always surprised that it is still around in spades, though.

As far as Micheal Potter, CEO of Eden Foods, goes, he has shot himself in the foot... good luck selling his line of EdenSoy soy milk to the crunchy granola crowd now. The funnies quote in the Salon article is by an ACLU lawyer, who is reacting to news of Potter saying that he hadn't filed the suit based on religious beliefs. “Of course, directly contradicting allegations made in your own complaint is rarely a successful legal strategy,” said Mach. Ba ha ha. I learned that as a highschool freshman debater.

Re alcohol and boys doing bad things to girls --I thought the Seattle Times column by Grace Gedye was very good.

I hope more girls AND boys like her speak up.

I'd have to say, though, that aside from social media and cell phone cameras, I really don't think a whole lot of things have changed as far as boys raping girls who had too much to drink. These things happened to girls in my high school and rumors flew all over the school and there were suicides despite the lack of social media. I can't say that I was ever aware of anything bad ever happening to boys because of it. The "boys will be boys" attitude was rampant, and whatever happened, it was always the girl's fault.

Facebook and social media are a double-edged sword. They magnify and illuminate the social cruelty and they can magnify and illuminate the heinous nature of the crime.

Charlie Mas said...

"Boys will be boys"

I think about this a lot.

We see people up in arms about the disproportionate discipline rates between black students and white students, yet no one wants to talk about the disproportionate discipline rates between boys and girls.

Why do we presume and accept bad behavior from boys?