What a week this was. It started with the viral hashtag #metoo on Monday. According to cnn.com, it started by Alyssa Milano tweeting: “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote, “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
On Tuesday, my teenage daughter asked, “Hey, what’s going around at our school?”
“Lice,” her sisters guess. “Pneumonia.”
No, not anything physical health related. Instead, it was a list.
Some boys had created a Google spreadsheet of the junior and senior girls, in which they “graded” the girls.
First of all, I can’t imagine the intersection of misogyny and nerddom that would have been required to make a Google spreadsheet, of all things, to grade girls.
What was their intent? Because somehow I doubt that the girls who ranked “high” on this arbitrary list did so because of their AP classes, or the great job they did last year in the musical, or their volleyball skills. One imagines that the sort of soul who would bother to create a list in the first place is basing this on looks alone. So a girl who scored low was unattractive, and a girl who scored high…was what? A prize to be won?
This is a high school that prides itself on being progressive. The students sport t-shirts that read “West High is Woke High.” And yet even within this liberal institution, these boys thought they could get away with this sort of sexism.
To be clear, not all boys in this school were involved. Not even most boys. Most boys were beside themselves.
The sort of damage inflicted on a young woman’s psyche from this sort of harassment can never be undone. Actress Kate Winslet says that she “still feels like ‘the fat schoolgirl’ and even now doesn’t consider [herself] some kind of great, sexy beauty.”
It’s like that experiment where the kids are told to crumple up a piece of paper and then smooth it out–it’s never going to be smooth as a crisp sheet of paper again. Being graded poorly by peers, even peers whose opinion should have no value, can sting forever.
The Women of West rose up to raise each other up. They started the hashtag #EveryonesAnA on Twitter, remarking things like, “West High women, you’re all strong, gorgeous, talented, amazing individuals, and I am so proud of all of you,” (@MsJohnsonICW) and “Common sense of the day: find a better hobby than hurting others,” (@ElkadiNina).
Students went to school early on Friday to post inspirational signs, with messages like “You Are More Than a Letter.”
Lesson learned from this: there’s still work to be done with teaching our young men that women are not objects. There’s still work to be done with teaching our young women that others’ opinions of them shouldn’t matter. We need to teach our children not to be bystanders. There were people who had no part in making the list, but stood by as it become public. Let’s teach our children to stand on the side of what is right, not on the side of what is easy.
The next generation is on the right track, as far as I can tell, towards a more enlightened future. Let’s all help them get there.