Sexual harassment is bullying. If a person is causing someone else to feel negatively about themselves and helpless, it is bullying.
To the victims: speak out, and do not be silenced.
Many women, and people in general, put their self-worth and their identity in their bodies. They oftentimes let societal norms and stereotypes define them, when there is much more to a person than their bodies. It is important to love your body, but just as important, if not more, to realize that your body is not the only thing that makes a person who they are. There is more to you than just your body, and it is vital to accept that fact and embrace it.
The question today is, are schools promoting weight shaming and slut shaming?
A few weeks ago I asked my boyfriend’s cousin to stay with me over night so that we could spend some bonding time together. She is a junior in high school and has pretty low self-esteem from what I understand. Since I was bullied and mistreated in high school I have kind of made it my goal to help her and mentor her whenever I can. When she was staying with me she was talking to me at breakfast about school. With teary eyes she began to divulge an all too familiar story about her school administration. She is constantly targeted for her clothing, and I suspect it is because she is Hispanic and does not fit the Barbie mold. She has been told on several occasions that her pants are too tight or that she can’t wear shorts because her legs are too big. A school official has also said to her that certain clothing does not work with certain body types. To me that sounds like they are insinuating to her that she is too fat to wear shorts. Frankly, that is her decision and own opinion to make, it isn’t the schools’ business to play fashion police. This is a terrible message to be sending a young girl in high school, or any girl for that matter. High school is a time when most girls are insecure, vulnerable, and have low self-esteem. The school is telling young girls that aren’t obese that they are fat, and even if they were actually obese it is still none of their business outside serving healthier foods for everyone at school. Rather than schools standing by their students and encouraging them, they are shaming them for being different. She is constantly targeted for her clothing while the administration looks the other way when it comes to a certain group of girls who wear shorts that are even shorter than what she wears.
Also, wearing leggings without shorts over them is banned from her school, as are yoga pants, I believe. While in some regard I understand why, I don’t think that limiting students’ clothing betters their academic career or causes them to “make better life choices” (and I hardly doubt that is the true reasoning for clothing restrictions). Frankly, it is slut shaming.
When did teaching kids appropriateness cross the line into shaming? This is a tough subject, because in a way I don’t think young girls should be baring themselves inappropriately at school.. but mainly because I know there are creeps out there that have to turn the way you dress into something sexual and run with it. Yes, you should dress respectfully in certain situations, but many of these recent cases of schools and dress codes have truly crossed the line and flew into another atmosphere.
Here are some great examples from an awesome article that you should also read:
1. A middle school in California banned tight pants. At the beginning of last month, a middle school in Northern California began telling girls to avoid wearing pants that are “too tight” because it “distracts the boys.” At a mandatory assembly for just the female students, the middle school girls were told that they’re no longer allowed to wear leggings or yoga pants. “We didn’t think it was fair how we have all these restrictions on our clothing while boys didn’t have to sit through [the assembly] at all,” one student told local press. Some parents also complained, leading the school’s assistant principal to record a voicemailexplaining the new policy. “The guiding principle in all dress codes is that the manner in which students dress does not become a distraction in the learning environment,” the message said.
2. A high school principal in Minnesota emailed parents to ask them to cover up their daughters. A principal in Minnetonka, MN recently wrote an email telling parents to stop letting their daughters wear leggings or yoga pants to school. He says the tight-fitting pants are fine with longer shirts but, when worn with a shorter top, a girl’s “backside” can be “too closely defined.” The big risk of having a defined backside, he thinks, is that it can “be highly distracting for other students.”
3. Two girls in Ohio were turned away from their prom for being “improperly dressed.” Laneisha Williams and Nyasia Mitchell were barred from prom this spring for wearing dresses that administrators considered “too revealing.” The girls say that they didn’t believe they were violating a dress code that said dresses couldn’t be too short or show too much cleavage. But one administrator told local news that the high school girls were only allowed to wear dresses that had “no curvature of their breasts showing.”
4. A kindergarten student in Georgia was forced to change her “short” skirt because it was a “distraction to other students.” It’s hard to imagine that a kindergartener’s outfit could be “a distraction to other students,” but a mother in Georgia told locals news there that her daughter had been outfitted in someone else’s pants — without parental permission — after the principal deemed the skirt the young girl was wearing too short.” The girl had apparently wore the skirt, and accompanying leggings, just one week before without incident.
5. Forty high school girls were sent home from a winter dance in California after “degrading” clothing inspections “bordering on sexual harassment.” A school board member’s daughter was among the 40 girls turned away from Capistrano Valley High’s February dance for wearing dresses that either exposed their midriffs or were cut too low. Before the dance, girls were apparently required to flap their arms up and down and turn around for male administrators’ inspection. The school issues image guidelines for appropriate dress on its website — though the images were nearly all of women, and the only male image depicted proper attire. One girl alleges that the principal told her, “Not all dresses look good on certain body shapes.” A grandmother of one of the girls who was turned away from the dance also said that a teacher remarked about her granddaughter, “What mother would allow her daughter to wear a dress like that?” Apparently the school did receive some praise, though, from the parents of two male students.
So, does slut shaming breed rape culture? Hell yes it does. Slut shaming tells girls that they are the cause of rape, they are seducing the men into action because of the way that they dress or act. FALSE. Rapists rape because they are rapists. Why should we condone shaming girls and placing blame where it doesn’t belong. Our society hides behind this guise of being politically correct, proper, and “appropriate”. Well, if accepting rape is proper and appropriate, I say f*^% propriety. Schools need to be in the business of education, not discrimination.
My policy, and it should be yours, too.
Just because someone is sexually promiscuous, even if they truly are by society’s standards or not, does not mean they are deserving of rape or open property for someone to rape. This also does not automatically make them your open target for harassment and torment. Stop the hate.
I can remember when I was still in middle school and no one really associated bullying with kids being mean over the internet. Instant messaging was just starting to become popular, and kids were just starting to get deep into the online world of chat rooms. I was bullied online and it was almost completely dismissed by my school’s principal.
Most schools do not handle bullying properly – even at this point in time when bullying, and suicides resulting from bullying, is at a height. Bullying has always been around, but it has migrated to the online world at a rate that has been increasing at an alarming rate. There have been many recent cases where young girls have killed themselves as a result of online torture (many of these attacks started from the girls being sexually assaulted, or exploited over the internet).
As if victim blaming isn’t enough, teens have began to use victim shaming when girls come forward to report their rapists. Rape culture online contributes to the bullying when the media and society sympathize with the rapists.
Rehtaeh was raped by multiple boys at a party when she was 15, and two years later she committed suicide after being bullied relentlessly. Even though there were photos of her rape that circulated around the community the Canadian authorities pushed her case to the side. She was bullied online and harassed constantly through messaging. enduring constant torment, she was made to feel as if no one believed her, until finally taking her own life. One thing is certain about this case: Rehtaeh was bullied and it resulted in her suicide.
Audrie Plott was assaulted, when she was only 15, by three boys while she was passed out. Photos of the assault circulated online. Because of this Audrie ended her own life. She considered her life to be ruined; she was humiliated by the posting of the pictures online. The images went viral, but Audrie was not alive long enough to endure the torture that would ensue after the pictures were passed around online. She killed herself eight days after her rape.
Jane Doe of Steubenville
Jane Doe was raped by two football players in Steubenville, Ohio. They were apparently sent to assault Jane Doe by her ex-boyfriend, who posted online saying that Jane Doe would regret breaking up with him. She was then harassed endlessly and threatened online by her peers, and even complete strangers, through Twitter and other social media outlets online. Here are some examples of the bullying she has endured:
These are classic examples of rape culture, victim blaming, victim shaming, and slut shaming. As if the mental and emotional trauma from the online bullying wasn’t enough, some girls, as you can see above, threatened physical harm to Jane Doe. The cousin of one of the rapists threatened to kill Jane Doe for making her cousin cry in court.
Amanda Todd was not sexually assaulted, in fact she was known for being promiscuous. She showed her breasts online to a stranger, who then stalked her relentlessly, even after she moved schools several times. Her bully would follow her where ever she went, posting the pictures online for everyone to see at each school she attended. She was harassed by her peers constantly. While she may not have been perfect, but nothing can excuse what her bully/bullies did to her. She was harassed, and she killed herself because of it. Amanda was slut shamed. The fact is that it is no one’s business to judge another person’s sex life or sexual preferences. No one deserves the torture that she received.
*Note: Amanda’s case is going to carry me into an article on slut shaming.
If you would like to read about similar stories about bullying, victim blaming, victim shaming, slut shaming, and sexual assault injustices, you can read about it at the following links:
The point is that we need to do something about this, because these cases keep happening.
Victim Blaming: The act of insinuating that the victim of a crime is at fault for the crime. This is seen extremely often in rape cases. The victim is blamed for their own rape. In other words, society may accuse them of wearing “suggestive clothes”, drinking “excessively or irresponsibly”, giving “suggestive eye contact”, or acting “suggestively”, claiming that the victim caused the rape to happen because of “poor decisions” or “irresponsible/slutty behavior”.
Victim Shaming: When victim blaming goes a step further. Outside of blaming a victim for the crime committed against them, people may begin to bully the victim for the crime. They may call the victim derogatory names, threaten them for coming forward, gang up on them on the internet, slander them, attack them verbally and physically, and taunt them endlessly.
Both victim blaming and victim shaming seem to be a current trend in our society. I’m not sure if these situations are just now coming to light in the masses, or if it was always going on. Something tells me it’s been happening for a very long time.
When I was sitting in the police cruiser on the night of my attack the police were grilling me to tell them about what happened and draw up a formal charge. I told them that I did not want to press any charges, and that I just wanted to go home. They acted like they had no idea why I would not want to press charges, but I quickly enlightened them (keep in mind this was much before the Jane Doe, Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, and other related cases came into the light). I told them that I knew what people would say of me, that they would call me a slut, say I was asking for it, and I would just be the slut in the green dress. They tried to assure me that no one would think that about me, and though I knew that what they were saying was not true, I reluctantly gave my statement and spent the longest 2 hours of my life waiting in the police cruiser.
The police pretty much shamed me for not wanting to come forward, but I think people can see why at this point in time. Jane Doe and Rehtaeh Parsons endured endless bullying from their peers and society. The process of reporting is traumatic enough without rape culture being at a height and extremely public. The police tried to convince me by saying, “Don’t you want to stop him from doing this to anyone else?” If you say anything other than yes you look like a monster, and if you say yes you are damned for life for reporting. No wonder barely any women want to report. People always like to look down on women for not reporting, but I fully understand why they do not want to.
I want to change this society, but I can’t do it alone. We all have to work together to beat it.
I watched this series a few times throughout college. Kilbourne has 4 videos from throughout the years that discuss women, self-image, self-esteem, and violence against women in relation to how women are portrayed in the media. This is her most recent video. I believe spreading videos like this is vital to women’s physical and mental health. As she states in the video, degradation and dehumanization of women is just the beginning of violence against women.
Many people usually do not consider skinny shaming when they think about or discuss weight discrimination and weight shaming, but it is very much real. I may have never personally experienced it, but I have seen people endure it. Last night I was looking through Instagram and I noticed that a young girl posted a picture of herself in the mirror, a full-body photo and a pretty typical teen pose. I looked at the comments of what people were saying to her, and the comments weren’t really what I was expecting. Some men and boys were commenting on her body, saying that she was “cute, but flat”. While I realize when you put pictures on the internet you are opening yourself up for scrutiny, that doesn’t make what those people were saying to her okay in any way. This type of behavior is sending young girls the wrong ideas, that you are only worth what your body is, and most of the time it isn’t considered to be worth much at all. They were basically saying to her that the size of her breasts are what matter, even though she was clearly no older than 13 or 14. One, this is probably very hurtful to her and may cause her to do alterations on her body later in life. Two, I find this to be sexual harassment, and of a minor no less. Men should not be commenting on a minor’s pictures, let alone the size of her breasts.
I know that a lot of women who are overweight do not think that the skinny girl plight is legitimate, but it is. In fact, some of the perpetrators of skinny shaming are overweight people. We have to tell ourselves that shaming anyone is just as bad as someone shaming us. It is hypocritical to go after someone and cause the same damage. I have heard the term “skinny bitches” a lot, and making fun of skinny girls saying they are “anorexic”. Hell, I am no saint here, I have judged out of anger, but it isn’t right. Anorexia is a serious disorder, and it isn’t something to accuse or make fun of. Bullying someone for their body type is hurtful, no matter what that body type is. Telling a girl she is too skinny, or “ew, gross you are so skinny”, is just as hurtful to them as it is for bigger women to hear that they are fat. The fact is we all have different shapes-unless you are somebody’s loved one and they truly need help, you shouldn’t be commenting at all, and even then..tread lightly. Anyone can be body conscious for any reason, so what’s the point in judging and abusing someone. No one wins in that game, and it may feel good at the time, but it will cause you to feel guilty later on. Be ware of what you say, and even of what you are thinking. Everyone deserves respect, not just you.
This is one subject in particular I am personally familiar with. In America we hear all the time that many of us are overweight, but aside from the health concerns that we are reminded of daily, there are many negative mental health side-effects that no one really bothers to mention. If you are “fat” by society’s standards, or even by your own standards, you constantly endure an emotional hell in your mind. Some women are proud to be the size that they are, or at least they say that they are, but most of us are not that lucky to have that kind of self-love. Society and your peers are constantly judging you. Even if they aren’t judging you, they have you so paranoid that you think that they are.They also attach words and feelings to being “fat” or “overweight”: lazy, disgusting, bad hygiene, lack of ambition, ugly, etc. People will oftentimes go to the next level and instead of just silently judging, they judge you out loud for the world to see and hear. This is called fat shaming. Fat shaming is said to be a “tough-love” approach, but it is usually not coming from anyone who “loves” you, and it is usually more painful than helpful. I am here to set that straight. You’re not being helpful if you are shaming someone who is fat, and it probably isn’t even your intention to love them or help them for health reasons-you just want to make yourself feel better about bullying someone. In case you still don’t understand, here is a Venn Diagram to get the message across:
Many fat people know they need to lose weight, they may even want to lose weight, but others who are not fat do not consider that the person may have a disorder that is just as real as anorexia.
This may sound bogus to some, but the fact is that you have no idea until you are fat. Yes, fat people can lose weight, and yes they do actually probably want to, but just like any addiction it is almost impossible to break. It is almost worse because you can stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol, but you can’t stop eating. Not every overweight person has a disorder, but I am willing to say many of them probably do. I have struggled with weight most of my life. I was chubby all throughout high school, and through some of middle school. In college I lost weight off and on, but right now I have gained back most of what I lost. It’s not because I want to be fat, but because instead of doing drugs or drinking to ease the pain of traumatic life events, I eat. It comforts me. I thought about that fact the other day and asked myself what made me gain the weight back. It was subconscious then, but I see it now. I gained weight as self-preservation, it sounds weird, but I am well aware of the connotations of being fat. I told myself: no one wants to rape a fat girl. When I was assaulted it was after I lost about 30 pounds. I looked and felt great. Now I am afraid to go there again, because this is where I am comfortable, even if I don’t like being overweight, I feel safe. Being chubby, to me, feels like having a security blanket being wrapped around me. No one will get me, because no one wants to get a fat girl. At least that is what I have been told all my life by the media and by peers.
The sad thing is, even if I did want to lose weight I feel like I can’t go to the gym. When fat people do try to lose weight and go to the gym people will stare at you wondering, “Why is that fatty here, this is a place for all the skinny people”. It doesn’t make sense, but we are judged for wanting to get healthy. They are mad we are at the gym, even though they taunt us to go to the gym. They want us to lose weight, they just don’t want to see us in the process. It’s like we are lepers.
Fat shaming is everywhere, especially during the warmer months. Chloe Angyal said it best in her article “Fat-Shaming All Around Us”.
In reference to the photo above, Angyal wrote: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is what fat-shaming looks like. Summer’s coming, and with it, hot weather and skimpy clothes. Better look ‘good’—that is, skinny—when it arrives. Because fat people are disgusting, right?”
While I do believe health is important, health is not always the same as “skinny”. There are many curvy girls who are more healthy than some skinny girls. When I lost weight, I was still chubby to most people’s standards, but I was healthy. I was eating healthy foods, exercising constantly because I worked with kids and we were always running around, and I was mentally in the best shape of my life. I may not have been a size 2, but I was healthy. This is what I try to teach the kids that I am currently nannying. The five-year-old boy constantly talks about being fat, talks about how characters on TV are fat, and worries about getting fat. It is disgusting and devastating; it saddens me for him. This child has learned at such a young age that he better never get fat, and that fat is gross. His concern is never to be healthy, it is just to be skinny and not fat. While it is important to teach your child to be healthy, it is abusive to shame them away from getting fat; especially when they are not fat at all and perfectly healthy. He can’t even eat a snow cone and enjoy it because he is afraid to get fat, or afraid that he is fat. He always tells me that I am not fat, but that I just have a big butt (which is entirely true, and I am proud of it), but I am sure the person who warns him about being fat has mentioned me to him and warned him about getting “fat” like me. Whether that is true or not, I make a point of letting him know that the goal is to be healthy, not fat or skinny. His sister and I tried to explain to him that just because you’re chubby, doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy, and just because you are skinny, doesn’t mean you are healthy. Even though I try to encourage and enlighten him daily, he still obsesses daily about getting fat, and laughs at characters on TV who are fat, mocking them. He’s a work in progress. I hope some day it won’t be something that is constantly on his mind. Everyone should have the right to feel comfortable in their own skin.
In case you didn’t catch my photo on being bikini-ready for summer, here is a quote from Inner Subversion that says it all: “How to dress for your shape: are you human-shaped? Play up your confidence and natural sex appeal by wearing whatever the f*ck you want. Life Tip: As the weather gets warmer, continue to wear whatever the f*ck you want. Flaunt everything or keep it cool under cover. Dress to make yourself feel rad. How to get a bikini body: put a bikini on your body. Want sexy own-the-beach summer legs? Shave, or don’t because they’re your f*cking legs.”
It seems we should all be able to wear whatever we want, but that is not what we are told by society. I am sure many of you have heard about what the CEO of Abercrombie said about “fat” women and “cool kids”, if you haven’t you can read about it here. Something he may not realize is that some of the fit, or skinny people, may have lost weight. He is singling out fat women, but what about former fat women. I’ve heard many of them say that even though they are able to fit in the clothes, they will not wear them because of the message he is sending. Skinny does not make you elite or special, it doesn’t make you better than anyone (or worse). It is your body type, and it is how you, personally, decide to look. It shouldn’t be how anyone else is telling you to look. We all have the right to decide what to do with our own bodies, otherwise this country isn’t truly free. It is my body, you have no say in it, and frankly I don’t like exclusionary brands of any kind. It is discrimination, and I do not stand for discrimination.
Fat shaming does not work, it isn’t “good” or “helpful” for anyone, except the offenders. Writing “moo” on my notebook that I left in class in high school did not make me want to lose weight, it just made me sad and angry that people are so ignorant. Loving yourself is a journey, and I am still on mine.
Oh, and to Abercrombie: You can kiss my fat ass.
The next few weeks I am going to be covering bullying, victim blaming, victim shaming, and slut shaming. We can stand up for each other. We may feel powerless at times, but we can lift each other up and make each other stronger. Bullying can cause scars, and I personally believe that it can be a precursor to, or as a result of, sexual abuse. It is important to remain strong, support others, and encourage each other not to give into the victim mentality. Let’s show the world how amazing and special we truly are. Speak out, because your voice counts!