TW: MENTIONS OF RAPE AND HARRASMENT
At the raw age of thirteen, how many of us can recall incidents of being sent home from school for wearing a skirt a couple of inches too short? Or having our shoulders or arms “out on display”? Or having on a light layer of concealer? At the raw age of thirteen, how many of us can recall our female friends being pulled up for being “a distraction” to the boys and men of the institute? At an age where we don’t even fully comprehend what we’re being taught in these subtle ways- where these ideologies are being drilled into our minds as “values and morals.” Labyrinths of ideologies that we carry with us all through life- and take years of work to dredge our way out of.
In a day of perpetual discussions about rape and rape culture, we must stop to question the roots of where we learn to sympathize. The discreet ways in which we’ve been taught these patriarchal ideologies of women’s bodies. Ideologies of male ownership of women’s bodies. Our education system is one on which we wholly depend to teach us the basics of how to handle life outside of the shell of our homes. It’s imperative that we consider that debris of the way this system trains young girls to grow up into being women that fear their bodies, and trains young boys to grow up into being men that feel power and dominance and a right over girl’s and women’s bodies.
Important to mention here- as a vast majority of our teachers are women, the narratives they teach us to tend to be far more damaging. These are women telling young girls and boys that girl’s bodies are to be kept hidden so that they aren’t distracting and tempting to the boys and fully grown adult men that walk the school hallways. That they have to keep their faces bare, hair tied, stripped of all sense of individuality and expression. It is natural for kids to assume that what a woman teaches them about women’s bodies is true. It’s a woman. She knows what she’s talking about. If a woman is saying my skin is sinful- then it must be true. If a woman is herself saying women should cover themselves up for the men to not be tempted, then women that aren’t clothed neck to toe must surely be set out with the intention to tempt.
We notice as we grow older, in our parent’s worry of how men might take advantage of us if we wear certain kinds of clothing, or have on makeup, or hang out with men, that our educators’ primary concern has been the influence on boys. We see our parents worry about who is doing what with the pictures we post online, while we recollect our teachers training us to not be “temptress-es”. We feel the anxiety of what the men around us may do to us because we have grown up being taught damaging notions of women being responsible for how males around them are viewing them and feeling about them. Perhaps it is time we acknowledge that this may as well be the root of where our rape culture and victim-blaming begins. That is where our immediate responses stem from.
It is no wonder, the way our parents believe to this day the words that they were taught. We are lucky to have the Internet to assure us we aren’t “desperate” or “promiscuous” for feeling ownership over our own body. For being comfortable enough with our own body to make our decisions about whether or not to display it. We are lucky we have the internet to educate us, and our boys and men on topics of consent, which our education system failed to do. We are lucky to be a generation that receives the sex education they need- even if it is from Instagram rather than the system that should ideally be responsible for it. We are lucky to have the sources our parents didn’t. And if we didn’t have the internet, we would still be stuck in this cycle of rape culture- that, rest assured, will continue to run circles until we actively hold educational institutions responsible for their blatant disregard for their girls, transgenders, and non binaries.
We see it in the patterns that are much too normalized. Forcing gender norms on us from the get go, feeling the compulsive need to make a distinct definition between girls and boys with skirts and pants for uniforms. With Patterns of our parents being called to meet with the principal over their daughter being seen hanging out with her male friends, patterns of schools completely disrespect-ing the privacy of their female students and stalking their social media, pulling them out in assemblies for the amount of time they were online, or the pictures they posted, or the clothes they were seen wearing. Patterns we need to point out and stop. Stop normalizing them, stop ignoring them, stop promoting them. Stop giving young girls the unchaste narrative, holding them accountable for simply having bodies.
It is time we demand education for our teachers, to make sure they qualify to educate our youth. To end the trauma that’s been passed on for generations. To end the struggle heaps of women battling with themselves and the monologue that runs through their minds, through the length of their lives. So that we can reach an age of women, non binaries, the LGBTQ+ not being fearful of the men around them, or the streets they walk on, or of the trauma, their own body might bring upon them simply for just being. So that we can reach an age of men that haven’t been taught dominance over women or anyone that doesn’t identify wholly as a man, and have rather been taught concepts of respect, consent, and equality.
Push for change. Demand Change. Hold the right institutions accountable at the right time. Acknowledge that this may be one of the only ways to see an actual change in our belief systems.