The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
5. you’re taught to be an object
Imagine, you’re a fourth-grade body on a rare 100 degree day in San Franciscoin a classroom filled with pre-pubescent laughter, occasional voice cracks, and the crinkling of notes being passed. A smile spreads across your face, no matter how much you try to hide it. (You had completed the Spanish worksheet perfectly and can’t contain your excitement for your teacher to see). At your raised hand, her harsh voice cuts across the classroom so that the laughter stops. She says your name and then:
“I am looking down your shirt and I see a valley.”
“Go To The Office Now.”
4. boys are mean when they like you
You’re in a sixth-grade discussion now, and the class has been split into two sections: girls and boys. The girls don’t talk as loudly as they used to. Your teacher begins to speak,
“Girls, we know a few of you have complained about boys saying mean things.”
You nod your head fast and hard. The boy who sits next to you in math had called you a word that morning that you weren’t allowed to say.
“But remember, when they call you names or tease you, it means they have a crush on you.”
3. locker room talk
It’s your first week of high school now. The boys smell a little less and their voices have stopped cracking. You’re sitting at a table in the cafeteria, listening to the boys talk about an upcoming volleyball game. You’re on the JV team.
“Yo dude they’re gonna rape that team on Friday, we gotta go.”
2. you’re raped at age 14
Your body is no longer your body.
This is my story. It is the story of far too many girls. It should not be.The first male classmate I told about what happened to me responded by calling me tainted and dirty. The next inquired as to what I was wearing. The third told me I should have taken preventative measures. Their responses did not mean they were reprehensible people, but instead simply indicated a lack of education about consent. They had grown up hearing the messages, both explicitly and implicitly, that “boys will be boys” and girls only existed for their pleasure.
I spent my first two years of high school attempting to ignore the potent noises of misogyny, objectification, and rape jokes, but ultimately, I failed. In truth, I spent my life walking past the words and actions of people who could not acknowledge me as a human being in the way that they were. I was exhausted with not existing. And so, at the end of my sophomore year, I worked with my peers to create informal discussions surrounding the topic of rape culture. By my junior year there was an official consent discussion group that was lead by a teacher, met once a week, and had a far-reaching impact on our community. Although at times I still felt like a broken record on the soundtrack of patriarchy, something felt different. For the first time in my life, I was able to have conversations with people who were truly attempting to understand my experiences. Still, the number of peers I knew who had been sexually assaulted was too large for me to count on my fingers. We needed more action.
At the end of my junior year, I worked with a fellow student, the head of school, and the dean of student life to revise and rewrite our sexual misconduct policy. Finally, I was actively refusing to be complicit in the narrative that had been written for me. I am not so naive to believe that rape culture can be solved overnight. However, every small piece of work is significant and every little change has the power to impact at least one person. The changes I made at my high school were not monumental, but nevertheless, there was a tangible shift in the attitudes of our community. As someone who wants to be a teacher one day, I know that I can help communities acknowledge, and perhaps revise, their thoughts and ideas on rape culture. Of course, I know I can’t do it alone, but through education and communication, positive change will transpire. I will do everything in my power to ensure that our next generation of students will not have experiences that mirror mine.
1. my body is my body