- A group of female students at a high school in Maryland stood up to a culture of misogyny after male students circulated a list on campus that ranked 18 girls based on their appearances.
- While the school punished the male student behind the list with a day of in-school detention, the female students felt those those actions were far from adequate – and took action into their own hands.
- On International Women’s Day, around 80 students, including the male student who created the list, spent around two and a half hours discussing topics including sexual abuse, harassment, and objectification.
- Since that initial discussion, a co-ed group of students have gathered almost weekly to talk about ways to prevent future incidents, and some students are organising a pop-up museum centered on cultural toxicity. They are also planning a day for seniors to go and speak with younger students about these issues.
Yasmin Behbehani, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, believes her generation is destined to create change.
That was obvious earlier this month when Behbehani and her fellow female classmates stood up against a sexist list that was being circulated around campus, by male students, that ranked her and 17 other girls in the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme based on their looks.
Behbehani told the Washington Post that the list was the last straw for her and other female students, and that they could no longer stand idly by in a ‘boys will be boys’ culture. So, they did something about it.
Dozens of senior girls came forward to report the list to school administrators, demanding disciplinary action for involved male students as well as increased awareness on campus about the culture of misogyny that could influence the creation of such a list in the first place.
In response to the initial incident, Donna Redmond Jones, the school’s principal, sent a letter to parents acknowledging that several students had created and circulated a list that rated 18 female students. She said that the administrative team investigated the matter, and had disciplined those involved.
“This incident has been very upsetting for students, staff and families,” she wrote in the letter, published by Montgomery Community Media. “B-CC High School has no tolerance for bullying. Our school strives to create a sense of belonging and respect for all students. This incident does not reflect those values.”
But, for the female students who came forward, the school’s administrative actions were far from adequate. They told the Washington Post that in the aftermath of the investigation, school officials opted to discipline one male student with a day of in-school detention, which wouldn’t show up on his record. Others indirectly involved were not punished.
“Basically what admin did, in my honest opinion, by dismissing it and not giving the boys a strong punishment is saying ‘Boys will be boys and that’s OK. We can’t get them in trouble for something immature boys do,’ ” Jane Corcoran, a senior at the school, told Bethesda Magazine. She said that a group of around 50 boys had maintained and circulated the list for a year before a female student noticed it on an open laptop.
Jones told the Post that “there was definitely discipline applied,” based on the district’s code of conduct. She added that during the investigation, they learned that the list was created during school hours.
In the Montgomery County Public Schools’ student code of conduct for the current school year, disciplinary action for bullying, harassment, or sexual harassment include intervention strategies and referring students for “appropriate counseling.” INSIDER reached out to school administrators about those policies and their general thoughts on the incident.
In the wake of the investigation, Nicky Schmidt, another senior at the school, texted more than a dozen female students encouraging them to show up at the school’s main office during lunch. “We feel unsafe in this environment and we are tired of this toxicity,” the text read. The next day, around 40 senior girls showed up at an assistant principal’s office demanding increased safeguards and, as Schmidt told the Post, to ensure they can learn “in an environment without the constant presence of objectification and misogyny.”
On International Women’s Day, around 80 students, including the male student who created the list, spent around two and a half hours discussing topics including sexual abuse, harassment, and objectification. Since then, a co-ed group of students have gathered almost weekly to discuss ways to prevent future incidents, and some classmates are organising a pop-up museum centered on cultural toxicity. They are also planning a day for seniors to go and speak with younger students about these issues.
“Where you have a culture where it’s just normal to talk about that, I guess making a list about it doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to do,” the male student behind the list later told the Post. “I recognise that I’m in a position in this world generally where I have privilege. I’m a white guy at a very rich high school. It’s easy for me to lose sight of the consequences of my actions and kind of feel like I’m above something.”
And that is girl power at its finest.
- Read more:
- Gender equality, rights on agenda on International Women’s Day
- One of America’s most powerful female executives controls a $US30 billion media empire – and she still faces surprising harassment in the workplace
- Congress passed the Equal Rights amendment in 1972, but the US Constitution still does not explicitly consider women as equal
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