This is a post that I didn’t want to write. But then the bravery of everyone in the #YesAllWomen wave came, and I decided that I should speak out too. So, in the standard that I’ve set for myself of reporting my thoughts on news about a week late, here’s my experience:
I learned the word slut in sixth grade. I was a member of the cheerleading squad and we were hated by a group of teachers & administrators for reasons that I’m still unsure of. Maybe it had to do with my coach but it backfired onto us. On school spirit day, my homeroom teacher yelled at me for wearing my uniform… although it was a school tradition and the skirt went down to my knees. She told me that I was giving guys the wrong idea and asked me if I seriously wanted to be one of “those girls”. I spent the rest of the day, and year, completely self-conscious.
One day my water bottle spilled all over my cheerleading bag. I asked my homeroom teacher if I could lay the clothes on her radiator so they could dry by practice. She told me that it would be no problem. I put them down and then went on with my day.
Halfway through the day, I had math class – which was what my homeroom teacher taught. Towards the end of the class, my teacher flipped on me because she didn’t think that I was cleaning up. When I tried to defend myself, she went nuts. She grabbed my clothing from off the radiator and starting showing it to the rest of the class. She said that my shorts were too short and my tank top was too tight. She thought she was being funny. She warned the other girls in class to veer away from dressing like me. Boys may get the wrong idea & it’s self-deprecating. A lady shouldn’t dress sexy. I tried to explain that you have to dress in tight clothing for safety reasons during practice. If someone is falling and their baggy t-shirt gets caught on something, they could get seriously injured. There were no boys in our practice anyways… why does it matter how I dress in front of my squad? Then she used that word for the first time. Oh, so it’s safe to be dressed like a slut? Because that’s what these clothes are… slutty. You’re too young to be a slut. I was ten.
And so you have some context, here’s a super slutty picture that my cousin sent me this morning of myself around that age.
I’d also like to use this photo as proof that I was once tall.
After the slut comment, I ran out of my classroom to see one of the most horrifying sights for a sixth grader – everyone hanging out of their classrooms watching it go down. My teacher yelled so loud that people down the hall heard what was going on. Humiliated, I ran into my geography teacher’s room. She heard it all and urged me to see my guidance counselor. My guidance counselor told me to write a letter to my teacher… just a fake one to get my feelings out. Instead of shredding the letter like I had imagined, my guidance counselor gave it to my teacher. By seventh period, I had to sit at one end of the table with my teacher at the other end and my guidance counselor sitting in between as a moderator. If you think those exercises where each person has to start a sentence with “I feel like…” are fake, let me assure you that they’re very real. Most of this day is a blur to me, but one thing I remember clearly is how this exercise ended. “I feel like you are bullying me” “I feel like you are misunderstanding my intentions. I got upset over your clothing because I think of you like a daughter. I want men to respect you… I only responded the way I would respond to my daughters” “Then I feel seriously bad for your daughters”. End of conversation. I walked away in trouble for disrespecting a teacher and she still teaches at that school.
That’s when I learned that it’s always going to be my fault. When a boy grabs my ass in between classes in eighth grade, it’s my fault for wearing tight pants. When a 40-year old man keeps circling my block on my walk home because he gets off on calling a fourteen year old sexy, it’s my fault for having boobs at a young age. When some dude shoves his hand up my dress in college, it’s my fault for not knowing that you shouldn’t wear dresses to a club. And when some douchebag asshole sexually assaults me, it’s my fault for being drunk.
We really need to stop teaching girls that it’s their fault. Their minds are easily molded and it can cause some serious damage. When victims are able to muster up the courage I never had and actually report their crimes, they should never be asked what they were wearing. Ten year olds shouldn’t learn what a slut is through an authoritative figure. The violent and vile actions that misogynists make should never be looked at as a cause & effect situation revolving around women.
Drops Mic. AT out.