High school is a crucial time in anyone’s life. For some, it’s just a fond (or bitter) memory; for others, it was an era marked by significant change. No matter where you fall in the heap, high school is where you more or less develop your personalities, senses of humor, and misunderstandings of the social hierarchy.
Every time we have a pep assembly at my high school, teachers and administrators herd me and my 2,000+ peers into the gym. The overwhelming noise hits you first; then, you notice the banners on the walls splitting the space into four quadrants: Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Exasperated from the endless crowd, I grab the first seat I find in the third row of the Juniors section. It’s spring, and I look at the crowd gathering in the Seniors section. I silently count the months, weeks, and days until I can graduate myself.
The last of the crowd sorts itself into its respective sections, and the Student Body President standing confidently in the center of all the confusion grabs his microphone and begins talking.
“Can you see how high his pants are? They look so gay,” I hear behind me. Having grown comfortable in my safe shell of internet activism, I sometimes forget that ignorant comments like this still happen in real life. I turn around and put on my most You-Should-Be-Ashamed-Of-Yourself face for the offender. I’m not in the mood to be dealing with this, not today.
Unfortunately, even in my seat near the front, I can’t hear any of the speakers on the floor. The masses in the stands are too jittery and impatient. Instead, my experience is clouded by ignorant comments from different sides and volumes, and I leave the assembly feeling rather unpepped. Here’s a few things I heard:
“I bet you none of them are virgins.” A judgmental girl to her equally judgmental friend, coming from my left. This comment was about our Varsity Cheer Squad, who had won State Championships and gone on to win a category at Nationals. A group of young ladies this talented, powerful, and beautiful, and you think you can break them by commenting on their sexual choices? Please.
“Her top doesn’t even count as a shirt. It looks like a bra. What a slut.” The judgmental friend, back to the first girl. You’re kidding, right? As if choice in clothing was directly correlative to sexual behavior. Slut-shaming is toxic. No self respectin’ independent woman is gonna let you make her feel inferior for doing whatever and behaving however she wants. And for the record, her top was cute.
“GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN.” An abrasive freshman, yelling from across the room. I think this one ought to speak for itself.
“Suits are for fags.” A sophomore who’s apparently “too cool” to dress sharply. (If you ask me, he’s probably just too homophobic.) How does attire correlate to sexual orientation, anyway? I’d really like to know. And the guy in the suit looked really nice, for crying out loud. I just don’t understand. This comment was flawed on so many levels.
*wolf whistle* A senior attempting to express interest in a girl who entered the main floor in a gorgeous dress. If only he knew his behavior was 1. extremely offensive 2. far from flattering and 3. mostly just plain creepy/rude. When he whistled at that girl, he sent a thousand inappropriate messages at once, all with subtle undertones. In one action, he was telling her that she exists to be attractive to him rather than to be her own person. This is degrading and it’s dehumanizing. This is harassment, and I was really disappointed that the student who did this faced no consequences.
I could keep going for pages, but the point is, these comments/actions aren’t funny. They’re not useful; they don’t inspire growth in people; they’re just plain toxic. It’s shocking how often you hear things like this going to high school. These students are brainwashed, and it’s heartbreaking.
After the assembly, the flood of students simultaneously returning to class ensued. I tracked down the couple of girls sitting behind me to talk with them. I told them it wasn’t their fault they were shallow and insensitive and condescending. No one had successfully communicated to them that life is hard for everyone, and you ought to respect people despite their choices and lifestyles (so long as they’re not hurting anyone else, of course). They rolled their eyes and laughed at me and walked away.
I just hope that one day, they will come to understand and learn from their mistakes. If not, I hope someone will. How can things get better after high school if we don’t grow out of our prejudiced and sexist ways?
Written by Caroline Liu
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