Sick and tired of the patriarchy? Me too!
Cleveland High School in North Carolina produced an “educational” video entitled: “So You Think You’re Prom ‘Propriate.’”
The video starts off with a guy wearing a sports jersey introducing himself as the host of the segment about what girls supposedly should and should not wear to prom. He then introduces a panel of judges, consisting of one guy and four girls.
They then show the first three dresses:
Very pretty. These all get cheers and check marks from the panel of judges. Then they show another set of three dresses:
Also gorgeous, right? Not according to the panel of judges, who mark them all with an X while shaking their heads. “Well that was something,” says the host.
They move on to a third set of dresses:
WOW! The one on the right is a phenomenal dress. I wonder if it comes in black? All of these dresses are beautiful, but garner a buzzing sound in the video with bars placed over the thighs, lower backs and covered behinds, and breasts of the women shown. The panel of judges then rip up their papers and push over the table in front of them in a display of anger. The host’s hand can be seen shaking in fear after he peers out from behind a curtain and asks, “Is it over yet?” This is followed by a presentation of a list of rules dealing with girls’ dresses as related to their body parts. There is no mention whatsoever of any dress codes for males.
What Cleveland High School has offered their students is lessons in sexism, misogyny, slut shaming, and rape culture. What’s really disturbing to me is that female students were active participants in this. These students could all use a different type of lesson, so here you go.
Ladies, as with any other decisions that involve your bodies, the decision as to how to clothe your bodies is yours and yours alone to make. When you engage in slut-shaming your fellow women for the choices they make, you are contributing to your own oppression.
Gentlemen, you are also engaging in your own oppression when you allow yourselves to be reduced to a bunch of degenerates who can’t keep it in your pants any time they see a woman in a low cut, short, or backless dress.
Ladies, no matter what you wear, men and other women are going to have thoughts about you. Most of the time, these thoughts, even sexual thoughts, are perfectly normal and healthy. But no one, no matter what you’re wearing, has the right to translate those thoughts into actions without your consent.
Gentlemen, when you react to what you see, you’re reacting to an image. This is different than interacting with a real person. When your actions only reflect your reaction to an image, that’s objectification. This video is promoting the idea that it’s acceptable to base your interactions with women on objectification.
Cleveland High School is failing to give students appropriate sex education, opting instead for abstinence education. These students are not alone. All over the country, the failure to deliver comprehensive sex education equally to both boys and girls has led to a situation where, “…the girls are taught to just say no, and the boys are taught not to ask.”
Cleveland High School is teaching lessons of dis-empowerment, and that’s unfortunate. The good news is, if you attend this or any other high school reinforcing rape culture, you don’t have to accept these lessons. You have access to the kind of information that can educate and empower you, and you have a responsibility to yourselves and each other to seek out and use that information. Ladies and gentleman, let’s take a look at a different kind of image now; one that will hopefully make you think about what can result because of the lessons your school is choosing to teach.
Patriarchy- the system that encourages making dozens of rules to restrict girls’ clothing without saying one word about the boys is what has led to a culture in which if your friend, mother, or sister is raped, many will attempt to question and blame her- objectify her- instead of holding the rapist responsible. The same system which teaches that female bodies are impediments to the education of boys and to their appropriate conduct is what leads to others thinking they have a right to void the consent of your friend, mother, or sister based on false and judgmental assumptions and objectification.
F*** the patriarchy.