Raising 3 teens and 1 almost-teen (she's 12, same thing!) my husband and I have ZERO tolerance for bullying. Dealing with mean girl and mean boy mentality isn't easy, but discouraging meanness in others, outside the classroom, can be real hard -- especially, from a teenager's point of view.
Unless, we're talking about sexual harrassment and my 17 year-old daughter happens to be within earshot.
We don't often read about young women standing up for each other (or adults, for that matter) so, I asked Heather if she would mind my sharing her story. She agreed.
So, I then asked her if she would mind writing it herself, which is sort of like my handing over the virtual car keys to an aspiring journalist):
I've never been one to stay quiet when it comes to a situation that I happen to have a strong opinion about. It would probably be better for everyone if I just held up a sign that reads something along the lines of "strong opinion ahead, prepare yourself” every time I open my mouth.
I guess I was just born without a filter. Thanks, Ma.
Sometimes it even comes in handy. For example, I was recently involved in a situation that I just couldn’t ignore:
In the afternoons, there are two extra passengers on my bus. Two boys. The two boys have been irritating my friend since the first day they showed up. Every day, it seems, they have to comment on how good she looks, how cute she is, how they like her outfit, etc.
You may be thinking: “Oh, but that’s sweet. Everyone needs a confidence boost once in a while. What’s the big deal?” Well, the big deal is that they don’t say it in a nice, innocent way. Trust me; when you hear it, it doesn't take a genius to detect the sexual implications and undertones to each and every brutish comment that spills from their mouths.
It makes my friend uncomfortable, and, to be blunt, it disgusts me.
So, a short while ago, the bus came to pick us up from school. We climbed on, plopped down in our seats, and retrieved our headphones, ready to drown out the obnoxious conversations that echoed throughout the parking lot.
My friend was looking at her phone, not paying attention to the rows in front of her, when I glanced up.
One of the boys was holding a notebook over the top of the seat. On the page it said: “I’M HORNY :)"
I was shocked. It was beyond obvious that the message was intended for my friend, but she didn’t see it. I just rolled my eyes and tried to ignore the snickering brats.
Then the notebook rose again.
This time, the page said: “TITS??”
I lost it.
I stood up in my seat, gave them my worst glare – it’s pretty nasty, ask my Mom – and told them that they needed to stop now and that the things they wrote were disgusting.
And what did they do after I yelled? They laughed.
Fortunately for my family – and the faces of the two boys – I didn’t get violent. Instead, I stood up even taller and told them that the situation wasn’t funny at all. I may have used stronger language than that, but I think you get my point without direct quotation.
The entire bus was staring at me in shock. Why was I so angry about some guys making crude comments to a girl? Doesn’t that happen all the time? Aren’t girls used to it?
And therein lies the major issue: nowadays, actions like these are just brushed off and given excuses such as “it happens all the time” or “boys will be boys”.
I’m sorry, I must have missed the memo, but since when has sexual harassment been okay? Since when has it been considered "out of the ordinary" to stand up against someone who’s being altogether disgusting? Since when has speaking your mind not been a thing?
I’m not going to sit there and pretend to be okay with something that I feel is wrong just because no one else seems bothered by it.
And do you want to know what bothers me the most? The fact that I end up feeling like a villain; the fact that I, a seventeen-year-old girl, am labeled a bitch for “taking things too seriously”.
I can take a joke. I just can’t seem to find the humor in sexual harassment or the mistreatment of women.
No, sweetie, I most definitely DO NOT!!! Oh, and if you're wondering whether or not her speaking out made a difference: the boys haven't said a word, since. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story and you just go ahead and keep on speaking your mind, Heather. It's how you do.
10/19/13 Edited to add, what Heather didn't mention in the post: she called out the boys for "sexual harassment". They insisted it was NOT sexual harassment. We really NEED to be teaching our young men, differently.
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