Girl, know your place: Sexism at Wayland High

Alie Perkus

“I’m a dude, so physical harassment seems normal,” remarked a 10th grade male when asked what examples of sexism he had experienced or witnessed at Wayland High School.

Two weeks ago, students in grades 9,10, and 11 were asked to take an anonymous survey requesting their opinions about sexism in order to evaluate the awareness of sexism at Wayland High School. Based on this survey, one may conclude that sexism is an often dismissed, but continuous problem.

When asked for his opinion, social studies teacher Daniel Frio reviewed the results of the survey and said, “Females suffer more from sexism on this campus than people do from racism….That’s the way it is.”

Other controversial topics such as anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination against gays and lesbians are frequently addressed in society. However, 51% of the population is female, and sexism is rarely mentioned.

As in American society today, sexism is also a latent issue in the high school. As stated by an 11th grade female, “Women hate themselves because of the world men have created for them to live in. Men who say that women bring sexism upon themselves are ignorant. They have no idea what it’s like to be a woman and for that reason their opinion on that is invalid.”

When Frio was asked if he thinks sexism plays a role at Wayland High School, he immediately answered, “Absolutely!” Erin Lehman, social studies teacher, agreed without hesitation. “I think the sad truth is that many young women don’t realize when it’s happening to them.”

Frio added that, “People like to think that schools may be different from the outside world, and schools like Wayland are better. Sexism doesn’t know one school from another or one community from another. It’s rampant, and absolutely, it’s here. It’s inherent in our culture. It’s probably the least addressed of the ‘isms’–which include racism, classism, etc.”

A 10th grade female discussed the vibe she gets on campus. “Boys often dismiss girls’ opinions and don’t take them seriously,” she said. “They treat girls as inferior. Males automatically assume they are better.”

Another 10th grade female addressed a different aspect of the issue, elaborating on the lack of respect toward girls and women. “Boys always touch girls even though girls say stop,” she said. “They don’t care that girls asked them to stop.”

Most males don’t understand that females feel uncomfortable when males try to touch them. “What boys will tell you is that girls don’t mind…. The boys need limits, and nobody is setting limits for them,” said Frio. “Most girls don’t feel empowered to do it. But if they try to stand up for themselves then ‘you are a bitch.'”

One 11th grade female said, “Guys think they can take advantage of girls because they have strength and hold it over girls. Men don’t understand what they make girls feel about themselves.”

This raises another question: Do females bring it upon themselves?

According to an 11th grade female, females bring it upon themselves because, “when they dress like sluts, how can they expect people to take them seriously?”

Frio disagreed, saying, “If girls are dressing inappropriately, it doesn’t mean a girl is asking for victimization. That is called blaming the victim.”

A tenth grade female added that, “Radical feminists just make things worse. Women have equal rights–that should be enough.”

However, an 11th grade male disagreed, saying that he thinks “many guys are so ignorant and don’t realize that they are hurting girls. Some notice, but just don’t care. I do notice, but I don’t stand up because I don’t want to be made fun of.”

An 11th grade female noted, “Some girls act stupid and slutty so guys like them or make fun of them.”

Answering the same question, another 11th grade female asked, “Why would they ever do that? Sexism isn’t something a woman wants to bring upon themselves.”

Lehman noted, “I honestly think that it’s such an accepted part of the school culture that often boys and girls alike don’t recognize when they are promoting it, or when it is against them. The first step is to acknowledge it. I don’t know whose responsibility it is, but the first step is to recognize it.”