Oh, America. I guess we shouldn’t really be surprised anymore. I mean, if in 2016 we can elect a racist egomaniac who brags about sexually assaulting women and whose administration attempts to turn back the clock on women’s rights, then stories like this make sense. Sadly. But that doesn’t make them any less despicable. I don’t care how conservative or liberal you are or what values you hold dear, scrawling a message like the one found on the wall above the lockers at a Texas middle school is wrong—up, down, and sideways.
As shared on Twitter a few days ago, someone of importance who is in charge of what gets permanently affixed to the walls of a middle school approved the following quote: “The more you act like a lady, the more he’ll act like a gentleman.” This appalling statement was found in giant black letters across the span of seven lockers. For young girls and boys to see, every day.
Um, holy shit, there’s a lot to unpack here.
Okay, first of all, let’s address the immediate responses found in the comments along the lines of “That’s what’s wrong with kids these days! They aren’t taught manners! They don’t act like ladies and gentlemen anymore!” Alright, Gerald, have a Tums and calm the fuck down.
You’re right that today’s kids should be taught manners. They should be taught how to treat one another and how to have respect for themselves.
A) What the hell does it mean to “act like a lady”? (Probably not use the words hell and fuck in your book, huh?) I teach my daughter to be kind, to help anyone in need, to befriend the lonely kid at school. I teach her to care for our planet so that her kids and grandkids can enjoy it. I teach her to keep herself safe, stand up for what she believes in, and take pride in her worth and value in this world. AND I teach her to clock anyone in the face if they touch her inappropriately in any way.
That’s what it means to “act like a lady” in our house.
But guess what, Albert? My boys are taught the same exact things on that list. So is it really about “acting like a lady” or “acting like a gentleman”? To me, it’s just about being a good person.
Unfortunately, your antiquated terminology leads me to think you view “acting like a lady” to mean something different than I do. I imagine you’re also a member of the whole “don’t show your shoulders at school, girls, or the boys won’t be able to concentrate!” club, aren’t you? Maybe that’s unfair of me to assume, but typically those beliefs go hand-in-hand.
B) Are you kidding me with the way this is written? Rather than sending a message that ALL kids should be kind and respectful to themselves and to each other, this statement directly blames the girls for the boys’ wrongdoing. Sorry, 7th grade girls. If you hadn’t worn that skirt that’s 2 inches above your knee, little Billy wouldn’t have stuck his hand up it. And sorry, Maddie, your boobs are too big for 8th grade. And even though you have no biological control over how your body develops, we need you to go ahead and wear a giant hooded sweatshirt or else Johnny won’t be able to maintain his gentlemanly decorum as you pass by in the hall. It’s really up to you, girls!
C) And here’s the real kicker! Do you know who originally coined this phrase? Sidney Biddle Barrows, a MADAME who famously owned an escort service in NYC. Oh, the irony. I can’t even.
Apparently, the quote has since been removed after the tweet went viral and backlash ensued. Teachers even spoke out (anonymously because they probably want to keep their jobs) about how abhorrent this statement was.
“The quote does not align with HISD values, and it will be taken down,” a statement from the district read. Awesome. I guess that should make this a non-story then, huh? Except no. Because why the fuck was it there in the first place? Which backwards, misogynistic assholes approved this as a statement that young, impressionable girls and boys should read on a daily basis? Is this archaic sexism what you’re teaching your students every day?
What. Is. Wrong. With. This. Administration.
Okay, so obviously they need some help in the quotes department. I get it—it’s tough to find good ones nowadays. It’s not like there are 805 million choices available within seconds due to the INTERNET or anything. (I know your brain exists when Teddy Roosevelt was president, but it’s 2018 now. Come join us in modern times. Please encourage some of your pals like Paul Ryan and Jeff Sessions to join us.)
So here, I did it for you. The following are quotes you might consider instead—none of which are discriminatory or demeaning to any of your students.
A quote about work ethic:
“I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.”
Or one about facing our fears:
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…we must do that which we think we cannot.”
Or how about perseverance?
“Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
(And BTW, I found these in like 6 seconds via The Google.)
Seriously, people. Can we stop telling our girls they are responsible for how boys behave? Can we just teach all of our kids to be respectful? Why can’t THAT be what “acting like a lady” and a “gentleman” mean? Wouldn’t that really make America GREAT?