Bloggers React: Prestigious Boys' School "Draft" and the Sexualization of Girls

BlogHer Original Post

I taught at the Holton-Arms School for a year, filling in for a teacher who was on maternity leave. In addition to teaching English classics and essay construction, I was expected to shape the girls into intelligent, thoughtful, respectful members of society. Shortening of the school uniform was not to be tolerated. Nor was messy hair or talking back or not coming to class prepared. Beyond the grade-grubbing, my time at Holton was positively idyllic in terms of the caliber of student.

Down the road was the brother school, Landon. It has made the news several times recently, namely with the murder of the lacrosse player, Yeardley Love -- a former Landon student, George Huguely, charged with her death -- and now, Maureen Dowd's column.

In a Op-Ed for the New York Times, Dowd writes about the latest scandal to rock the school: treating girls like draft picks, a group of boys constructed their "dream team" list of girls in the area, ranking them based on their height, weight, and the chance they would perform sexual favors. In addition, they planned an "opening day" party in which:

The mission was to invite the drafted girls and, unbeknownst to them, score points by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters with the young women as possible.

The winner of the pool would be the boy with the most points in the end -- just like fantasy baseball -- with the score raised for "shmoozing with the parents."

Because they're still gentlemen, you know.

Having dated Landon boys as a preteen and teen and having taught their female counterparts at Holton, the article felt par for the course. It may be shocking enough to the rest of the country to warrant coverage in the New York Times, but I read it and said the same thing I always say when Landon hits the local or national news: How does a school with such a stringent code of conduct have so many students who break it? Who is teaching these boys the behavior expected in the code of conduct? Because it's not enough just to write it and recite it -- you need to teach it and enforce it.

And, please, it's not just Landon. The school isn't tainted, nor do the boys behave differently from how boys behave across America. It only becomes news-worthy because we somehow expect more from highly-educated boys with the world at their fingertips. But the sexualization of girls -- both by fellow students and by the commercial world -- is a constant topic in the blogosphere, with the topic matter coming from schools around the country, ad campaigns, and the silent (and not so silent) messages the adult world is sending to children.

  • Too Early to Call chalks the whole Landon debacle up to privilege and explains that you can see the same behavior displayed on Wall Street.
  • Women's Glib applauds Dowd's piece (well ... at least this particular piece by Dowd) and concurs that this is just an example in a long line of unintended education which teaches boys that violence against women just isn't a big deal. And she asks the chilling question: "When the world treats women like shit, how can we expect our sons and brothers and classmates to learn that it’s not okay to treat women like shit?"
  • U.S. Catholic dissects the story from the religious angle, begging people not to write off this incident as "boys will be boys."
  • But it's not just Landon. Momlogic has the story this week of a girl who "the boys had exposed themselves to her at school -- and that one of the boys had urinated on her during lunchtime." The consequence: suspension for five days. What about educating these boys on how you treat another person so it has a chance of not happening again?
  • AMoores tells a story about her daughter who had two hugs go way too far. Her daughter was upset and went home to shower, though her mother points out, "The thing is, you can not simply wash off the feeling of having been violated leaves behind." She writes about the energy we put into educating girls on how they should be treated -- but are we also giving the inverse of those lessons to the boys so they know how to treat a girl? Unlike the Momlogic article, this school did a great job handling the situation and using it as a teaching moment.
  • And girls can't win. Womanist Musings points out that as much as boys sexualize girls, when girls sexualize themselves, they are slut-shamed. She discusses the tragic case of Jesse Logan and -- comparing it to the Landon situation -- you can understand why our girls are so confused about how to comport themselves.
  • Feels like Home points out that even little girls are being sent the message that they should sexualize themselves, and I have to concur. I took my daughter swim suit shopping two weeks ago and found a size 5T black-and-white string bikini at one clothing store. Because every preschooler needs a black-and-white string bikini.
  • United States of Motherhood holds up the viral H&M video of kids dancing in a suggestive manner with the adults appreciatively watching and cheering the girls on as they shake their bums in the air.
  • Hooking Up Smart brings it full circle, touching on the now infamous video of little girls dancing to Beyonce and states, "No one has claimed that the girls exhibit sexual drive of any kind. What rational adults find alarming is the degree to which other adults have sexualized these young girls. These girls are half the age of Lolita, yet there are women in our society who wholeheartedly approve."
Girl (9-11) in park hand on hip, looking down, boys (9-12) in background

I have a boy and a girl, and we have started early on explaining to both how we expect them to treat the opposite sex. It's actually quite simple, and it's the way we expect them to treat people within their sex as well -- with respect, with boundaries, without objectification. I'm terrified of what my daughter will endure during her middle school and high school years, but I'm also terrified of raising a son who will ever make the decisions these Landon boys have made in humiliating and objectifying these girls. To hopefully protect against that, we have a family code of conduct -- one even more stringent than the one Landon proudly displays to lure prospective families -- and we not only enforce it -- we teach it.

What are you teaching your children about objectifying girls?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

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