CLAIRE PARKER, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Gender Equality Discussion held by The Beacon and OUDC
Throughout interviews with Wilson students and a discussion on gender issues that The Beacon helped host, misogyny and the sexualization of women in music was a recurring theme. In senior Angel Cox’s experience, most people “support rappers who disgrace women and put them down, so they don’t really care about women’s rights.”
“Most rap songs are not the most respectful towards women,” says senior Katie Kearns. Senior Lillie Bufkin agrees, saying, “We get so used to hearing the derogatory terms thrown all over the place.”
Although rap is often highlighted in mainstream criticism of sexism in music, the reality is that women are sexualized in almost every music genre, from Robin Thicke’s rape-culture-promoting hit “Blurred Lines” to country singer Tyler Farr’s “Redneck Crazy,” which boasts the line “you know you broke the wrong heart, baby” and is sung from the point of view of a man threatening violence because his girlfriend has broken up with him.
Kearns thinks that negative portrayals of women in music and pop culture are so ingrained in society that they can’t be changed. “It’s how our generation was raised,” she says. “I don’t think anyone’s gonna try to change that.”
“Slut-shaming is the thing I have to see on a day-to-day basis,” says Senior Graciela Barada. According to the New York Times, slut-shaming is the widespread cultural phenomenon of “stigmatizing female promiscuity.” Barada says that it is prevalent at Wilson, where she often hears students calling girls “slut,” “whore,” and “hoe.” This name-calling is one of her biggest pet peeves, and she thinks it is reflective of a societal obsession over girls’ sexual choices.
High school is ground zero for slut-shaming. Senior Tristan Huber says that when two heterosexual students decide to have sex, the boy is often congratulated, while the girl is judged. Both males and females are perpetrators of this slut-shaming. “I feel like a lot of girls are mean to other girls, which is not good,” said Suzy Carnevali-Doan, who attributes her choice to become a feminist largely to slut shaming. “As a girl, you need to be especially ready to defend another girl,” says Barada.
Policy-wise, students cited several persistent disparities at Wilson that create gender inequality. The dress code was the most obvious. “Dress code is one major, major thing, because it especially targets young girls,” says Barada, explaining that since girls are at a vulnerable age, when society is telling them that what they look like is integral to their identity.
Senior Madison Summers says the dress code seemed to blame girls unfairly for ‘distracting’ boys. “Nobody told a boy to look at your arms and your back,” says Summers.
While the administration relaxed the dress code considerably this year, senior Suzy Carnevali-Doan is still sometimes criticized by administrators for what she wears. “I’ve been stopped for what I wear, but I just don’t think it should be an issue,” she says.
Inequality in sports has been a persistent issue at Wilson and throughout DCPS. The National Women’s Law Center brought this issue to attention in 2013 when they filed a lawsuit against DCPS for failing to comply with Title IX, the law that mandates equal opportunities for girls.
Senior Madison Summers says disparities are still visible at Wilson. “The football players and basketball players…have more privileges and they get off with stuff easier, because they’re special to the administration,” she said. “A girl wouldn’t get that treatment. Not only is it sexist, it’s also just kind of not fair.”
CULTURE OF PASSIVITY
The culture of girls’ passivity is not always easily identifiable, but remains an issue at Wilson and worldwide. “In education in general, there is this whole culture surrounding girls not talking in class,” said senior Emma Keyes. “There’s this whole culture that promotes boys’ voices without necessarily promoting girls’ voices. It’s definitely negatively characterizing girls for the same characteristics that are praised in boys.”
This culture is manifested in classrooms where girls raise their hands disproportionately less than boys, and are hesitant to share their opinions. “Girls [aren’t] able to talk about important issues without their ideas being turned down by their friends that are guys, who don’t mean to do it, but it’s just so natural to them that their [reaction] is ‘No, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
Girls who do insist on sharing or arguing their opinions are often perceived as being aggressive. Keyes experienced this when she participated in a moot court activity. She said, “I went and one of the judges one time after my thing said ‘You were too aggressive,’ and then later, my coach said ‘He wouldn’t have said that had you been a boy.’”
ILLUSTRATIONS BY LAUREN WHITE