Objectifying lists in bathrooms reflect failure to protect women


Graphic by Shirah Lister

Anna Dueholm

Recently, a list of boys’ names was found in the girls bathroom under a heading that read, “Boys to avoid,” created by girls naming boys they felt were guilty of harassment and/or assault. In retaliation, boys came up with a list of their own, also detailing “girls to avoid,” with reasons next to each, describing their perception of girls’ sexual habits.

When girls make a list of people they perceive as dangerous or threatening, albeit under currently unsubstantiated allegations, the list they come up with shouldn’t be placed on the same playing field as pure objectification. Both of these lists allude to greater problems in society: one is the unsurprising objectification of high school girls, the other is the shame surrounding reporting allegations of harassment and the failure on behalf of those in authority to act in response to allegations.

When girls feel their allegations of such events won’t be taken seriously by administrators and broader society and instead turn to other methods to keep one another safe, dismissing them as “mean” or “immature” isn’t appropriate. In fact, the #MeToo Movement gained traction by women in Hollywood making similar lists. Since the spread of the movement, other lists titled “men to avoid” have circulated communities and college campuses alike.

Still, the problem with “boys to avoid” lists is two-fold. First, with a lack of evidence, nothing can come of the allegations. Second, without due process, the boys aren’t given the chance to defend themselves.

Instead of grouping “boys to avoid” lists with vindictive “girls to avoid” lists, we need to question why girls feel these lists are needed. Rather than shaming girls who report their experiences, we need to support those who have the courage to speak up. Instead of fostering an environment where allegations are ignored, it must be clear to students that allegations of issues during the school day will be heard and taken seriously by members of the administration. This cuts both ways, as the boys accused need to be given a chance to share their side of the story.

Freshman year, my friend was groped in the hallway. As an administrator stood nearby and didn’t say or do anything, I was shocked. In the years since then, I’ve stopped being shocked when things like that happen—they’ve been normalized. It’s time to start being shocked again. If girls are going to be criticized for informal allegations and not distinguished from immature name-calling and objectification, the culture of the school must change. Girls can’t be shamed for reporting, and their reports cannot be brushed off by those in authority. As a society, we need to do better, but change can and must start at Wilson. •