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The Paw Print

The Paw Print

Gender divide: the misogynistic undercurrent within the Poly junior class

For an assignment in the PolyEnriched American Studies class, juniors were required to write and deliver a speech on a topic they are passionate about. The article below is an edited version of junior Shawn Dahiyat’s speech.

Prejudice is not natural. Prejudice is taught. In our homes, sports teams and schools, young boys learn to hate the gender that granted them life. In front of our entire class of eighth-grade boys, a male self-defense instructor used the word “wh*re” to refer to a woman. A woman reduced to an object for sexual pleasure. That grown man took hold of our classroom and our minds. He crossed out “woman” and wrote “wh*re” in blood-red pen. That man gave me, a freshly transgender teenager, the first inhale of the misogynistic smoke that pollutes male-only spaces.

None of the boys said anything. None of the boys wanted to be singled out. None of the boys saw the man they were supposed to look up to turn into the evil serpent he condemned. When these boys see their mothers, talk to their female classmates, work with their female co-workers or pursue love interests, the acrid bite of misogyny will stifle fond words with the infectious sting of judgment. He poisoned them. Many boys don’t care about misogyny because they think it has nothing to do with them. Seeing boys bully girls in elementary school has nothing to do with them. Hearing their peers objectify girls by calling them degrading obscenities has nothing to do with them. Watching women receive 84 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job has nothing to do with them, but misogyny has everything to do with boys and the women in their lives.

When I sent a survey to the junior class, I asked my classmates about their experiences with misogyny among the boys in our grade. One boy said his guy friends make misogynistic jokes to girls when the girls are outnumbered. One girl stated a boy makes misogynistic comments to her face when it’s about other girls. One girl overheard two boys insult the intelligence of a girl in their advanced math class when the girl wasn’t around. Why do so many young men feel the need to bring down girls to fit in with “the boys?” Does misogyny foster inclusion in the Poly community?

When the sixth graders saw a gender bias in the Physical Education (PE) curriculum, with the boys playing rougher sports and the girls learning something else, they petitioned to change the PE Department’s policies. Sixth graders worked to change harmful policies, without teachers’ prompts, without their parents’ suggestions and without their school’s guidance. While near-adults badmouthed their female peers, pre-teens saw the issue in the PE curriculum and recognized the misogynistic standards set for young girls, and the PE Department is now working to knock down the wall between genders in their PE classes. Without the collective acknowledgment of misogyny, sixth-grade boys would not have seen the problem with gender bias, allowing their mouths to continue to spew hateful words that flood young girls’ ears and break their spirits. If sixth graders can destroy misogyny in their community, why can’t we?

Misogyny has sown itself deep into the fabric of the junior class’s community. It’s just out of sight, like lice in your hair. Our grade is split in the middle like the double yellow lines separating the lanes on a winding road, with boys on one side and girls on the other. The only way to dismantle prejudice is to grab your individual biases by the neck and dismember them piece by piece. I want to see all of your biases, grudges, predispositions, judgments, opinions, everything purged from your system. I want to hear boys hold their best friends accountable for their misogynistic actions rather than laugh along to fit in. I want to feel the edges of our class come together like the last missing puzzle piece needed to complete our community. We must integrate the boys and the girls to rip apart misogyny rather than let misogyny rip apart gender integration.

I am not saying you have to ditch your friends and only hang out with other genders. I am not saying every single boy is a misogynist. I am not saying girls have never said mean things about boys. I am saying it is our responsibility to come together as classmates and friends and teenagers and juniors to notice our own imperfections and mend the gap between each other to create a positive social and educational environment.

How do we fix a problem so deeply ingrained in society? We recognize male chauvinism and squash it before it spreads. Call out your friends. I hope to see speckles of long hair, baseball caps and pajama pants spread out on the patio with a generous helping of every gender at each table. I hope to see boys combat their individual biases for the sake of the current and future women in their lives. I hope to see my fellow juniors strive to grow as individuals in the final stretch of our formative years as siblings, children, friends, classmates, people who’ve pushed beyond the prejudice of the past.

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