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Opinions

Enough with the Sexism and Disrespect

From the very beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump’s comments about women drew attention to the objectification and lack of respect women face daily. In recorded conversations, Donald Trump has bragged about sexually assaulting women, defending it as “locker room banter,” rated women’s attractiveness on a 1-10 scale, demeaned, insulted and belittled them, and this doesn’t even touch the surface of what he’s done. Donald Trump has reminded us that sexism isn’t obsolete.

Sexism is not an archaic concept that only existed in the 1950s. As a country, it’s something we think we’ve outgrown, but in reality we have just become accustomed to it.

Whereas the majority of first-world democratic countries have had a female leader, the United States has not. Hillary Clinton succeeded where so many others had not, but given the higher standards she had to face during the campaign and her loss after election day, it was clear that many are still not ready for a female president.

Over the past century, we’ve made a lot of progress. From increased employment opportunities to newfound STEM programs for girls in primary schools, gender roles and standards are changing, which is important and valuable for men as well as women. The state and federal laws, as well as the Civil Rights Act, have given women rights they didn’t posses in the past. Women are living in a country and era where equality is considered an inalienable right. Despite this, women aren’t always treated the same as men.

Double standards for men and women start in elementary school; teachers and parents use “boys being boys” and “he’s mean because he likes you” as excuses that prevent boys from being held accountable for their actions while rambunctious behavior among girls is criticized for being unladylike. In addition, girls who date around are promiscuous yet a male who does the same is congratulated by his peers. Men are praised when they are blunt and assertive, but the similar women are standoffish, rude or may even have their actions and opinions absurdly attributed to hormones.

Respect is demonstrated through behavior, and the crude language and crass commentary shows how little women are respected. Masked in compliments, degrading opinions are expressed to women in all fields—doctors, politicians and athletes alike—that demean the work that they do. Reducing women to just their physical appearances devalues all other traits and continues to neglect the complexity found within all people.

Even after navigating the juvenile behaviors of high school, cat-callers and unsolicited physical interactions continue to disrupt and demean women’s lives. However, most people remain bystanders instead of speaking out against it. We need to remember that inappropriate invasion of space and grabbing are not acceptable forms of admiration or appreciation. It’s sexual harassment. Both parties need to give consent, not just one.

No matter whether at West or away from school, when you hear or see something, you must say something to stop it. And say it again and again until someone listens and helps.

As a society, we have come so far in terms of equality over the past century, but we still see behavior that is unacceptable. Acknowledging this status of disparity is the first step towards a nation built on equality and consent, rather than injustice because “every student needs to feel safe and not feel harassed or disrespected,” assistant principal Dr. Claudia Rueda-Alvarez said.

Even here at Maine West, discrimination and stereotypes based on gender remain a subtle and destructive force. At football games, this sexism is present when some male students ask female fans to step to the back to make way for the “real” male fans in the front. Teachers send girls who show shoulders out of class for a dress code violation, explaining that it distracts boys from their educations. But by taking a girl out of class, you are taking away from her education, putting one gender above the other. Some males, when out of earshot of coaches and teachers, holler suggestive comments to female athletes and use language that is hard to even repeat. They are hardly alone, though. Females hear these same comments casually made as they walk down the halls.

Now that we have a future president saying similar things, we worry that sexism will only get worse, as people feel more empowered to test the limits. On the day after Trump’s election, it became clear that some students would follow his lead in their intimidation of females and minorities at our school. “They were met with racist comments because they are Hispanic, or Muslim, or women, and they were not treated with respect,” principal Dr. Audrey Haugan said. “Some of our students did not feel safe either in or out of school.”

This blatant disrespect shouldn’t be tolerated among students, and it shouldn’t take a trip to the dean’s office to make that clear. Maine West students should be intelligent and worldly enough to shut down discrimination.

When a student feels uncomfortable or harassed, they should go see their counselor, or if the commentary is more threatening, their dean. “If we don’t say anything, the behavior is not going to stop,” Rueda-Alvarez said.

Both male and female fans should be cheering on our teams in the front of the stands. Dress code enforcement should be reevaluated to provide a fairer approach. Males who use vulgar words or gestures should be reported and face punishment. No person should feel threatened because of gender, race, nationality, or religion.

“Students need to watch out for each other and take a stand. In bullying, they usually have an audience, the bystanders, and we need to be mindful of that,” Rueda-Alvarez said.

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Westerner: The Maine West student voice for more than 50 years