To the Girls at My Old High School

I am so incredibly sorry. Someone is on your side on the outside.

My heart hurts at the fact I cannot do anything for you but offer you emotional support and the occasional study tip from behind my keyboard. While I am gone and free of the blue and tan hallways and the horrid third floor bathroom, I am still a graduate who spent four years in the same place you are now.

No one tells you that when you go to art school, subjectivity becomes the ruling power in your daily life. Subjectivity can be a wonderful, flexible thing but when it caters to the safety of those doing emotional and physical harm to the student body. Mental health is placed to the side in order to maintain those hard-to-attain status because, as a teacher told a young acting class, “women are always dispensable.”

Subjectively, that is shit for everyone not favored by the prevailing notion that the golden goose is a boy. It makes me physically ill to think about how abusers and rapists are free to walk the halls with little more than a tap on the knuckles being their reprimand. It is seen as respectable for a substitute teacher to deny the existence of cancer or to make a joke about trans people. The culture of our school and many others is not conducive to the safety of anyone who is not a boy with rules catering to their perceived incapability of handling themselves. Boys are treated like impulsive toddlers who do not understand the concept of “no” and girls are punished for their perceived indiscretions.

Should boys be upset with the fact that they are constantly infantilized and treated as if they have no free will? Yes.

Should that mean they are to be protected further by how the rules of the school are enforced? No.

I have seen these things first hand as girls have gone to administration with legitimate reports of abuse on school grounds to be dismissed as “attention seekers” while everyone else in the building knows how he degraded and hurt her. A young student went to her most trusted teacher to talk about her assault to have the teacher chastise her for being at a party and tell her to not “drag his name through the mud” by telling the class what he did. Why would an adult count the days an underage girl decided not to wear a bra to school?

I am so glad to tell you that this is not what it is like in college where there is Title IX, support groups, and protective measures. It still happens, yes, but when it becomes public, administration is forced to address it instead of sweep it out the door with promises of a one-on-one meeting to never be followed up. Making noise outside of the linoleum halls will find ground, I promise you. Ask around because I guarantee you are not alone nor is this the only school where this happens. Support is crucial in these formative years and I hope that this may make some changes at your school or for you.

His actions should not be your punishment.