Addressing Misogyny

Zoe Goor, Layout Assistant and Staff Writer

Andrew Tate, a far-right social media influencer, has been searched via #AndrewTate 22 billion times on TikTok as of the end of 2022, according to New York Magazine. Tate, a self-proclaimed misogynist, once said, “You can’t be responsible for something that doesn’t listen to you. You can’t be responsible for a dog if it doesn’t obey you, or a child if it doesn’t obey you or a woman that doesn’t obey you.

While appalling, when incidents like this one show up on our “For You” pages, it is easy to feel like our generation has risen above this type of discrimination. I have always known that all women are likely to be victims of misogyny, but I never imagined myself on the receiving end.

I transferred to the school this year, and in the past seven months the word “bitch” has been used to describe me twice. The first time was to my face because I called out a male student for cheating during a competition, and the second time was on a group chat (that I was not on) and of which my friend sent a screenshot.

It is easy to rationalize this behavior because of how common it is, but we cannot excuse these comments and pretend like they have no meaning. When we permit this language, instead of teaching male students that this language is offensive, we teach them that their actions will have no consequences.

But the problem is that it is impossible to “grow out of” a behavior that is deemed acceptable by the culture of the school. And it does not stop at language: according to a survey done by the school, 40% of respondents reported experiencing a comment of a sexual nature that was demeaning or offensive and 25% of respondents reported that someone touched or tried to touch them in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. While the survey was not separated out by gender, a 2018 study done by National Sexual Violence Resource Center shows that women are at a higher risk of being sexually harassed or assaulted, as 81% of women and 43% of men report sexual harassment or assault during their lives. It would be challenging to track and time-consuming to prosecute each instance that “bitch” is used, but the school needs to take concrete steps to make the culture less hostile to female students.

Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said she thinks representation matters when it comes to empowering students, and she feels many students think the school no longer has instances of gender-based discrimination because of the high representation of female students in leadership positions. Additionally, Slattery said most of the microaggressions that she has heard about happen in social and athletic settings, attributing them to displays of toxic masculinity. Slattery said she sees the solution to the problem as male students standing up for female students during misogynistic incidents.

Slattery is correct in saying that male-female allyship is the answer: all students should participate in mandatory ally training to create a more supportive school environment for women. However, the problem is not one of education, but of culture. “Bro culture” and fragile masculinity mean that male students may have outsized reactions to claims of misogyny because it threatens their “manliness”. These crises of masculinity inhibit women from standing up for themselves because their male aggressors either gang up on them or label their concerns as overly sensitive or feminist. It is up to the male students of the school, then, to speak up when they hear misogynistic comments, even if they are in a crowd of male students.

Currently, feminism is seen negatively: when searched on YouTube, “feminism” yields results that read like Tucker Carlson Tonight headlines. To combat the prevalent anti-feminist narrative, the school should hold mandatory assemblies to speak about why we should all be feminists and to provide actionable ways for students to show their support for their female peers.

Schools like ours that advertise their commitment to diversity and inclusion should be an oasis from the toxicity of the real world. However, by letting microaggressions slide, our community’s culture is complicit in perpetuating sexism and misogyny.

It does not stop there. When we condone one act of misogyny, the line between that offense and the next becomes very blurry. It is impossible to justify one instance of violence and not open the floodgates to justifying all the rest. We need to stop sacrificing women by letting the inexcusable slide.