"This is a bitch."
And this feminist is a girl who speaks her mind. I’m loving some of the campaign posters (Special Sneak Peek! this campaign is set to launch later in June!!) that a dedicated NSVRC staffer brought back from the MVP Conference last week. Sadly for me, she doesn’t want to share them. I can’t say I blame her! These are the kinds of witty prevention campaign posters that I want hang in my house. Coming out of Maine, MECASA and Boys to Men partnered to develop the Backbone Zone Campaign. This concept oozes a primary prevention approach to changing the social norms that perpetuate gendered violence.
According to the Backbone Zone, they developed these materials to help create a safer school climate by educating on sexist and homophobic language, teaching students to choose different words and to become active bystanders. I like that these materials use the words that middle and high school students use and hear regularly. It feels real. As you might imagine, some schools seem to be resistant to posting words like “bitch” or “fag” in their hallways.
This feminist’s response: “When you’re ready to disrupt the hateful words that are already being tossed out in the hallways, you’re welcome to disrupt the campaign’s messaging.”
Taking words, phrases, and ideas that are inherently gendered and twisting them to be insults when you’re sad, disappointed, angry or upset creates a harmful climate and perpetuates a patriarchal, hetero-normative social structure. In a now famous TED-Talk, Tony Porter made a call to men to step out of the man-box by re-thinking, re-evaluating, and re-acting in instances where being a “man” means breaking down women. He talks about a 9-year-old athlete who told him that being told that he was “playing like a girl” by a coach would “destroy” him.
Tony asks, what are we teaching our boys about manhood; what are we teaching young boys about girls? When a 13-year-old walks down the hallway at school and hears gendered slurs on a daily basis with no response or intervention from other students, teachers or mentors, what do they learn about gender? We teach with our silence every day. Say something.