On the heels of One Billion Rising, celebrated on the 15th anniversary of V-Day, as one billion women and those who love them rose worldwide to bring awareness to the issues surrounding violence against women, I have been thinking about interpersonal violence in our own country. There appears to be a distinct disconnect between the message we want to send to girls and young women-that they can love and respect themselves and acknowledge that they have needs of their own that come first-and the message they are receiving-that they should look or behave a certain way in order to receive love and acceptance.
So why aren’t girls and women getting the message that they are fine just the way they are? Perhaps those of us trying to send this message are getting drowned out by the sheer volume of socially constructed messages bombarding girls and young women every day. Examples of objectification and violence are thrown in our faces constantly. While the recent charges of rape against high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio–young men who allegedly raped a 16-year-old fellow student last August while other students videotaped the unconscious girl–may seem extreme, we see other seemingly unimaginable stories day after day. Take the story of the “fantasy team draft” created by ninth-grade boys at the elite Landon School in Maryland in 2010, where the boys chose girls, rated them, and planned sexual conquests as part of a competition in which money would eventually be exchanged. Then, there was the violent murder of a University of Virginia lacrosse player by her abusive ex-boyfriend, a former Landon student.
It is no wonder that young women are so confused. If boys today are being sent to prestigious private schools like Landon only to be taught to objectify and debase young women by drafting them to teams with such names as “The Southside Slampigs,” and the punishment for planning sexual conquests is a slap on the wrist and a “boys will be boys” mentality, then the cycle will only continue. The former Landon student who murdered his ex-girlfriend had been seen previously choking her. He had also attacked a male teammate he thought had kissed her, and he became so out of control with a female police officer during a drunken rampage that he had to be tasered. But apparently everyone looked the other way, and through silence, the behavior continued to be condoned.