Students Speak out About Race and Gender Discrimination

Opinion

Recent+discussions+have+brought+issues+with+gender+and+racial+discrimination+to+light.++Unfortunately%2C+these+problems+seem+to+be+present+at+Westwood+High+School+as+well%2C+with+students+coming+forward+about+the+injustices+they+faced+at+this+school.+This+can+be+fixed+however%2C+by+promoting+discussion+and+stricter+disciplinary+action+against+people+who+perpetuate+a+culture+of+hate.

Photo By Courtesy of miawicks9

Recent discussions have brought issues with gender and racial discrimination to light. Unfortunately, these problems seem to be present at Westwood High School as well, with students coming forward about the injustices they faced at this school. This can be fixed however, by promoting discussion and stricter disciplinary action against people who perpetuate a culture of hate.

By Dia Jain and Keya Sampat

This story includes mentions of suicide and sexual assault which may be triggering to some individuals. Please read with caution.

With the current movement to educate ourselves and others, many students are speaking up against gender discrimination that they have faced. From degrading comments about their bodies and appearances to inequity within the classroom, this issue has become one that needs to be addressed. 331 people submitted responses to a form we sent out regarding the problem of gender discrimination. Out of those, 39% said they have directly experienced discrimination at Westwood and/or had an inappropriate comment made about them because of their gender. 41% of respondents said they do not believe that the school is doing enough to combat reports of gender discrimination or sexual harassment. To address this, students offered the idea of having teachers and administrators take time out of class to address sexism. From flex discussions about societal issues to having stricter disciplinary actions on the students that are reported, it is clear that students want more action from the administration. Students suggested having more non binary bathrooms to further inclusion. The survey results revealed that many students did not report an incident for reasons varying from a feeling of embarrassment to the idea that they themselves would be punished or not believed, leading to an increased importance of emphasizing easy ways to report so that students can feel comfortable doing so.

Below are stories that students have shared about their experiences.

“Me and other girls have been body shamed for not having a ‘classic’ or thin build and all we’ve been told to do is cover up more (even if we’re already dressing modestly) and ignore the comments made against our bodies. Many of my friends have been victims of assault or harassment and none of them have gotten any sort of help from the school, or at best a recommendation to ‘stop talking to the person that’s harassing you.’ This isn’t just a problem for girls, but I don’t know too many guys who’ve had this type of issue personally. I’m certain that it happens to them too.”

“I was sexually assaulted at Westwood and when I tried to say something I was told that it wasn’t a big deal because I wasn’t a girl. I was repeatedly told to kill myself because, ‘all men are pigs and should be slaughtered like them.’ Whenever I try to speak up about men’s issues I get repeatedly told that I’m trying to oppress women’s voices and problems.””

“I’ve had so many guys comment about my weight or my hair or appearance which is so messed up. They’ve judged my intelligence and made me feel like I don’t know what I’m saying and hurt my already fragile self confidence. I work equally as hard as them but even teachers favor males and I’m not entirely sure why.”

“I’ve been told that I belong in the kitchen [and] that I’m not a full person (I’m black and they were referring to [the] 3/5 compromise). I’ve been told that ‘you’re not just a female you’re a black female- that must suck for you.’ I’ve been told that my opinion is invalid, that I have no butt, had some strange stuff said about how I have big boobs, [and] lastly [had] men constantly taking control over projects in the classroom setting even if I’m as or more qualified pertaining to the topic.

“I was a freshman. I had to use the bathroom and the nearest bathrooms were pretty far away. I was wearing a flowy skirt that came down to my knees and a tight long sleeved top that came right below my belly button. But I was still fully covered since the skirt came above my belly button. My friend was wearing skinny ripped jeans and an oversized short sleeved graphic tee. While we were walking down [the stairs], there were three guys standing on the staircase below us. We hear[d] a guy say “Oh sh*t! God d*mn, dude you gotta look at this!” and he pulled out his phone and he forgot he had his flash on and quickly went to turn it off but the other guy still had his phone up. The third dude stands there and says, “guys stop, that isn’t funny- just let them be.” My friend and I knew exactly what was going on and I put my hands below my butt, trying to make sure that there is no loose material where any skin is showing. While I’m doing that, my friend runs down the stairs, walks straight up to the two guys that were video recording me, and tells them to pull out their phones right now or else she’s going to bring the principal and the police officers. They don’t listen and she tells me to go get the principal, I start walking to Dr. Acosta’s office and the guys are like ‘okay fine fine here’ and my friend shows me a close up video recording of part of my butt and I wanted to cry. Not because they could’ve leaked it out on social media but because I felt stupid that I thought that I could wear a flowy skirt (not even defining my body shape) that came down to my knees (knees are lower than fingertip rule) without being catcalled. My friend deletes the footage and starts yelling at them for doing this and tries to teach them a lesson to never ever do this again. The third guy who was telling the other two to stop, came up to me and asked if I was okay and explained to me how he hates it when guys catcall girls because he thinks that girls are not a product or a toy to be used, [that] they are humans also. I didn’t feel like going to an administrative staff member to tell them what happened because of an incident I faced in middle school and the useless reply I got. I never found out what that guy’s name was but shout out to him for respecting and treating females the right way. He has all my respect. Never treat a female like an item you would buy at the store, never.”

“I was sexually harassed for months last year. No teacher noticed and I wasn’t given the opportunity to reach out for help. Me and my friends were constantly body and slut shamed by boys at school and they received no consequences. Last year a boy wore a shirt with cannabis on it and we told a staff member and they laughed it off, but girls were constantly forced to change because their skirt was too short. Does that seem fair to you?”

By sharing these stories, we want to show that those who go through this are not alone and that it is never their fault. As a society working to improve ourselves, we hope that everyone is more aware of their actions and words from now on as they can have a lasting impact. Everyone makes mistakes, including us, and we hope that we can grow and learn from them rather than continue to make them. When people share their stories and experiences, listen and understand what they are trying to tell you.