Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rush Limbaugh and High School Cafeterias

I hesitate to give any more oxygen to Rush Limbaugh and his mean-spirited "entertainment." His three-days-worth of on-air name calling of a 30-year-old Georgetown University law student ("slut" "prostitute") is only the latest incarnation of his penchant for making money spouting vulgarities. His remarks are gross and I am delighted he has lost 33 and counting sponsors. Perhaps inadvertently, he has managed to undermine real concerns about the lack of conscience protections for religious institutions in President Obama's health-care mandate.

Still, while politicians are taking to the airwaves to condemn Mr. Limbaugh's remarks,  in places as humble and as important as high school cafeterias, the name-calling of women continues. During lunch duty in a suburban high school cafeteria, I regularly hear words like "slut" "bitch" and "whore" flow from the mouths of seemingly sweet adolescent girls. And I wonder whether this generation of girls is growing up with any sense of themselves as special or beautiful.

Consider this: two girls, the best of friends, are gabbing. As one "bestie" leaves to go to another table, the other calls out: "Bye, slut!"

When I started working with adolescents a few years ago, I went into culture shock. I hadn't been around high school students since, well, high school. We're talking 30 plus years. I couldn't believe the clothes, the language, the casual cruelty, the lack of respect for adults, the lack of filters and boundaries.

As a teacher, it is my job to guide students. But I try to do so with a smile because I know none of us likes to be criticized. As my husband reminds me: people think their behavior is reasonable. That's why they behave the way they do.

Last week on lunch duty,  I heard a girl giggling to her friends at the adjoining table.

"Bitches!" she calls out to them. Everybody laughs.

With a smile, I motion the girl to my desk. "Me?" she asks. I nod."Uh oh," she says as she walks over.

"Did you hear what you said?" I ask, as gently as I can.

"No," she says. Her face is puzzled.

"I can see you are a wonderful young lady, but the words coming out of your mouth are not appropriate and don't match who you are. Can you try to find another way to talk with your friends?"

"Oh. I'm so sorry," she said. "I didn't even think about what I was saying."

I know this, and I tell her so.

Most of what teenagers say is not well thought out: it's spur of the moment, the result of rapidly changing emotions and shifting ideas of who and what they are. But I would add: much of the time we adults don't think about what we are saying, either.

It saddens me how we as a culture are tolerating an increasingly crass way of talking to and about one another. I am concerned about so-called grown ups tastes' for the coarser things in life. I am troubled  that so many are reaching back to shaming and damaging stereotypes about women's sexuality.

What we  laugh about can spoil the souls and spirits of our teenaged sons and daughters.


  1. This is why I am loving my Jane Austin movies (and my Catholic bubble) more and more. The "lack of propriety" as Mr. Darsey puts it is just one thing that our culture has been blind to for quite sometime. I know those girls think that's ok to talk like that because everyone is...which is the problem. God Bless you for preserving the young girl's dignity by gently putting it!

  2. This is great, Allison. I love how you approached her and totally agree with everything you've said.

  3. I whole-heartedly agree! I even go so far as to not let my kids use the word "butt" in their language. Our society has grown accustomed to using derrogatory language as relates to our bodies and what we are so much it has become habit. Using derrogatory terms like this dumb down the beautiful Image of God that we all are, and encourage it further. It is a slippery slope.

  4. I've received a few requests to open up Pay It Forward to posts from a bloggers own blog. Being open minded ... I thought I'd give it a try. Although the original idea was to share what you've seen elsewhere on the internet, I fully recognize that each time we post something on our own blogs we are also sharing Good News, great tips, wonderful prayers, fabulous photos, scrumptious recipes, hilarious humor, unbelievable books, stories of goodwill, or good things that have knocked our socks off. So let's give it a try—shall we?

    I'll leave the March linky open until March 14th. Enter your links below or on the original post. (Entered links will appear in both places.) I can't wait to see what gets posted!

  5. What really bothers me most is that more often than not, these young people do not even realize that this is inappropriate.

    I remember last year in my confirmation class, I caught this young woman, an otherwise very sweet girl, using language that my Navy brother would have blushed at. When I pulled her aside, she really had no idea that the words she was using were as bad as they were.

    So I would say, don't judge the young people too harshly, they know not what they do. By all means, if you are in a position to open their eyes, do so!

  6. I agree with you about the language. I think you handled that situation well.

  7. i understand this post....i see this generation changing values before my eyes....so casual about everything..I tell my girls to stand for their beliefs and earn the respect you want...and tell my boys to also respect themselves and others...but me and my husband are the only ones telling them this!!! It really is crazy. we can set n example and pray!!
    i am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.