Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Rush Limbaugh and High School Cafeterias
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.