The issue of the sexual harassment of women is obviously a critical one, particularly in the media as of late. The rise of the #MeToo movement on social media has finally given victims of sexual harassment the much-needed opportunity to share their stories.
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The difficulty that countless victims have had in coming forward to share their experiences, however, has also been in focus. The skepticism & judgement that many victims face (or fear facing) renders many women afraid to speak up, for fear of either being shamed or told that the harassment was somehow their own fault.
This mixed message is exactly what Jared Hensley attempted to perpetuate when he slammed girls for, “pretty much ruining everything” in a video regarding school dress code policy.
Hensley, an Athletic Director and Assistant Principal at Soddy-Daisy High School in Hamilton County, Tennessee, was addressing a recent policy prohibiting students from wearing athletic shorts during the day at school. He stated in the clip that boys would undoubtedly be unhappy about the athletic shorts ban, but:
“If you really want someone to blame, blame the girls. Because they pretty much ruin everything. They ruin the dress code, they ruin…well, ask Adam. Look at Eve. That’s really all you really gotta get to, OK. You can really go back to the beginning of time.
His statement clearly indicates that not only is it the girls’ fault that the policy exists, but in his words, he gives the boys an excuse to BLAME the girls for the policy in the first place.
Because after all, according to Hensley, it’s always been that way, hasn’t it? He references the Biblical origins for how Eve not only ruined Adam, but how girls have been doing the very same thing ever since.
Hensley concluded that even though the policy is unfortunate, the boys (NOT the girls) should be prepared for inconveniences just like this, because, in his own words:
It’ll be like that the rest of your life, keep your mouth shut, suck it up and follow the rules.
The message: girls are at fault. Always. They were to blame at the beginning of time, and will continue to do so.
In case you find it hard to believe, here’s the actual clip as posted on YouTube, compliments of The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Wow. Just WOW. Please keep in mind that not only is Jared Hensley the Athletic Director of the school, but the Assistant Principal.
Think for a moment about what message this statement sends to the female population of athletes/students under his authority.
Now of course Hensley’s comments ignited a media firestorm, as parents expressed their outrage by immediately contacting the school board and shared the incident on various social media channels.
Mother Natalie Green nailed the critical problem with these Hensley’s comments, stating that,
The fact that they’re coming from an educator is bad enough, but the fact that they’re coming from a man in a position of power is even worse. These remarks are blatantly sexist and misogynistic.
Director Hensley was called out for his inflammatory comments- he was placed on leave until further investigation into the matter is completed. According to a statement issued by Hamilton County Superintendent Bryan Johnson, “We have reviewed the video content. We find the comments about young women in this video inexcusable, as the sentiments expressed do not align with the values of Hamilton County Schools.”
Some claim that the comments were taken too seriously, and that the uproar over it is merely a reflection of the current climate regarding sexual harassment.
In other words? He shouldn’t be held accountable for his words, or decision, apparently.
And THAT is exactly the problem.
His comments do matter so much because they reflect the precise nature of what’s happening on a larger scale regarding sexual harassment in this country.
You only have to look at the controversy surrounding the accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to see the divide. Kavanaugh is accused of allegedly sexually harassing two women (possibly more), and the victims have been viewed with fierce skepticism, doubt, and even derision from many, even including President Donald Trump himself.
The message that this says to women is that when it comes to gender politics, it’s a woman’s fault. Dawn Sloan Downes, a writer for Chattanooga Moms Blog, sums up the destructive message that attitudes like Jared Hensley’s conveys:
It mirrors the message society sends when it says a rape victim has ruined a boy’s life because she came forward.
Some may question the controversy over these brief remarks: after all, it’s just about shorts, isn’t it?
This video, despite Hensley’s flippant manner, actually sends a subtle yet insidious message to young women. It conveys to them that you are not the victim, but the villain.
You deserve what you get, because you are responsible for it, somehow.
And if a boy or man is frustrated with you, it’s probably because you caused the situation that he is frustrated by in the first place.
Scary, isn’t it?
ALL of his students deserve to feel valued and respected, especially considering his authority in his dual leadership roles. As the mother of two sons, I am raising my boys to hold themselves accountable for their OWN actions. And as the mother of four girls, I’m raising them to do the same.
Hopefully, the concept of each individual accepting responsibility for his OR her own actions will discourage the fear of anyone feeling safe to speak up when victimized. The fact that Jared Hensley has been held accountable for his words is a good, healthy step in the right direction.