• Students in the US are addressing the schoolyard culture of toxic masculinity. (Maskot / Getty Images)Source: Maskot / Getty Images
Students are taking it upon themselves to educate their classmates on toxic masculinity, galvanised by the #MeToo movement.
Samuel Leighton-Dore

28 Mar 2019 - 11:27 AM  UPDATED 28 Mar 2019 - 11:27 AM

Most young people can recall experiences of bullying or objectification during high school. However, empowered by the #MeToo movement, some female students are now taking it upon themselves to educate their classmates on gendered intimidation and toxic masculinity - forcing school authorities to sit up and take notice.

According to the Washington Post, several students at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland were left outraged after discovering a list, circulated via mobile phone, which appeared to rank female students based on their appearance; ranging from 5.5 to 9.5.

Students Yasmin Behbehani, Lee Schwartz, Jane Corcoran and Nicky Schmidt were among those ranked on the list and, unsatisfied with the principal's disciplinary action (one day of in-school detention), arranged a grade-wide protest.

“It was the last straw, for us girls, of this ‘boys will be boys’ culture,” Behbehani told the Washington Post.

“We’re the generation that is going to make a change.”

Around 40 female students gathered in the assistant principal's office, demanding a conversation about school safety and the ongoing culture of toxic masculinity. The result of the protest was a two-and-a-half hour meeting, in which girls read powerful statements to those behind the list.

“It was quite intense, being so directly confronted in front of so many people for so long,” the student responsible for creating the list said, speaking anonymously.

“When you have a culture where it’s just normal to talk about that, I guess making a list about it doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to do, because you’re just used to discussing it,” he continued.

"It’s easy for me to lose sight of the consequences of my actions and kind of feel like I’m above something.”

“I recognise that I’m in a position in this world generally where I have privilege. I’m a white guy at a very rich high school. It’s easy for me to lose sight of the consequences of my actions and kind of feel like I’m above something.”

While it shouldn't be up to school students to fight for their own safety in the education system, the resulting discussion in this case is indicative of the ways in which change can happen when those affected band together and demand it.

After all, sexism is always a learned behaviour and attitude, one that needs to be brought to attention and dismantled - so what better place to address it than school?

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