Opinion: Belmont’s #MeToo Problem

 

By Wendy Murphy

In the throes of relentless news stories about the #MeToo movement, Larry Nassar’s sexual victimization of more than 250 girls, and widespread abuse of women by celebrities, businessmen, lawmakers, etc, it seemed an appropriate time to examine the status of females in Belmont. So I asked several young people to comment because they are in the midst of developing core ideas about what it means to be female in Belmont and beyond.

Here’s the gist of what I heard.

1. The boys treat the girls as if they get to decide who deserves their attention based on who is willing to do sexual things.

2. The girls who kiss up to boys are the ones boys pay attention to.

3. The boys basically rank the girls as good or bad based on how willing they are to do what they want. Girls who stand up for themselves are called bitchy, and ugly.

4. I think girls should start ranking boys, and telling the boys they’re not worth anything unless they do whatever we tell them to do – so we can show them how it feels to be treated like a servant.

5. This starts in Middle School but nobody ever talks about it – teachers and principals know it happens but they never talk about it as a bad thing.

6. It was great that the high school had a community gathering when a racist Instagram message was sent last year, but how come they never do anything like that when boys call girls sluts, or bitches, or worse?

7. Sexism is such a huge issue at the high school and when we try to talk about it, it isn’t respected.

They (and some parents) also talked about other things they see as unfair:

1. The cheerleaders suffered many concussions last fall, but nobody made an issue about it. There are so many stories about football players suffering head trauma. How come cheerleaders’ head trauma gets no attention.

2. Female athletes were asked by the Boosters to help with a fundraising drive, even though the money was primarily intended for the press box and the press box is used almost exclusively for football. Girls are happy to help other school teams but they already see excess favoritism directed at football.

3. Female athletes were recently made to store their gym bags on the second floor, while male athletes were allowed to keep their bags with them on the first floor.

4. Male athletes who play hockey and football have their names on individual signs on Concord Avenue, but there are no individual signs for female athletes of any sport.

5. Cheerleaders are unofficially required to bake cookies for football players before the games.

6. When female athletes are on the turf at the same time as the football players, they often get pushed back to 25 percent of the field space.

7. Diversity week programming at the high school at the end of January ignored sex/gender as a category worthy of attention. There were events on race, LGBT, Armenian Genocide, and even a “medium” who talked about feeling the presence of dead people, but no program was dedicated to issues important to girls, such as sex discrimination, dating abuse, and harassment. [Belmont could face state and federal civil rights investigations, or lawsuits for money damages, for subjecting sex/gender to different treatment in this or any other context.]

Belmont is hardly the only community that isn’t getting sex/gender right. But we claim to be ahead of the pack on social issues. We became a welcoming community on behalf of immigrants, and we have a very active group against racism. We also expect young people to volunteer for community service projects. Why are issues related to women and girls invisible? They suffer far more abuse because they are female than does any other class of people suffer abuse because of who they are in society.

Belmont should aggressively be teaching students about women’s oppression and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Most people don’t even know that women are not yet equal under the United States Constitution. This is the result of a failed education system. Thirty-six states have ratified the ERA. Nevada ratified in 2017. When two more states ratify, women’s full equality will be established once and for all. Until then, females will continue to be abused with impunity no matter how many #MeToo movements we have, because equality – not hashtags – will prevent disproportionate harm against the underclass.

Between now and when equality finally happens, Belmont and all communities should make every effort to teach young people that sex discrimination, including harassment and all forms of abuse, is the same type of civil rights violation as race discrimination, and none of it is welcome here.

A copy of this was shared with Belmont High School Principal Dan Richards and John Phelan, superintendent of the Belmont School District. I met and communicated with both men about some of these issues, and I asked them if they wanted to respond before publication. I offered to include any such response in this piece. Richards indicated a willingness to meet with me, again, in an effort to address the issues, and he offered to speak with guidance counselors and others to obtain information from them about their views on the issues raised.

Murphy is a former child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor who teaches at New England Law/Boston. Wendy specializes in the representation of crime victims, women, and children. She also writes and lectures widely on victims’ rights and criminal justice policy. She also serves on the Belmont High School Parent Teacher Student Organization and Advisory Council and is co-President of the  Belmont Woman’s Club. 

Anyone who wants to share information or concerns can contact Murphy anonymously at: Wmurphy@nesl.edu
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Comments

  1. Eileen Habelow says

    In a commitment to continue the dialog, I have connected with two coaches of varsity girls teams at BHS and there IS a schedule and a system for the fields that the coaches deemed fair. There is one turf and up to four varsity teams each outside season. So, while the girls may perceive inequalities, it’s not true. The Boosters is also known to approach the sports at Belmont in a very equitable and fair manner. So, let’s take those two issues off the table. The signs, I understand, are bought by the Friends of groups. I was involved in two Friends of groups for girls sports over the past 10-years and I don’t think buying signs ever came up, but we absolutely could have done it if we wanted, and if we had enough parent participation and donation.

    Now that I have a bit more DATA on those issues, I want to move us down the path of digging in to how the boys and girls TALK TO each other and how they TREAT each other… let’s educate them all on the power or language.

    We should not be done with this yet.

  2. Eileen Habelow says

    In a commitment to chat tinue the dialog, I have connected with two coaches of varsity girls teams at BHS and there IS a schedule and a system for the fields that the coaches deemed fair. There is one turf and up to four varsity teams each outside season. So, while the girls may perceive inequalities, it’s not true. The Boosters is also known to approach the sports at Belmont in a very equitable and fair manner. So, let’s take those two issues off the table. The signs, I understand, are bought by the Friends of groups. I was involved in two Friends of groups for girls sports over the past 10-years and I don’t think buying signs ever came up, but we absolutely could have done it if we wanted, and for we had enough parent participation and donation.

    Now that I have a bit more DATA on those issues, I want to move us down the path of digging in to how the boys and girls TALK TO each other and how they TREAT each other… let’s educate them all on the power or language.

    We should not be done with this yet.

  3. B says

    I don’t think that getting pushed off the field by football counts. For one, this happens to every team that has to deal with football, that’s just the way it is. Secondly, there’s a schedule for field use in the fall and it could just be that there is overlap in scheduling since some of the coaches adhere to the schedule more than others(not to name any names…). That’s what I’ve seen in my experience.

  4. Katie says

    BS! My daughter is on the cheerleading team and does not feel pressure to do anything sexual or bow down to her male peers. Girls excel in sports just as much as their male peers do too. It’s been a tradition in HS where cheerleaders promote their football team. No one is forcing them to do anything. This article simply appeals to a small minority of the Belmont High, not the majority where none of this happens. Terrible article, get educated

  5. A says

    Wendy, this is amazing and so empowering! Thank you for giving the girls at BHS a voice, because we didn’t have one before. I am glad that the conversation has started and that people are beginning to talk about this issue!!! You’re awesome thank you

  6. Katherine says

    Cheerleaders are unofficially required to bake cookies for football players before the games [if it’s unofficially required then it’s not required]

    hy are issues related to women and girls invisible? They suffer far more abuse because they are female than does any other class of people suffer abuse because of who they are in society. [Really? You think women are worse of than African Americans and the LGBTQ? A white women earns .77/1.00 and a black woman earns .66/1.00 yet you think women are worse of than African Americans. I am not surprised that a white person thinks this]

    The cheerleaders suffered many concussions last fall, but nobody made an issue about it. There are so many stories about football players suffering head trauma. How come cheerleaders’ head trauma gets no attention. [sorry to burst your bubble but the MIAA (which determines the rules and overseas the leave that Belmont high school plays in have protocol that aplies to EVERYONE when it comes to concussions, drug use, and bad sports conduct]

  7. Kristi Armstrong says

    Thank you, Wendy. The hope is that articles like yours will at least make some people think about aspects of this issue that they might not have considered before. That in itself is progress.

  8. Eileen Habelow says

    Thank you for starting the conversation, Wendy. Before we push this under the rug, let’s make sure we ask past and current female students at Belmont High about their experience. I have… and I am shocked and disappointed with what I heard.

    It’s not about blame. It’s about educating both boys and girls. It’s about raising awareness and starting a conversation.

    I am much less concerned about signs and press boxes and much more concerned about the comments regarding how girls are treated at school – whether they ‘deserve’ it (according to one commentor) or not.

    I hope everyone commenting here is willing to take the time to ask a few current or past students about their respective experiences. Let’s not silence this before we take the time to dig in.

    • K says

      This is the best comment on this page. There has to be some sort of middle here. I am sure no one here feels that gender equality is a bad thing, right? Only positive change could come from addressing perceived issues of gender inequality- whether an explanation on concussion regulations and the MIAA or actual written rules to stop sexist behavior- neither would do harm. It doesn’t have to be “This article is BS” VS “The boys are all pigs and BHS is Sexist”. Positive conversation and positive change is a good thing!

  9. says

    Stop using women’s rights as a way to shill for clients. #MeToo is about promoting awareness to rape victims, not whining about concussed cheerleaders.

  10. The Belmont Boosters Board Of Directors says

    The Belmont Boosters is a volunteer, parent-run, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support Belmont High School athletics. We are constantly seeking to expand our Membership, which is open to all parents and guardians of children in the Belmont Public School System.

    We’d love for any interested Belmont Public School parents, including Wendy Murphy, to join us at our next Member meeting to learn more about the Boosters and perhaps volunteer to help us out, as we have two important fundraisers taking place over the next several months alone.

    The next Booster Member Meeting takes place on Tuesday, February 13th, at 7:00PM in Room 113 at Belmont High School.

    Please join us.

    Sincerely,

    The Belmont Boosters Board Of Directors

    • marauder83 says

      Good for the fine people of the Boosters to invite this “author” to a meeting to see the work they do for ALL sports in Belmont. The press box at Harris field is used by every sport that plays there, along with the Belmont Media Center and the coaches and staffs of visiting schools and the press! So Wendy are you going to the meeting? Maybe your too busy telling everyone about all your “positive feedback” to the garbage you wrote.

  11. Meg says

    This is complete and total BS!!! ALL of our kid ds are trying their best and if girls parents want to make signs for them and display them then by all means do it. Don’t cry victim when you send half naked selfies to the boys. My son and his friends do nothing but look out for one another. They are a wonderful group of girls and boys who celebrate each other’s victories and commiserate over their failures. The signs in the boys locker rooms were made by a boys parents true but those same parents volunteered for both their son and their daughters. If the cheerleaders don’t want to bake cookies for the boys then don’t. It’s called support! This is a community and the kids need to work together. I know for a fact that the middle school addresses the issue of “ranking” girls. They’ve been doing it for years.

  12. Mamou says

    Wow……I taught high school in the 80s and 90s and cheerleaders were making the required cookies, and decorating the lockers of “their football player”. and yet on observation, the boys were bossing them around and the girls were taking it. It saddens me that nothing appears to have changed. Is this just Belmont? Or is the same situation happening in all high schools today? Our girls need to be better empowered to take charge of their own lives. School climate needs a boost to the 21st century.

    • marauder83 says

      “required” cookies? hmmm….
      Every boy was bossing every girl around? hmmm….
      Plenty of things have changed, but I guess you think this “opinion” is somehow real.
      The girls at BHS are very empowered, especially the athletes.

      Go Marauder girls!!

      • Mamou says

        Just read the article about this…….didn’t research it, but the article did quote people’s remarks, not just give her opinion.

        So very glad to hear that about Marauder girls and that things have changed. I do remember what it was like years ago, as I am the mother of Marauder girls who played for BHS..

  13. FF T says

    Nothing I read here makes it sounds like sexism is a huge issue at the high school. Good luck with trying to police human nature and sexual/social interactions at a time when basic hormonal biology is running amok for both boys and girls. Why weren’t boys consulted on their issues? Apparently only the girl’s “suffering” matters. You know, it’s BOYS who are punished more severely for similar infractions (,https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-06-22/boys-bear-the-brunt-of-school-discipline) it’s BOYS who are graduating in ever shrinking numbers,https://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/leaving-boys-behind-public-high-school-graduation-rates-5829.html it’s BOYS who run a very high risk for suicide due to concussions. But we don’t care about that, do we? What absolute garbage.

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