I’m No Expert on Cat-Calling

I just finished up sexual health week in my bio class, where we talked about STIs, contraceptives, and I answered a hundred burning questions from teenagers about sex (both as a noun and as a verb). We ended the week with consent as the discussion topic of the day, and it spilled out into a whole new can of worms that I’ve been mulling over for the past few days — rape culture in high school.

A few disclaimers to start with: I’m not an expert on anything.  I’m not an expert in teaching, not an expert in science, not an expert in rape culture, not an expert in sexual health, not an expert in psychology, not even an expert in fashion (which is what this blog is all about). I’m also not intending to make blanket statements about any groups of people. I may inadvertently do so in this post, but please know that it is not my intent to create nor perpetuate stereotypes about any groups or communities. So, take this for what it is – a teacher who is struggling with how to approach a sensitive topic with her teenage students.

I started the lesson with a warm-up, asking kids to respond to this comic I found from an old Huffington Post article. Responses in my  first period class (non-honors Bio) ranged from “some of the things being said aren’t bad at all” and “she’s getting complimented”, to “she looks angry”. Responses in 3rd and 5th (Honors Bio) were more what I expected to hear, such as “she’s being cat-called and it’s gross”. Following the warm-up, we watched this video about a woman walking the streets of NYC for 10 hours and getting cat-called a ridiculous number of times. The conversations exploded the moment the video finished in every class, but the difference in the tone of the classes was striking.

In first period, the conversation was dominated by the boys (and one girl) with comments such as “well, she was walking down by the clubs, so what would you expect?” and “that’s rude! she should say thank you when people say good morning!”. Girls are already out numbered in this class, and most of them pretty much kept quiet unless I called on them.  A couple girls tried to argue back with the boys, but they ended up getting drowned out. One kid said something along the lines of “well, you know, she’s got curves and she’s wearing tight pants, you know, how can people ignore that?” The most vocal girl was agreeing with the boys – even going so far as to say the guy in the video who followed the woman for 5 minutes was “just going in the same direction, what’s wrong with that?” My jaw just hit the floor at that point.

This was when it really hit me (at 8 in the morning) how grossly ill-prepared  I was for this conversation that was happening around me. These are teenage boys (and a girl), earnestly and innocently having a conversation that essentially perpetuates rape culture in our society – victim blaming, mansplaining, and #notallmen. The saddest thing of all was when I moved the conversation on to Brock Turner, a couple girls said, “it’s sad, but that’s what we expect now”. *tears*

My 3rd and 5th periods were so different from this – girls spoke up, the boys agreed with the girls, and even expressed solidarity with the woman in the video.  *tears* One kid mentioned that a girl from 1st period had warned her that she “was going to get so mad about class today”.

In the end, I failed my kids big time on this.  I hadn’t created enough of a safe space for my girls to speak up. I assumed the kids were mature enough to tackle these sensitive subjects and I assumed they’d all agree that cat-calling was a negative thing to do. I failed to recognize and anticipate past experiences of my students (one kid told a story about when he had paid a genuine compliment to a stranger who misunderstood and cussed him out and how he’s still upset about it).  I was woefully unprepared for what happened. I should have paid closer attention and structured the lesson to give girls opportunities to share in smaller groups. I should have designed a pre-lesson that focused on empathy. I should have done a lot of things, and next year, there will be changes.

Or…maybe I should just leave it up to the experts? Who are these experts in high school? I know some of my colleagues also struggle with this. When I asked around, I heard that one year an English teacher taught A Streetcar Named Desire, and some kids said that Blanche deserved what she got (rape). Who’s taking this on and is it even our place? Is this one of those things were I’m stepping out of line as a biology/science teacher? I really don’t have an answer to this. Reader, do you?

In the meantime, here’s an outfit from this past week.  Moving through my Australian COS haul slowly. A lovely kid in 6th period (AP Bio) said that my “outfit is on point today, Miss.”  *tears*

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top: cos – jeans: uniqlo – shoes: cole hahn

Crowd Sourcing?

Today many of my kids discovered the wonders of a shared document with editing rights. Many of them have never used that feature in Google Docs before, and it seemed to be especially fun when it’s projected for the whole class to see.  My biology class is in the midst of writing a lab report for the first time.  When I took an informal poll, only a hand full of students in my honors sections knew what a lab report was.  So I created a template for each section and shared it with all of them.  As I was showing each period how they needed to create a copy of the template, the edits started rolling in.  Without fail, it happened every single period.  What else could I expect?

Someone replaced the heading of “introduction” with “hola my hombre”

Someone else typed in the name of his friend sitting in front of him and tried blaming it on the friend.

Some one else added in rows and rows of random letters.

Then some one threw in the word “bitches”.  I felt my eyes grow big and my blood pressure rise.  That kid promptly got a stern talking to with time to reflect on her behavior.

I pointed out that we could all see a cursor with their NAME as they type, and the edits still kept coming.  I showed them how I can see who wrote what, and revert back to a previous version, and the edits still rolled in paired with hysterical laughing.  Teenagers.

madewell boy shirt 3 This is a new shirt from Madewell.  It was on super sale in the store, and the only size they had was XS. So fingers crossed it doesn’t shrink in the wash!  It’s double layered, warm, and with interesting details.  I feel a little bit like a cowgirl farmer in it because of the buffalo checks.  madewell boy shirt 5

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madewell boy shirt

glasses: warby parker -cardigan: uniqlo – shirt: madewell – belt: gap – jeans: f21 – boots: steve madden

Heavy and Light

A quick update from the last post:  I spent time discussing race with each one of my classes the next day.  Over the next few days, word had spread and individual students sought me out to talk about it.  We talked about so many things, and the students had a lot to contribute.

Each class’s discussion was different, and conversations morphed towards gender issues and consent.  I showed them this video showing a woman walking in NYC and dealing with catcalls and creepy men (I know that there is an issue with race in this video also, but I think the message overall is relevant).  As they watched it, I watched them.  It was interesting to see their reactions – none of them had seen the video before.  The girls faces either had horrified looks or nervous laughter (that weak laugh that we have been trained to do when they feel uncomfortable or scared).  The boys were either shocked or laughed.  It was a great learning opportunity and I’m happy I took the time out of traditional Biology curriculum for it.

Back to light hearted blogging!  This was what I wore that week.  Everything here is an oldie but goodie.  I’ve had these Pilcro loafers for ages, but never wear them.  I’m just too addicted to ankle boots!  I had listed them on my Poshmark closet, but decided to take down the listing in keep them after all.  I only just started listing things on Poshmark, and I’m feeling like it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

zara tshirtpilcro flatsforever 21 cardigan

cardigan and jeans: f21 – t shirt: zara – belt: gap – shoes: anthropologie – jewelry: madewell, family heirloom – watch: pebble

Keep Calm and…

Today was the first day back from our week long Thanksgiving Break.  I was NOT ready to come back – a week of lounging around the house stuffing my face wasn’t nearly enough!  It was rough getting back into the groove today and by the time my last section rolled around, my patience had gone out the window.  Normally, I love my 6th period – they’re a rowdy, noisy, chatty bunch who as a whole are an awesome group of kids.  Sometimes, their shenanigans can get to me and push all my buttons all at the same time.  Today was one of those days and I got angry…but now I feel bad for getting angry.  They’re teenagers who just have a harder time focusing on Biology after they’ve already been in school for 6 hours (kids here have 8 hour school days — I think it’s ridiculous).  I should have kept calm and…let them be teenagers.

These booties are from Zara, a few years ago.  They’re pretty bad-ass, and I got many compliments on them today from students and adults alike.  I don’t wear them that often, for no good reason at all.  My top is from COS, a H&M spin off with a store in Manhattan and is also available online in the US.  I picked this one up over the summer while visiting New York.  I love the shape since it has so much room in the belly area but is still fitted around the shoulders (a trapeze top?).  The fabric is also a perfectly drapey material.    Lastly, I got a technology hand-me-down from B, his Pebble watch.  Winning.

forever 21 high waisted jeans

zara studded boots

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zara boots

teacher outfits
cardigan: uniqlo – top: cos – jeans: f21 – boots: zara – watch: pebble – gold bracelet: madewell – jade bracelet: somewhere in china

Mucking Around

The other day, a kid in my first period asked me what crawled up my ass and died.  Yup.  I had gotten tired of his and his friends mucking around (Aussie speak, thanks to B) during class and employed multiple non-verbal “100% engagement strategies” on them all at once.  I stood right next their chairs.  I tapped on the worksheets they were supposed to be paying attention to.  I mimed putting a cell phone away and taking head phones out (teenagers are a cleaver bunch when it comes to illicit technology use in the classroom).  I made eye contact and scanned their work area.  Then finally, I crouched down to their level and asked if they needed help getting started.  “Miss, what crawled up you ass and died today?”  LOLZ.  I chuckled and said something along the lines of “your lack of work”.  Was that appropriate?  Who cares?  The kid who said it got started and got his work done eventually.

Today I wore a new linen button down from Madewell (super sale!).  White shirts are basic, classic and creates an instant “professional” look.  This one in particular is awesome because it’s long enough to cover my entire torso.  Also, I can wear this shirt till I’m old and fabulous as it’s not too teenager-y like other things I have.  Linen is pretty much permanently wrinkled, so it fits my non-ironing life style.  When B’s mum was in town, she actually helped me iron a couple shirts (#winning).  I’m saving those shirts for a special occasion now.

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madewell white linen

glasses: warby parker – shirt: madewell – belt: urban outfitters – jeans: j.brand via nordstrom rack – boots: steve madden

Varsity

I went shopping over the weekend and treated myself to some much needed retail therapy.  It’s been a while (for me at least) since I’ve updated my wardrobe.  B shops maybe once a year, but I’m not that disciplined.  So I went and made the rounds at the local mall and picked up a few things.  First up, this t-shirt which I now call my varsity shirt.  I never played sports in high school, unless you count sailing in the Sea Scouts.  I did try girl’s soccer a couple times, but I was just pathetically bad at it.

Funny story, I ended up matching a little bit with a kid in my class today.  She had on the same shirt, but in maroon.  I pointed it out and she just half-smiled at me.  I guess she didn’t think it was as cool to match as I thought.  Lolz.  It happens.  varsity3

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top: f21 – skirt: jcrew – shoes: worishofer – necklace: my mom’s

On the beauty side, I picked up a new lip tint from Sephora.  It’a a Korean brand called Chosungah 22 and it’s pretty awesome.  The stain lasts a while, even with my habit of constantly licking my lips.  I like it more than Benetint and the Face Shop brand tint.  The gloss half though is gloopy and sticky – I’m not a fan.

A Giant

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scarf: topshop – cardigan and jeans: uniqlo – shirt: giants – belt: banana republic – boots: madewell

A few FAQ from students:

“Miss, are you going to have kids?” — No.

“Miss, what are you?” — I am a human being with feelings.

“Miss, did that hurt?” — (about my nape piercing) Of course.

“Miss, why are you so damn tall?” — Because I come from a city of giants.  Duh!