High School Prom Poster Encourages Boys to "Protect Her Character"

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

What’s not quite as reasonable is when a public high school creates a prom poster with a religious, sexist, anti-sex message and then refuses to address the concerns of the student who points out these messages.

Here’s the poster that graced the walls of Lincoln High School, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.


There are some positive female attributes on there, right? Fearless. Honest. Determined. Confident. Brave. Ambitious. Generous. Exuberant. Compassionate. Independent. Loyal. All great qualities. But when you take a close-up look at the sleeves of the word-dress—you may need to squint a little—you’ll see some other ones as well.

Polite. Well, okay. Everybody should be polite.

Tidy. Hmm. (You’ll have to imagine that “hmm” in a bit of a Marge Simpson voice.)

Shy. Quiet.

Shy and quiet? While these can be charming traits when they come naturally, are they really aspirational?

The top of the poster says “A Night to Protect Her Character.”

When senior Kelsey Schindl confronted the principal about what the poster implied, Schindl insisted that this was neither a religious nor a sexist message. But look at the bottom, underneath the picture. The principal (of the public school) has his signature next to the logos of two different organizations, The Crossing of Manitowoc County (a Christian pro-life clinic) and Holy Family Memorial (a Catholic health care provider).

In case you’re in doubt that it’s sex they’re talking about, here are comments from the two organizations who sponsored the poster.

The Crossing of Manitowoc County:

“Our poster and outreach programs are intended to raise awareness of some of the potential risky behaviors often attached to prom night. We hope that these posters will remind and encourage teens to embrace healthy responsible behaviors so that prom will be a “night to remember not a night to regret.”

Holy Family Memorial:

“Holy Family Memorial supports the core message within this Prom poster, which is the promotion of social responsibility and safe behaviors for both young women and men.”

Schindl felt the message was a little stronger than that. She told Mashable, “It’s basically just saying your character depends on whether or not you have sex. And if you have sex, you won’t have any character.”

But only if you’re a girl. There’s no boy on the poster; in fact, the poster is clearly addressed to boys. While telling kids to think carefully before having sex is a wise message, the idea that girls have a character that’s tainted by sex is not.

At first, Schindl’s protests went unaddressed, so her brother took the cause to Reddit, where she found some sympathetic ears.

“Why would anyone need to protect her character if she’s already fearless and tough?”

“I love how no one ever says anything about protecting the boy’s virtue.”

“So once a woman has sex, all those qualities disappear? Is that what this is implying, or am I misreading this?”

“Yep, took me a moment and some reading to understand ALL the implications of it. On the surface it just looked like “oh, that’s nice, a good reminder for high school boys that there is more to life to than being horny” and then it did hit me that it was a religious organization poster and it was pretty sexist. For example there is no complementary poster telling ladies not to touch the boys in the bikini area.”

Reporter Hemant Mehta called the principal and asked “why he allows outside Christian groups to post messages like this, whether he regularly tells girls that their self-worth is tied to their sexual purity, and if non-Christian groups can submit their own flyers to put up in the school,” but didn’t receive a response.

The response, however, has finally come. Once the media picked up the story and started spreading it, the school removed the flyers. Looks like Kelsey Schindl made her point.

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