Mom lashes out at school after it holds an assembly full of victim-blaming nonsense
In a move that has fair-minded parents everywhere asking what in the precise hell the school was thinking, Kambrya College in Australia held an assembly to tell its female students what they can do to deter boys from sharing intimate photos of them. This includes not wearing skirts above the knee, wearing “light” makeup, and not taking any “sexy selfies.” We’re assuming that the boys were told in their separate assembly to “stop.”
Earlier this month, mother Catherine Manning posted on Facebook about a text she had received from her young daughter detailing the meeting, which was held after Kambrya College was named as one of seventy Australian schools targeted in an online child pornography ring. The group, which has posted over 2,000 photos since it started in December, shares the names of girls they are “hunting,” and if any nude photos of that girl are uploaded, they are called “wins.” When Kambrya learned that some of its students were mentioned on the site, it decided that the answer was to tell its’ female students how to “protect their integrity” by not encouraging the immoral and illegal behavior of the boys involved. In accordance with this line of thinking, I will be giving away my belongings so I won’t get robbed and faking my own death before my identity gets stolen.
Is it appropriate, in this digital age, to make girls aware of the dangers of online predators and how their photos can be misused? Yes. Do boys need to receive the same warning? Yes. But where the school went wrong was that rather than provide information it pointed fingers. Kambrya’s principal, Michael Muscat, insists that the link between the school’s dress code and internet pornography was “unintentional.” Muscat told an Australian news site that, “…the girls’ assembly was used as an opportunity to remind students of the existing uniform policy,” and that “‘…in no way did we suggest that what girls wear makes harassment or abuse acceptable. This is never the case.” The problem here is that discussing the dress code in the context of these photos does link the two and places blame on the actions of the female students. And while they may never have suggested that what the girls wear make “harassment or abuse acceptable,” what they did suggest, very clearly, is that what they wear plays a role in its continuation, and that is wrong.
Manning was appropriately furious and let the school know it. She hit the nail on the head when describing what the problem really was in this situation: “The problem is not with the girls and the length of their skirts, nor whether or not they choose to share photos with their boyfriends or anyone else. It’s with the boys themselves; their sense of entitlement and sexist attitudes towards women and girls, their lack of respect, and the trust they CHOOSE to break.”
When it comes to female sexuality we still hold the mindset that gave Hester Prynne her scarlet letter and asks rape victims about their sexual histories. We still blame women for allowing men to exploit us. We’re still told that we should know men and boys are unable to control themselves, and therefore anything we do to encourage them is our fault. That is the message, here. That’s what these girls learned from all of this — that their bodies control men, and they need to fear that power and keep it muzzled because if they don’t, terrible and humiliating things can happen to them. And they will be all their fault. That is the message that assemblies like that perpetrate.
According to Manning’s Facebook page, school staff has now met with the students and offered them a “personal and genuine” apology. That’s a great start. Let’s hope that their apology is followed up with another assembly that addresses slut-shaming, rape culture, and victim blaming. And let’s hope that the girls of Kambrya College continue to be mad as hell and hold their heads high, knowing that this was not about them — it was never about them — but about power, control, misogyny, and a lack of empathy on the part of the perpetrators. Thank goodness we have kick-ass women like Catherine Manning out there who aren’t going to let this kind of b.s. go.
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