[EDEQUITY Discussion] Sexual Harassment

From: btavares@hawaii.edu
Date: Wed Jul 12 2000 - 14:28:49 EDT

Just want to thank Craig and others for taking the time to respond so
thoroughly and thoughtfully on some of these issues.

In August the Hawaii State Board of Education will put to a final vote an
expanded policy on harassment that uses the verbs tease and bully and
includes sexual orientation. I can't *BELIEVE* the letters to the editor
objecting to that.

So Craig's positng was very timely as it provided some talking points to
be used by myself and other equity colleagues in informing and expanding
the dialogue beyond a back fence shouting match.


Barbara Tavares
University of Hawaii

On Mon, 10 Jul 2000 CFlood@aol.com wrote:

> Jan:
> I appreciated your thoughtful discussion and request for suggestions
> regarding the gender related harassment of students who "act different,"
> particular boys whose behavior falls outside the narrow boundaries of
> acceptable "boy behavior." Any behavior outside the lines or the "male
> box"
> (drawing on a popular awareness activity) is often perceived as not male
> effeminate. There are few boys who are not aware of these boundaries and
> the
> price that one pays for stepping outside. Michael Thompson (co-author of
> Raising Cain) calls homophobia a "force stronger than gravity in the
> of
> adolescent boys." And the teasing and bullying that is directed toward
> such
> boys reflects a homophobia that is far more insidious than the narrower
> "fear
> of homosexuality."
> However, the tentacles of homophobia reach far beyond the treatment of
> gays,
> lesbians and the transgendered. From my perspective, I see that more
> narrowly directed brand of homophobia almost a "red herring" (though
> understandably and frighteningly real for GLBT individuals) that
> our attention from the broader and deeper problem; namely, the policing
> all boys away from qualities that humanize us and connect us to our
> feelings
> and the feeling of others. This works against the development of empathy,
> plain and simple. I challenge anyone to tell me that homophobia of this
> type
> is not a dynamic in almost every boy's life.
> This broader form of homophobic policing is often acceptable within our
> institutions and social interactions and, a such, is perpetuated by
> and students alike. It reveals itself in the "innocent" comments such as
> "don't be such a wuss" or "he's just a mama's boy" that I frequently
> overhear
> from parents and coaches on the sidelines of the playing fields. I
> what you are referring to with respect to your son and others is more
> extreme, but such acceptability makes it harder to draw the line when it
> comes to the behavior of those who don't "fit in." In the grand scheme
> is
> part of the same package and it all, to a certain degree, serves to
> disconnect many boys from their own feelings and those of others. And
> often played out under the guise of "making men" out of our boys.
> Pardon my digression here from your interest in suggestions, but it is
> important to say that I find the absence of any discussion of homophobia
> from
> the recent book, "The War Against Boys," more than telling from a
> perspective. The word is never mentioned in its almost 200 pages.
> because almost any boy will tell you that the worst thing he can be
> is
> a "fag" or any related term. You see, homophobia is part of the real
> against boys." And contrary to the argument that Sommers posits, it is
> a
> construction of the femininst agenda. Quite predictably, she argues that
> the
> war against boys is, in part, an attempt to "feminize boys"...to, in
> effect,
> deny them their true nature. What nature is that? To mistreat those who
> not reflect the values of traditional masculinity? In effect, Sommers
> her supporters are reinforcing such broad based homophobia by labeling
> qualities that connect us as humans as "feminine." There is much
> in
> maintaining the "status quo" here and make no mistake about it, the
> conservatives feel strongly that we cannot afford a nation of
> "tenderminded"
> males. Just as Teddy Roosevelt saw them as a threat in the early 1900's,
> Sommers is giving us the 21st century version of that same argument.
> As for suggestions, you clearly identify one key strategy when you
> "it makes a huge difference when teachers confront this problem." I
> couldn't
> agree more and will add to that the critical importance of adult males
> within
> our schools and communities who openly confront every form of homophobia.
> The
> mere confrontation of homophobia by men and women in our schools reflects
> the
> "caring and compassion" that, while open to being labeled "feminine,"
> serves to create the foundation of our communities. And for those who
> think
> this much ado about nothing, I must point out the consciousness and
> reflected in the decision of the Department of Education in Scotland to
> prohibit the use of "sissy" and related terms in their schools. By doing
> so
> they have openly recognized the emotional power such words carry in the
> lives
> of our children...especially our boys.
> My own experience with teachers has taught me the simple power of raising
> consciousness about far reaching and a limiting effects that homophobia
> have on all of us. Further, in my work with men and boys I have also
> experienced the struggle that males often have in moving beyond their own
> homophobia. Whie it speaks to the power of homohobia, the struggle is
> essential if we are to ever create the kind of learning and work
> environments
> that are truly safe and humanizing at the same time they value the
> differences that any community offers.
> In closing, the "wake up call" necessary to combat homophobia was more
> evident this past year as students (2 boys and a girl) filed lawsuits
> against
> three school districts in my area of New York State alleging "deliberate
> indifference" with respect to repeated patterns of homophobic teasing and
> bullying. Individual teachers were named in at least two of the suits
> observing the bullying and not intervening. Such acceptability results
> from
> an unconsciousness that can no longer be tolerated. As Nan Stein has
> indicated recently, we need to shift our attention from "zero tolerance"
> "zero indifference." I fear for the hurt so many children will continue
> experience until we all have the courage to confront such behavior.
> Thanks again for your insights. I look for to other approaches and
> strategies throughout this dialogue.
> Craig Flood
> CFlood@aol.com

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