After witnessing too many high school students lose their dignity in relationships, a 22-year-old Rosalind Wiseman started her own non-profit organization devoted to providing guidance for such victims.
Wiseman, who is the author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” which would later serve as the inspiration for the popular movie, “Mean Girls,” gave her advice on the common day-to-day relationship problems that high school students face in her All-School Meeting (ASM) presentation last Wednesday.
Within the context of the “hook-up culture” at Andover, Wiseman urged students to reflect upon themselves and their actions. She encouraged students to stand up in situations where they felt something was wrong and, by explaining the “rules of hooking up,” also laid down basic guidelines for social conduct, including the necessity of privacy in sexual relationships.
According to Wiseman, silence can be both a good and bad thing, depending on the situation. While in some cases, silence is used to defend the privacy of relationships, in other cases it can be used to diminish others, said Wiseman.
Wiseman cited the “Bro Code” as an example of a potentially negative form of silence. According to Wiseman, men living in cultures that encourage male impassivity often find themselves silenced.
“‘Bro Code,’ which is supposed to be like loyalty, is actually compliance and silence… You don’t have the right to complain about things that are wrong,” said Wiseman.
She also said that silence inhibits girls who hit puberty early. Girls who experience puberty early are often uncomfortably objectified by older boys, forcing them to cover themselves, said Wiseman.
“The problem with girls who go through puberty earlier is that it’s really tough for them, but for boys, in some ways it can be easier… It is one of the first times that girls at early ages learn that they have to hide themselves or not be clear about what they want and what they don’t want,” she said.
Using anecdotes involving race and ethnicity, Wiseman demonstrated how minorities can be silenced. In one example, Wiseman discussed a student who was taunted for appearing to be Jewish, but who was in fact not Jewish.
“Boys and girls, men and women, are really good at silencing each other. But this is also where gender really comes together, because it is amazing how much we can silence boys and girls by saying certain words…. When people say, ‘Relax,’ ‘Don’t worry about it,’ ‘You’re overreacting,’ [they are using] mechanisms to silence people who have less power,” said Wiseman.
Wiseman said that the ways in which adults teach young people on topics of relationships and social conflicts are often unrealistic.
“Are we coming across as patronizing, or are we coming across as if we don’t know what we’re talking about? Are we actually listening to young people so that when we talk to them, we make sense?” said Wiseman in an interview with The Phillipian.
According to Wiseman, a large problem is that many adults are still uninformed on the social conflicts that young people face on an almost daily basis, and they are unable to help students overcome such issues.
“I still deal with heads of schools who will value the reputation of the school over the integrity and safety of its students,” she said in her presentation.