On February 1st, the Bellarmine administration notified the student body about the existence of a blog that objectified female faculty. In response to the blog and the hurt it caused to our community, I wanted to put forth my thoughts on the matter.
As a senior, I remember when I was told during freshman orientation that “It takes one person to ruin the image that a 1000 individuals worked hard for.”
It’s easier to state that a single student was behind such a demeaning page, but as Bells we must confront the truth and realize that the blog was a product of our failure to speak out.
A majority of Bellarmine students was unaware of the blog’s existence until the Administration officially informed us this month. There was also a great number of students who heard of the blog being online, yet never attempted to search the site. However, there were some who read the blog and never bothered to voice their dissent to the administration regarding the magnitude of the blog’s vile comments.
In an all-boys school, I think there’s a lot of pressure to assume this hyper-masculine nature because there is a desire to negate the stereotypes associated with an all-boys environment that other high schools immaturely tease us for (i.e being “unable to converse with women” or being “gay”). Thankfully, Bellarmine as a whole does not encourage hypermasculinity, but it would be wrong if I said that Bells don’t feel the urge to act outwardly macho to prove other high school students that we can “talk to the same number of women, if not more.
We are growing up in a time when powerful men and their past sexual harrasment\ are finally brought into light. Unfortunately, they are many individuals including our current nation’s president who manage to escape with their maltreatment of women. So it’s left to us – this current generation of Bells – to exemplify to future high school boys how it’s unacceptable to view women as sexual objects and unequals.
The uniqueness of an all-male school is that there exists a fraternity – a brotherhood – that binds us together in a powerful way. I recall the way students rebounded freshman year when our community lost a teacher and several students to cancer. There was a sea of white shirts supporting Andy Nguyen when we played Mitty in a home football game. In my sophomore year, I remember my friend Diego Pedrayes console me when we lost to Watsonville in the CCS soccer semi-finals. In my junior year, people wore yellow Golden State Warriors apparel to commemorate Daniel Cole, who passed away suddenly.
These are a just a few of the many memories where I knew with the utmost certainty that my brothers cared for me and I know that we can extend this brotherhood to our sisters at Bellarmine as well.
The blog incident serves as a catalyst for change – a call to action in reexamining the student culture here at Bell.
In the assembly in which students were informed about the blog, one senior suggested that we need more interactions with women to understand the opposite gender to solve sexist viewpoints. There are already plenty of women in our community working alongside us!
The mission statement in every classroom reminds us that without women, Bellarmine could not exist. Female teachers in every building from Lokey to Sobrato who help us learn a multitude of subjects. There are women coaching here at school like swim Coach Meghan Cotugno, leading us on to another CCS title run. Presentation students who practice and compete on the track all spring and run faster then most of us. Female counterparts who perform in the theater’s annual spring comedy and cheer alongside us from the stands during the Holy Wars.
Our amazing mothers and our sisters along with our female faculty all treat us men with respect and care. We must, at the very minimum, offer them the same respect and love
So how can we change so we can truly be men with and for others?
First, we can recognize that the blog is not an isolated incident of misogyny, but rather an issue that could continue to grow if we don’t do something about it. Sexist comments are sometimes spoken everyday on campus jokingly. We say them during practice or when we refer to an individual that we strongly dislike. We know that misogynistic dialogue in the cafeteria sometimes does occur and we overhear demeaning language about girls when we share instagram profiles. We cannot consider sexist talk to be “harmless jokes” any longer.
We must also realize that not chastising a brother for stating a sexist or misogynistic remark is just as despicable as saying the comment itself. Silence hurts more than the perpetrator’s words. We cannot justify our nonintervention with excuses such as “it’s just male camaraderie.” If we do so, then we only hurt our fellow brother who will believe that his conduct and sexism is normal outside of Bellarmine.
Next, we must identify the need to break the silence surrounding our shameful comments about women: that means warning our friends and classmates if they make a crude remark. Language like “slut” or “bitch” need and should be shut down.
We can’t tell ourselves that everyone will start calling out those who don’t treat women in our community as different immediately because of the blog’s effect on our school. As in the case of any change, it is slow and difficult. Yet, we can start now and not wait until another similar incident reemerges, hoping that those who are the hardest to change will learn that their sexist viewpoints are wrong.
Bellarmine students are capable of so much. We are so fortunate to go to an institution where our principal addresses us honestly and openly. We have been given a second chance to show that the blog is not who we are.
I remember when a female faculty member asking me in November if I read the blog and I said no. I did not try to intervene because I didn’t want to get involved. I never read the words on that blog, but I also never told my friends to stop sharing the link to other curious, unexposed students. Don’t be silent like I was.
My inaction and your reluctance to speak up is counter to our school philosophy on changing the world and the Jesuit ideals we live by. It’s time for all of us to seize the opportunity and demonstrate why our school motto describes who we are.
Sincerely, Andrew Song