There have been more than a few cases of high school dress code snafus resulting in accusations of sexism lately, but this one just might take the cake. A Tennessee high school athletic director is under fire after he told students to “blame girls” for a ban on athletic shorts because they “pretty much ruin everything.” Um, OK.
This was not a side comment that was recorded without his knowledge. Jared Hensley sits at a table, looks directly into the camera, and says, “If you really want someone to blame, blame the girls because they pretty much ruin everything.”
And he really does mean everything.
“They ruin the dress code, they ruin — well, ask Adam. Look at Eve,” Jared continues. “You can really go back to the beginning of time.”
The comments were part of a sanctioned school announcements video by the Soddy-Daisy High School. The video has since been taken down, but not before media outlets got a hold of it. Now the school has a whole lot of angry parents on its hands.
Parents are not amused.
According to the local paper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, parents of the school’s students have called the statements made by Jared sexist and misogynistic. Chattanooga Moms for Social Justice cofounder Taylor Lyons says she believes Jared will claim his words to be a joke, but that this is no excuse.
“However, given the current social climate, his comments are insensitive at best and wildly inappropriate at worst,” said Taylor. “To suggest that ‘girls are responsible for ruining everything since the beginning of time and will continue to do so’ is completely unacceptable and he needs to apologize.”
Jared certainly doesn’t give any indication of sarcasm or jest in the video, speaking in the same even, matter-of-fact tone throughout. It also doesn’t help that these same sentiments have been echoed in other school districts without any intention of irony.
Why Is It All on Girls?
Recently, parents of a school district in Pennsylvania were outraged over an official dress code video that targeted only girls. “I thought it was sexist, to tell you the truth,” said one parent. This particular video was about the tightness of girls’ slacks.
A similar video shown at the Marcus High School in Texas was about athletic shorts and again featured only girls. “Why are we still oversexualizing teen girls?” wondered the female student who posted the video online.
Gender disparities in school dress codes have sparked a movement across the US based on the idea that not only are these dress codes sexist but they also sexualize underage girls. Students are fighting back against the idea that girls are responsible for “distracting” their male peers — and even adult male teachers and administrators.
“If it bothers the boys and men so much, make a video showing them how to act like civilized humans and not make young woman feel like immoral or looked at as ‘meat’ because they are wearing shorts!” said Linda in a Twitter comment on the Texas video.
"The Beginning of Time"
Indeed, as athletic director Jared points out, the trend of blaming women for the actions of men reaches back to the very beginning of the Bible. In many conservative Christian churches, Eve is blamed for the downfall of man because she was first tricked into eating the “forbidden fruit” by the serpent and then told Adam he should eat some. Adam, somehow, is less to blame in this scenario.
Fast-forward to 2018, and women and girls are still treated as though they are seductresses who are responsible for the actions, and general horniness, of men and boys. This is the “social climate” that Taylor Lyons is referring to.
Several commenters on the Times Free Press‘ YouTube video insist that Jared’s remarks were “obviously” a joke.
“People on YouTube seem to be so unaware of sarcasm,” says Daniel To.
If it was in fact a joke, it gets a lot less funny when you realize that there are plenty of individuals taking it far too seriously.
“He’s just telling it like it is,” says one commenter. “Maybe not the wisest thing to do on social media but the truth hurts sometimes.”
Some people are out there looking for anything and anyone to confirm their sexist attitudes.
Jared has yet to clarify whether he meant his comments in jest or not. The school has not released a statement, and Hamilton County Schools superintendent Bryan Johnson has only said that he is aware of the video’s existence. The district has also failed to explain the school’s cheerleading uniforms.
Even if it was a (very) subtle joke to the students who supposedly know him well enough to get it, both the current social climate and the history of the country and most of humanity combine to make it really, really not funny to about half the population.
As one commenter said, “[It’s] always best to ask yourself ‘what’s the joke’ and at whose expense is it.”
Maybe get rid of dress codes that primarily target girls in the first place, and we won’t have to debate about what is and isn’t funny.