Fascinating story in the news this morning. It seems a girl was sent home from her high school in Kamloops (a town a couple of hours north of here) for inappropriate clothing. Having raised several teenagers, and having long ago been one myself, I certainly know they are quite capable of pushing the limits with their clothing, so my first temptation was to give the school the benefit of the doubt.
Then I saw the picture.
She was wearing a knee length dress over a turtleneck sweater. Literally no part of her body was visible between her face and her knees. But the school said it could make her (male) teacher feel uncomfortable.
I thought of the story of Bathsheba, the biblical woman who was bathing at her home. Seems King David saw her and demanded she be brought to him for sex.
The story is one of rape, but I’ve heard it told the other way – how Bathsheba shouldn’t have been bathing (at home) because, well, boys will be boys, and they can’t help it.
I think of women who are assaulted and report it to the police, only to be humiliated and challenged about wearing the “wrong” kind of clothing or walking in the “wrong” part of town.
Such stories perpetuate a blunt and harmful lie: that men cannot control themselves.
I am a man and I am responsible for my behaviour. If I see a purse or wallet that someone leaves on a public bench I can steal it, or I can try to locate the owner. It would be wrong to steal it – indeed I don’t have that right.
If I see someone I find attractive, I can observe them and notice they are attractive. I don’t have the right to rape them.
It’s well beyond time for men to take responsibility for their behaviour. We have to stop pretending that they cannot control their impulses. Anything less than that is insulting to men and harmful to women.
The girl in Kamloops should go back to school with her head held high. And men and women everywhere need to remember we are all accountable for our behaviour.