The Next Generation of Feminists Slaps Down “Boys Will Be Boys”

Photo: Getty Images/asiseeit
In Amy Schumer's new standup special on Netflix, Growing, she gives props to younger feminists: "They came along and they're like, 'Hey have you been getting sexually harassed like this your whole lives?' And we're like, 'Oh, yeah.' And they're like, 'Yeah, you wanna do something about that?' And we're like, 'Oh yeah!' We're all so used to it."

Well, score one for the kids because it was a banner week for healthy boundaries. Leading the way, a group of teens from Maryland collectively said "thank u, next" to an age-old beauty pageant in the form of a list that circulating at their school ranking the girls on a scale of 1-10 based on looks, the Washington Post reported.

They fought back, demanding disciplinary action and persuading administrators to hold a public assembly where the list could be discussed among all the students involved. “It was the last straw, for us girls, of this ‘boys will be boys’ culture,” one student said. “We’re the generation that is going to make a change.”

That's bold thinking in a world where being a "ten," a "seven," or a "four" is such a ubiquitous concept that even apps like Tinder reportedly assign users an attractiveness score to serve profiles to others. It's coded into our lives, which may be why if you find yourself shrugging right now about the Maryland teens' situation ("Is it that big of a deal?"), that would be understandable. But you'd be wrong.

Body sovereignty is a public mental health issue.

According to the Office on Women's Health, having a healthier body image makes it more likely you'll have good mental health. "Girls and women with negative thoughts and feelings about their bodies are more likely to develop certain mental health conditions, such as eating disorders and depression. Researchers think that dissatisfaction with their bodies may be part of the reason more women than men have depression," according to a report published by the organization.

The more you see your body as your own, rather than an object for someone else's approval or pleasure, the better. (And that whole thing of telling girls that boys who are mean to them and punch them actually like them? That's got to go, too.) So, in that way, body sovereignty is a public mental health issue as much as a cultural, battle-of-the-sexes topic. This younger generation isn't comprised of "snowflakes" or "crybabies," it's a group of people creating a healthier world for everyone.

And the trend is popping up nationwide. Just today, a judge ruled in favor of girls who sued their North Carolina school for the right to wear pants, with the ACLU arguing that the policy allowing only skirts and dresses was "intentionally sending the message that girls are not equal to boys."

And the Notre Dame campus was abuzz earlier this week over—of all things—leggings. It all started with a mom who was so horrified by the "blackly naked rear ends" she saw on campus. Like so many leggings-haters before her, she worried about how her son and his friends could possibly be in the presence of a woman without objectifying her body. In a letter to the editor in the school paper, she pleaded: "Think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead." (Points for an attempted call for sisterhood, but the fact that you're pulling from the "she asked for it" section of Rape Culture 101 ruins the girl-talk vibe, honestly.) Hearteningly, the direct response from students at this Catholic, fairly conservative campus was #LeggingsDayND. About 1,000 students vowed to bust out some spandex. After all, girls will be girls.

Speaking of mental health, here's what you need to know about vacations—and whether they're actually helping avoid burnout. And here are 9 things that actually make you happy, according to science.

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