In this week’s round of “are you sure that’s not from The Onion?”: a school in Missouri has told the mother of a middle school student that she should consider a breast reduction to escape sexual harassment.
After her thirteen-year-old daughter faced bullying and harassment due to her large breast size, Tammie Jackson called the school to ask for help. The school official she spoke with suggested that her daughter could transfer to a different school, then stated that in her opinion, her daughter would face the same sexual harassment at any school due to her physique.
This classic victim-blaming rhetoric puts the blame on Jackson’s daughter, rather than on the students who are sexually harassing her. It tells a thirteen-year-old girl that the problem is her body, rather than the attitudes and actions of others. Furthermore, under Title IX, a response like this could be against the law.
As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade this week, I find it disheartening that the message this girl received was not one of having ownership over her body, but rather that she deserved the harassment she received: her body was simply up for public comment. Women are neither sex objects nor walking uteri, and they don’t deserve to be treated as either.
Furthermore, I want to live in a world where students who experience bullying and harassment do not feel pressured to surgically change their appearance. The onus needs to be on the harassers to change their behavior and on schools to effectively respond to such harassment, not on girls to change their bodies.
In that world, headlines like these really will only appear in The Onion.