“You Have No Idea What It’s Like To Be A Girl”

Most “Principal’s Notes,” in most PTA newsletters, are snorers.

Congratulations to the debate team; info on tickets to the spring concert; thanks to the women who mailed out the current issue — that sort of thing.

That’s not John Dodig’s style.

The Staples High School principal regularly tackles tough topics. Cheating. Drinking. Parental double standards — that sort of thing.

The current issue of For the Wreckord contains a particularly powerful piece. This time, Dodig takes on sexting. He was inspired (or depressed) by a story in Rolling Stone

Dodig wrote:

At the ripe old age of 69, I have seen a lot of change in America. I remember seeing “whites only” water fountains and bathrooms on a trip to Florida when I was 11 years old, and feeling uncomfortable at the sight.

I lived through the battles against the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, the fight for women’s rights, racial equality, gay rights and more. I remember an ashtray in every home, and driving in my parents’ car so thick with smoke that I couldn’t see past the front seat. Now ashtrays are gone from everyone’s homes, and teenagers often have designated drivers thanks to the work of SADD, MADD, and mandatory health classes in public schools.

Sexting 1So much has changed for the better. Yet many of our girls still feel the need to please boys by behaving in ways that even they find shocking when they see themselves in compromising positions on display somewhere on the internet.

The last paragraph and the last line of Burleigh’s article are emotionally devastating to the reader, as the mother of a child who committed suicide over sexting describes her daughter’s last days. Mom shared the messages her daughter sent to one of the boys, who was sharing naked photos of her with his friends. The messages show her pleading with Joe to delete the pictures. Among her last words were, “You have no idea what it’s like to be a girl.”

I have a wonderful and successful adult daughter, but lived through years of drama that made her parents’ lives difficult at times. Still, I admit I do not know what it is like to be a girl. Having lived with thousands of teenagers of both sexes for 43 years in public schools, I do know that not much has changed as to what many girls perceive is how they must behave to be accepted by their peer group.

Sexting 2Our girls now play varsity sports, win science and math competitions, and understand that they can be whatever they choose to be as adults. They know it, but perhaps don’t believe it enough to prevent them from being drawn in to the pull of pleasing boys in order to fit in, be accepted, or validate their existence as a female. We have a lot more work to do.

This is a tough topic to bring up at the dinner table, but it is a discussion that must be had somewhere. If your children are reluctant to talk about it, don’t give up.

Soon we will celebrate Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for, not the least of which is the fact that we live in Westport. We have, so far, escaped a tragedy like the one experienced in Greenwich not long ago.

I would love to be thankful at some point in the future for having helped to change the minds of high school students at Staples, so that not one of our girls would ever have to say: “You have no idea what it’s like to be a girl.”

Other than body parts, there should be no difference in the self-image of every young person, male or female. They should all be proud of who they are, simply because they exist. They are ours and we love them all.

Happy Thanksgiving !

(Click here to read the full Rolling Stone story about sexting.)

8 responses to ““You Have No Idea What It’s Like To Be A Girl”

  1. Judy Michaelis

    Thanks Dan for sharing the link to the full article…one of the saddest to articles I have ever read. I am hopeful with Dodig as the principal that Staples has a zero tolerance for this behavior and is educating our students on the dangers of “sexting”

  2. Ellen Greenberg

    This is not only a very sad commentary of the self esteem of some girls, but a scary view of some boys who encourage the girls to send them these photos, and then seem to delight in not only sharing the photos, but in taunting the girls with the threat of sharing them.

  3. Elizabeth Thibault

    What I see absent in so many of the articles addressing the situation, is our responsibility as parents when raising boys, to educate them and instill a mindset of respect and responsibility, without which girls will still face an onslaught of pressure from the male gender to behave a certain way. My toddler is not being raised with a “boys will be boys,” mentality, because I wouldn’t ever want him to be perpetrating these actions when he is a teenager. Teens are overwrought with raging hormones, but they still call out their parents as having the biggest influence on their behaviors. Lets make sure we’re adding this point to the lesson we bestow on their generation.

  4. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Behavior both good and bad usually reflects the environment the person is brought up in at home. Its ironic that teachers and school administrators face the consequences day in and day out while most parents claim cluelessness as to what their children are up to.

  5. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Why do so-called “peers” allow each other to bully?

  6. Cathy Talmadge

    So sorry Dan — I meant to send these comments to Harry & David!

    From: Cathy Talmadge [mailto:cathytalmadge@optonline.net] Sent: Friday, November 15, 2013 8:24 AM To: ‘06880’ Subject: RE: [New post] “You Have No Idea What It’s Like To Be A Girl”

    I expect there’s still time since Christmas is 45 day from now and since I am basically a locovore foodie I feel more and more reluctant to waste my carbon footprint limits on shipping your fruit to my friends but I do love those pears and we just don’t have them like that at Christmas here so I do make exceptions………However I hate how greedy you have become and it angers me when I do put in my order and after it’s all over there is a great deal if I just “double it or whatever”…….. It has made me feel like I should stop doing business with you.

    Plus what is your sustainable policy?

    Thank you,

    Cathy Talmadge

  7. Dan, despite Cathy’s misdirected email, those of us in 06880land really would like to know what your sustainable policy is. That aside, it is reassuring to see our High School principal being so tuned in to the issues of the day.