High School Girls’ Hygiene, Sex Habits Detailed. It’s Tradition

Each year around the last day of school, junior boys at Ladue Horton Watkins High in Missouri distribute an obscene list detailing the body parts, hygiene and sex habits of 5-10 senior girls.

It’s tradition.

When Ruth Alhemeier’s daughter came home, hysterical about the list, Ruth became outraged: “It’s shocking; it’s obscene; it’s vulgar, and I just couldn’t believe it!”

Alhemeier went to see the principal, Bridget Hermann, who explained, “Well it’s kind of just tradition, it’s been going on for a really long time, there’s not much we can do to stop it.”

Administrators determined no rules had been broken.

No broken rules. Tradition. Whatever could one do?

After a push of letters to the school board Ms. Alhemeier was eventually invited to a meeting. “We have anti-bullying measures in place and there are plans to ramp those up,” she was told. Finally, those responsible were identified and “received immediate and long-term consequences.” No one’s saying what.

So here we have boys judging girls — and from the start of high school girls know it. Boys make the rules and girls are expected to conform. Girls know they’d better be careful, or they might end up on that list.

Judges lord it over the judged, making the boys superior – here, with JUNIOR boys superior to SENIOR girls.

And throughout, these young men invade the young women’s space, verbally touching and invading their bodies, like a rape.

Whether humiliating, judging, or taking over another person, these boys are classic bullies, trying to raise themselves up by bringing others down – and in a way that goes beyond individuals and establishes a gendered pecking order: boys above girls.

All the while the adults are blinded by tradition, and maybe loyalty to traditional gender roles.

I was struck by a report that described Ruth Alhemeier as having no qualms about going public.

Why would she have qualms?

On the contrary, I couldn’t believe that this was the first time the matter had been brought up, or that she would have anything but the outraged support of the entire community.

Interesting that what seems horrifying to one group seems normal to others. Once it’s the status quo, everyone around accepts it.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 3, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, psychology, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Everything about this story is horrific, from the boys exerting power over the girls, to the parents simply dismissing it as tradition. Who says a tradition is right, anyway?
    We have a traditional festival here, which involves riding the town boundaries. Until a huge group of local women protested in the 90’s, women were not allowed to participate in the riding. The tradition started in the early1500’s, and it was changed.
    Let’s hope this tradition goes the same way.

  2. I’ve had to read this post twice to make sure I read it right. The Principals’ comments would be entirely appropriate and understandable if this were the year 1612.

    How are you meant to convince young boys that judging women, holding them to standards dictated by their gender that don’t apply to you and attempting to degrade them is wrong, when it’s sanctioned by authority?

    Thank you for posting this.

  3. This is unbelievable, that such a “tradition” would be tolerated. Glad somebody spoke up!

  4. That’s outrageous, and I was glad to see that Ms. Alhemeier mentioned Title IX in the Huffington Post piece you linked to. That school district should familiarize itself with Title IX and OCR’s 2008 Guidance, “Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic.”

  5. Seriously? This is a disgusting “tradition.” How is it considered even remotely okay, much less something that has been going on for decades?

  6. I was so disgusted when I read this that I clicked on the link to The Huffington Post to read through some of the comments expecting to find outrage. What I found shocked me. A large portion of the comments condemned the girls stating that they shouldn’t sleep around. Many commenters expressed the ole ‘boys will be boys’ sentiment. A couple of posters even attacked the girl specifically, commenting that she needed a father figure, since no father was mentioned in the article. One person from that town even mentioned he knew the girl and brought up something about her, which he used to condemn her character.

    I agree with the Mom going public. Sometimes putting a spotlight on bad behavior needs to happen in order to change it. I find it hard to believe that there are a good number of people that actually condone this heinous behavior.

  7. Since I was in high school in 2011 I know what it’s like. Everyone just wants to fit in and find his or her group. As a girl you also want to be liked by all the guys, especially the older ones. This “tradition” is why the majority of girls struggle with body image and spend so much of their time worrying about how they look. It is disappointing to hear that the school did nothing about it since it was a tradition. It became a tradition since there were no punishments for doing it. If the school had made consequences from the beginning the tradition would have never existed.

  8. A.S Dream team

    I didn’t know America has Tradition like this? I mean if this has been going on for a long time
    shows that some parents don’t really care anymore because they are used to this tradition now..

  9. I can’t believe that an entire community of people can allow this to happen in their own back yard and to top it off encourage it as it’s “tradition”! Bullying is bullying. What sort of bubble have they all been living in not to see all the harmful consequences bullying has had on millions of teenage girls who have been treated the same way?! I don’t see how the parents of these girls have also taken no action to stop this “tradition” and trust a principle like Ms. Hermann to continue to look after these girl’s “best interest”. It really saddens me to read this article. Then it disgusts and outrages me to see some of the Huffington post comments. I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that people can really have these mindsets!

  10. I can not believe that a “tradition” like this would ever be supported. It is disgusting and wrong in every way. What was most shocking to me was when the mom confronted the priciple about this list that the first thing she said was “Well it’s kind of just tradition, it’s been going on for a really long time, there’s not much we can do to stop it.” What does she mean she does not have the power to stop it?? This type of behavior should have been stopped along time ago and never made into a sick, weird tradition. When I was reading this I just found it really shocking that administration would act like this was a normal thing and did not seem to think much about it. It is a good thing something was finally done. Maybe boys should worry more about school, at school, rather than judging and degrading female classmates to pass the time. And maybe the adminitration in schools like this one that allow this kind of behavior should look into a diffrent profession. Kids need to be taught and guided away from bad behavior while they still have a chance.

  11. I also had to reread this post twice. I could not believe what I was reading. I feel for the girls who were in this because like these girls, my best friend was put into one of these books and it is horrible… from hearing stories from what happened, this kind of thing can destroy a female. No man should EVER judge a female, on any level. I hope these kids got expelled for what they did to these young women. This is bullying to the extreme and it can be stopped the school employees are idiots if they cannot stop such a thing.

  12. I don’t think the term bullying adequately describes what these boys were doing. They were not just bullying these girls they were sexually harassing them. The last time I checked sexual harassment was against the law! What makes it harassment is that this group of boys was insulting these girls in a sexual way. They were spreading hurtful, degrading and embarrassing rumors about the girls on their “Senior List.” The fact that this type of behavior has been going on for years tells me the administration looked the other way because “boys will be boys.” The administrators need to take a stance and severely punish these boys for their bad behavior. In addition, they need to proactively educate the students, parents and faculty and establish disciplinary actions for offenders. This kind of behavior must not be tolerated. Congratulations to the mother for defending her daughter by taking on the school.

  13. sugarpiehoneybee

    Now, do you all see what is happening to females all over? I have been all over the internet, speaking out against female objectification and abuse. Men and some women get angry with me and call me Victorian or hung up, or uptight. It is so sad that people think this abuse is okay. And we have got to stop saying that vocal women are anti male or prudish, or needs to get laid. Women in this country, we really have got to unite to stop situations like this. We do not need to be violent or put men down, but we have got to support our daughters, nieces, and grandgirls.
    This is so sad and dangerous. It’s sad when you go into any school and find, female principals, and board members allowing bad behavior that exalts boys and abuses girls. These girls need our help. I am asking as many women as possible to be vocal wherever and whenever you can. Speak up for respect of our girls. Please women, let us stand together to stop the objectification, abuse, harrassment and females, wherever it happens..

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