A 17-year-old senior from Chesterville, Virginia named Clare Ettinger is fighting back after being asked to leave a prom organized for homeschooled students. The offense: Male adult chaperones were afraid her "dancing was too provocative" and she was "going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts." Even though the young woman protested that she was wearing a dress that adhered to the "fingertip length" dress code, she and five friends she'd carpooled with were forced to leave the dance.
In the wake of the incident, Clare blogged about her experience, writing, "The whole situation made me feel violated, walked over and ostracized." So wrong -- and such a heinous example of how parents are often reinforcing twisted values and standards that put the onus of preventing harassment and rape on young women instead of where it truly belongs.
This sort of behavior on the part of adults is horrifyingly cowardly. And it's sad proof that there are still too many parents having the wrong conversations -- with one another and their children. We need to be telling our daughters that it's not at all THEIR fault if someone else has no self-control or is objectifying them. Our sons need to hear that it's their responsibility to control themselves and a young woman's dress is NEVER an invitation for negativity, harassment, or abuse.
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It's not a long-shot to think that this sort of treatment of a young woman for Clare sets a dangerous, severely antiquated precedent that says it's a woman's responsibility to "cover up" and prevent men from acting on their desires. A precedent for saying it's a woman's fault if she gets raped. As disturbing as it is, that's what Clare's appalling experience boils down to. At least we can take heart that she's speaking out -- and hopefully, it will inspire others to, as well.
How have you discussed harassment and rape with your teen?
Image via Hannahettinger.com