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Sexting or slut-shaming?
December 4, 2009 7:12 AM   Subscribe

A teenage girl named Hope Witsell died after being tormented for sending a nude photo of herself to a boy.

The mainstream media focuses on the sexting aspect of the case, just as they did in the case of Jesse Logan earlier this year. But perhaps the common thread between the two girls' deaths has less to do with the trendy moral panic of sexting (Previously: 1, 2), and more to do with the type of victim-blaming known as slut-shaming:
The fact is that [the school] punished her — they told her over and over again that she was being called a slut and a whore because of her own actions, that being a “slut” or “whore” are very, very bad things that deserve punishment and bring reason for shame, that sluts and whores deserve to be taken out of school and to be used as an example of what happens when girls display any form of sexuality (with their consent or not), and that sluts and whores cannot be trusted to advise other students, because apparently they have no moral compasses. And the fact is that they apparently failed to punish the other slut-shamers, sexual harassers, bullies, and sexual perpetrators for whom they were responsible.

-From the first link above.
posted by Ouisch (160 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by hermitosis at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2009


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posted by The Potate at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2009


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posted by Jon_Evil at 7:25 AM on December 4, 2009


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posted by hippybear at 7:28 AM on December 4, 2009


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posted by YoBananaBoy at 7:32 AM on December 4, 2009


There's something almost ritualistic about high school slut-shaming. A girl is chosen to be the scape-goat, and everyone else abuses her in an attempt to quell their own sexual conflicts. The girl may not have been doing anything that the other kids weren't doing. Or she may not have done anything at all--girls who develop early and/or have bigger breasts than the other girls are common slut-shaming targets.

I went through it, myself. Twenty-five years later, I still have issues with people standing close to me.
posted by LynstHolin at 7:32 AM on December 4, 2009 [32 favorites]


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posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:32 AM on December 4, 2009


And I forgot--

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posted by LynstHolin at 7:33 AM on December 4, 2009


Fucking humans..
posted by odinsdream at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Terribly sad story, and I have to agree that "sexting" has nothing at all to do with it. I had just the other day watched the educational short Gossip from 1953(!) (because it was included in a Rifftrax pack), and apart from the unhappy ending this included almost all the elements of this tragedy; an under-age student gets an unjustified reputation for being a slut and is hounded by all of the school until she can't stand it anymore.
This has nothing to do with technology and everything with the mentality of the fellow students and the teachers.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 7:43 AM on December 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


A teenage girl named Hope Witsell died

Is it somehow not PC to mention that she killed herself?

I'm surprised to see that fact omitted from any FPP about a suicide, no matter how wrong other people's behavior was.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:45 AM on December 4, 2009 [17 favorites]


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Horrifying. I'd give anything to make childhood bullying go away forever. My self-esteem got shot all to hell in grade school and I'm not sure if I'll ever be 100% whole.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:45 AM on December 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


I see your point but seemed implied by the shame aspect.

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posted by josher71 at 7:46 AM on December 4, 2009


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posted by sebastienbailard at 7:47 AM on December 4, 2009


This story is very, very sad. Fullstop.

Still, I think that sentiments expressed in the quoted article, like

"Apparently, she knew it, because who could ever question the idea that if you send a nude photograph of yourself to another person, you’re obviously a slutty slutty slut slut who deserves whatever is coming to you?"

really strawman the hell out of the topic. There should be a line drawn somewhere in the sand where it's okay to say "Hey, be careful when sending naked photos of yourself, even though "all" your friends are doing it. Anyone could be passing these on to anyone, and you might get a shitstorm of hell for it. Not that you would deserve it, no one deserves a shitstorm of hell for sending naked pics of their own body. But let's not focus on what should happen, but instead of the reality of the situation (which is that people will definitely pass your pics around, and that sometimes you might get randomly get slut-shamed)."

This story is very, very sad.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:48 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by Faint of Butt at 7:49 AM on December 4, 2009


Well this is why we need to tell kids it's morally wrong to sext: we might feel the need to shame them!

Thank God the Ad Council is wisely spending our money credit on vital Public Service Announcements.
posted by clarknova at 7:51 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has nothing to do with technology and everything with the mentality of the fellow students and the teachers.

I agree, although the technology is a really powerful enabler. I can remember in high school (in the 1980s) some girls being publicly shamed in similar ways; I can also remember seeing some guys on one of the sports teams handing around polariods of a naked girl from a weekend party. But without camera phones, IM, Facebook, etc, those photos stayed in that small group, and the "slut shaming" gossip didn't follow someone if their family moved to a new city.

So there is a powerful magnifying effect of these newer technologies that might make a person being bullied in this way feel even more stuck in an inescapable situation than in the past. Twenty years ago, someone could at least think "All I have to do is tough it out until I go off to college/join the army/etc" -- but with those photos and nicknames following you via Facebook, it might be hard to see a way to get past it all.
posted by Forktine at 7:53 AM on December 4, 2009 [10 favorites]


I see your point but seemed implied by the shame aspect.

"Died after being tormented" is a strange euphemism for suicide, and one I hope doesn't catch on. Let's not rationalize or glorify what she did just to show how bad the other people were.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:53 AM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


A teenage girl named Hope Witsell died after being tormented for sending a nude photo of herself to a boy.

I'm with Jaltcoh on this one. This is terribly tragic, but the way it's presented is misleading. She took her own life, it was not a passive action as a result of "torment."
posted by explosion at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is just all kinds of horrible.
posted by Elmore at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2009


Also, shame on each and every adult that was aware of this situation. The child absolutely should not have been punished in school for something that happened out of school that later lead to harassment. Stripped of student council? How is it their business at all?

Somehow when children are involved, adults always seem to forget that they are, in fact, human, and deserve rights. Additionally, they forget that sexual maturity often comes before emotional or intellectual maturity, so these are kids who have hormones flowing through their bodies and minds, and have no way to contextualize that. They ought to be protected and nurtured, not shamed and punished.

Adults seldom can actually prevent teasing and bullying, but they really ought not to pile on.
posted by explosion at 8:00 AM on December 4, 2009 [30 favorites]


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Can't say I necessarily agree with the argumentation of the article though. Yes, what happened to this girl is terrible, and it shouldn't have happened.

But the author spins this as some deeply troubling double-standard about female sexuality. I'm not so sure this is the best example for that. If you send anything in an electronic format, you have to expect that it will get to someone who you would rather not see it. This is true for both corporations and individuals, and it is just as applicable for situations having nothing to do with sexuality as it is to this one.

I'm not trying to argue that "she got what was coming to her" as much as objecting to where the author locates the problem. Could Hope reasonably expect not to be singled out for awful treatment for doing what most of her other classmates were probably doing? Yes, or at least I'd like to think so. But could she reasonably expect a nude picture of herself not to propagate its way across the net at light speed? I think not. I really don't think the reasonable expectation of privacy extends to almost anything you do online.

The internet is public, people. You don't want something to show up there, don't put it there. You don't want to worry about someone else uploading photos of you, don't do anything you'd be ashamed of. Again, this is not a defense or an excuse for the people who treated her this way, but what she did is not in fact the same thing as making out or even having sex with someone in private. Sending pictures of yourself on the internet is, as far as I can tell, the public equivalent of doing something in the town square in broad daylight. We may not think about it that way a lot of the time, but that does seem to be the way it is. And while yeah, there does seem to be a double-standard when private expressions of sexuality are made public, with consistently getting the short end of that stick, it seems to me that everyone involved gets a bad reputation when you actually engage in sexual behavior in public.

As such, I think the emphasis in the article is misplaced. The author seems to be just as caught up in the breathlessness of the sexting debate as those she critiques. Treating this as yet another instance of a "misogynistic, victim-blaming rape-culture" somehow fails to capture all the relevant information here.
posted by valkyryn at 8:03 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


My heart is breaking for this poor family. I cannot imagine their strength, seeing that they have chosen in lieu of flowers to have donations made to the middle school where Hope was tormented. I ache for them. No parents should have to lose children, much less through the cruel tormenting of other children.

And that dumb, stupid, petty, little girl who took the phone and forwarded the picture around - I realize she is someone else's daughter so I won't wish horrible things on her. But I want to.
posted by bunnycup at 8:03 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Adults seldom can actually prevent teasing and bullying, but they really ought not to pile on.

Amen.

Stripped of student council? How is it their business at all?

It is very common in high schools for the administration to police girls' sexual behaviors by refusing or withdrawing irrelevant honors. I was not a member of my high school's Honor Society because girls who had had babies weren't eligible for election.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:03 AM on December 4, 2009 [24 favorites]


This is all sorts of wrong. How sad. There is nothing wrong at all with the sort of exploration fueled by biology that is a part of growing up (oh the stories I could tell you about the students at my Southern Baptist high school). There is everything wrong with the anti-female retrograde mentality of the faculty. If a teacher had felt differently, he or she should have spoken up. This also makes me feel that students should all be taught a bit of good digital housekeeping and information security as part of their computer classes.
And I just want to add that I hate the word 'sexting'.

Again, how sad.

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posted by donttouchmymustache at 8:04 AM on December 4, 2009


Sorry, that was syntactically ambiguous: what I mean is 'I refused to be a member of my high school's Honor Society in response to their policy that girls who had had babies weren't eligible for election.'
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:05 AM on December 4, 2009


Why all the outrage?

Tens of thousands of kids are bullied mercilessly every year, and a significant (although small) fraction kill themselves over it. Are we saying that THIS is the reason to get outraged -- that all of the other episodes of abuse are warranted or normal? Is it fair that they were slut shamed? No, of course not. Would they have been slut shamed if they hadn't sent out naked pictures of themselves?

Who knows? Something else might have happened and caused the bullying to start.

Frankly, if these kinds of stories can keep my daughters from acting in a way I would be upset over (including but not limited to sending out naughty pictures via cell phone during their teenage years), than perhaps some good can come of this.

Also, from the article:

At the same time, friends say, Hope knew that the biggest mistakes made were her own.

“She didn’t blame it on anybody,” said Rebecca Knowles, 14. “She realized it was her fault for sending them in the first place."

posted by taumeson at 8:08 AM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Died after being tormented" is a strange euphemism for suicide, and one I hope doesn't catch on.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to euphemize suicide at all -- just sloppy wording on my part. Hopefully the tag "suicide" helps make things a bit clearer.
posted by Ouisch at 8:09 AM on December 4, 2009


It doesn't have anything directly to do with "sexting" exactly, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was some connection between the constant moral panic over teen sexuality and shaming girls over their sexuality. That anyone should be shamed over sex seems to trickled down from the "adult" view that sex is shameful.
posted by spaltavian at 8:10 AM on December 4, 2009


Why all the outrage?

Because it's really sad when kids kill themselves after experiencing bullying, and this particular example happened to get media attention.

And because the bullying didn't just come from other kids--it came from the adults who were supposed to be looking out for this girl and taking care of her, not adding to her misery.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:16 AM on December 4, 2009 [14 favorites]


But the author spins this as some deeply troubling double-standard about female sexuality. I'm not so sure this is the best example for that.

You're right, and it was troubling. The analogous situation is a boy texting a picture of his penis. That picture could easily get forwarded, and the boy could easily be teased. To say that similar administrators wouldn't shame him further is naive, and suicide seems like it would be just as possible.

For better or worse, America's sexual culture is fucked up for both boys and girls. It's just that somehow it's more forgiving when the boys grow up to be men than when the girls grow up to be women.
posted by explosion at 8:16 AM on December 4, 2009


The analogous situation is a boy texting a picture of his penis.

Teenage boys aren't being bombarded with cultural messages telling them that it's cool to text pictures of their penis to teenage girls, though.

And I'm not sure that high school administrators would necessarily handle the situation the same way--at my high school, girls who had had babies weren't eligible for Honor Society, but there was no analogous policy for boys who had fathered babies.

OTOH, if a teenage boy had texted a photo of his penis to his teenage boyfriend, I am sure a shitstorm of Biblical proportions would ensue.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:22 AM on December 4, 2009 [27 favorites]


Talk about Lord of the Flies

From the article:
Accounts vary, but many students describe the chain of events this way: The last week of school in June, Hope forwarded a photo of her breasts to the cell phone of Alex Eargood, a boy she liked. A rival girl, who was the girlfriend of another boy Hope liked and a friend of Alex's, asked to borrow Alex's phone on the bus. That girl found the image and forwarded it to other students

and then how a second photo was sent:

No one knows how Hope met a group of boys staying across the hall. Rebecca Knowles, who is the FFA president, saw Hope talking to the boys by the hotel pool.

The boys were in their late teens and were not there for the FFA convention. They insisted she send a nude photo to them.

One of the boys was especially aggressive and called the room repeatedly on the conference's last night, asking Hope for a photo of her breasts.

"They kept calling and they kept bugging her," said Rebecca, 14, who said she was in the room but asleep. "I think she was just scared. One of our roommates was scared as well and said, 'Oh, my God, just do it.' They were scared and wanted to get it over."

The boy calling didn't have a cell phone. So Hope used Rebecca's phone to take a picture of her breasts, then slipped it outside her door.

The phone, which Hope had left outside for the boy, was still in the hallway when an adult found it and saw the photo.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:22 AM on December 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


from the article:

At the same time, friends say, Hope knew that the biggest mistakes made were her own.

“She didn’t blame it on anybody,” said Rebecca Knowles, 14. “She realized it was her fault for sending them in the first place."


Taumeson, I don't understand why you quoted this part, because you didn't provide any further comment. What point are you trying to make--that it was wrong for Hope to place the blame on herself, or that it was right?

Also:

Frankly, if these kinds of stories can keep my daughters from acting in a way I would be upset over (including but not limited to sending out naughty pictures via cell phone during their teenage years), than perhaps some good can come of this.

Personally, I'd hope the message your daughters might get from this story isn't "I'd better not do what Hope did or I might be bullied and slut-shamed" but rather, "It's really awful that all Hope's peers bullied her and the adults allowed the bullying to continue."

Also:

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


Because it's really sad when kids kill themselves after experiencing bullying, and this particular example happened to get media attention.

And because the bullying didn't just come from other kids--it came from the adults who were supposed to be looking out for this girl and taking care of her, not adding to her misery.


I highlighted the crucial part, in my opinion. I was a weak kid growing up but didn't get too bullied. I think folks were scared of my friends, frankly. I did have a few tormentors who were wrestling or football stars in a wrestling/football school. The coaches would always have the bully's backs, and I've been told to "man up".

I'm not looking for outrage on my behalf, I'm saying that this happens all the time and we don't seem to care. We need to get to the roots of bullying and not get distracted by the "oh, she was sexting" red herring or the inevitable "teenage sexuality sucks in America" criticism.
posted by taumeson at 8:26 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Frankly, if these kinds of stories can keep my daughters from acting in a way I would be upset over (including but not limited to sending out naughty pictures via cell phone during their teenage years), than perhaps some good can come of this.

I feel very, very sorry for your daughters.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 8:27 AM on December 4, 2009 [59 favorites]


Personally, I'd hope the message your daughters might get from this story isn't "I'd better not do what Hope did or I might be bullied and slut-shamed" but rather, "It's really awful that all Hope's peers bullied her and the adults allowed the bullying to continue."

I'd rather that they learn that there are consequences to their actions, and they need to put thought into how they live their lives. I'm not going to teach them that the world is against them -- rather I'm going to teach them to live their lives regardless of whether or not their peers and teachers suck.
posted by taumeson at 8:30 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, the Tampa Bay article is just bizarre. I don't understand how you can come away from this story saying that what happened was Hope's fault because she sent the picture. Why is the focus on Hope and what she did? Ahh! What about everyone who tormented her? Ahh!
posted by prefpara at 8:31 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel very, very sorry for your daughters.

ooh, ad hominem attacks. excellent. let me break out the popcorn.
posted by taumeson at 8:32 AM on December 4, 2009


The analogous situation is a boy texting a picture of his penis. That picture could easily get forwarded, and the boy could easily be teased. To say that similar administrators wouldn't shame him further is naive, and suicide seems like it would be just as possible.

I'm not saying it hasn't or couldn't happen, but I do find it interesting how many conversations about X_bad thing that actually happened to a girl or woman very soon become side-conversations about how X_bad thing could hypothetically happen to a guy, too, and it would be just as bad!
posted by Ouisch at 8:32 AM on December 4, 2009 [47 favorites]


I would hope that the inference that I am making that you feel that it is an acceptable consequence to be bullied to the point of suicide for having made some unwise decisions about how to use the camera on a cell phone is not what you actually mean.

Because that's how you're coming across right now.
posted by hippybear at 8:33 AM on December 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm not looking for outrage on my behalf, I'm saying that this happens all the time and we don't seem to care.

No, we do care. It's just that it only winds up as a MeFi FPP when there's some other media attention.

Other things we care about and don't FPP about every time they happen: people starving to death; fragile ecosystems being trashed; old people being miserable and alone; irreplaceable cultural monuments being destroyed by bombs.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:34 AM on December 4, 2009 [15 favorites]


I'd rather that they learn that there are consequences to their actions, and they need to put thought into how they live their lives. I'm not going to teach them that the world is against them -- rather I'm going to teach them to live their lives regardless of whether or not their peers and teachers suck.

The consequences of Hope sending out a nude picture of herself is that other people saw her naked body. The consequences of her classmates bullying her and the adults standing idly by is that she felt mentally tormented to the point of killing herself. These two things do not seem proportionate to me.

I hope her classmates and teachers have learned that there were consequences to their actions.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:35 AM on December 4, 2009 [62 favorites]



I'd rather that they learn that there are consequences to their actions, and they need to put thought into how they live their lives.


I'd rather that they learn that from you, their parent, not from an object lesson via the suicide of a 13-year-old girl.
posted by bakerina at 8:36 AM on December 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


ooh, ad hominem attacks.

No, this isn't an ad hominem attack, it's an analysis of what you said.

What you said was that you thought this would be a useful example to your daughters and keep them from doing stuff you didn't want them to do. That's a creepy thing to say, especially from someone who was boo-hooing about his own experience of childhood bullying.

My hope for your daughters is that you were just blustering here, and that you really don't want them to be frightened by the accounts of other girls being persecuted into obeying you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:36 AM on December 4, 2009 [14 favorites]


Also,

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posted by bakerina at 8:36 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Frankly, if these kinds of stories can keep my daughters from acting in a way I would be upset over (including but not limited to sending out naughty pictures via cell phone during their teenage years), than perhaps some good can come of this.

I'm very happy for you.
posted by philip-random at 8:37 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


That article is really very weird....not only does it go through all sorts of contortions to avoid suggesting "it's not a good idea to send naked pictures of yourself to classmates" it seems to imply that if anyone DOES suggest that, it's no different than saying "wore a short skirt? you deserved to be raped!"
posted by the bricabrac man at 8:40 AM on December 4, 2009


Why all the outrage?

what?

Frankly, if these kinds of stories can keep my daughters from acting in a way I would be upset over (including but not limited to sending out naughty pictures via cell phone during their teenage years), than perhaps some good can come of this.

what?

Also, from the article:

"At the same time, friends say, Hope knew that the biggest mistakes made were her own.

'She didn’t blame it on anybody,' said Rebecca Knowles, 14. 'She realized it was her fault for sending them in the first place.'

-- as quoted by taumeson
_________________

aaaargh. Oh jesus fucking christ, she was 13 fucking years old. 13! I despair for everyone, but most especially those who seem to think that naked photos = death = of-course! Why get outraged? Good god, this story is gruesome and medieval. We are hopeless.
posted by taz at 8:41 AM on December 4, 2009 [24 favorites]


That article is really very weird....not only does it go through all sorts of contortions to avoid suggesting "it's not a good idea to send naked pictures of yourself to classmates" it seems to imply that if anyone DOES suggest that, it's no different than saying "wore a short skirt? you deserved to be raped!"

I get the idea that it is difficult to walk a line of respect here - if Hope had never sent the picture, this particular situation may not have happened to her. But regardless of what she did, the bullying was so out of control and the responses of the school so wildly inappropriate, and the price that she and her family had to pay so unbearably extreme. No one wants to, or should, blame Hope for this. She was a child.

I google my deceased daughter's name all the time; I wonder if Hope's parents will, and how they will feel about what they read when they do.
posted by bunnycup at 8:45 AM on December 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'd rather that they learn that there are consequences to their actions,

And those consequences should not be that one is tormented and shamed so thoroughly that one sees only one way out: suicide. We agree on that, yes?

Frankly, I'm perfectly capable of being outraged about this story, and the stories of other bullied kids, and the wars, and the NY legislature voting against gay marriage, and the idiot who cut me off on the freeway this morning in dense fog, and a multitude about other things, all pretty much at the same time.

I hatehatehate the "Why so outraged about [thisstory] and not [thisotherstory]?" that gets passed off as...I don't know what. It's reductive and dumb, implying that expressing outrage or sorrow over one particular thing means one is not able to be simultaneously outraged about other things. Christ.
posted by rtha at 8:46 AM on December 4, 2009 [22 favorites]


And for Hope, and all the other kids like her:

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posted by rtha at 8:46 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


don't do anything you'd be ashamed of

I wouldn't consider taking a nude picture of myself "shameful." I wouldn't do it, because I'm older and wiser than this girl was, but the fact that you're describing it as something to be ashamed of is one of the central issues of the case.

She was shamed for normal sexual behavior -- behavior that wouldn't have been so risky if society didn't have absurd standards regarding female sexuality. She shouldn't have been ashamed of it in the first place, and maybe she wasn't until everyone told her that she should be.

What you really mean is "don't do anything you can be shamed for," which is the advice that would have prevented this from happening if she had followed it.

The analogous situation is a boy texting a picture of his penis. That picture could easily get forwarded, and the boy could easily be teased. To say that similar administrators wouldn't shame him further is naive

To say that he wouldn't experience slut-shaming on the same level as this girl isn't naive; it's realistic.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:49 AM on December 4, 2009 [33 favorites]


Aren't these "topless" photos, not "nude" photos?
posted by kirkaracha at 8:50 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article in the first link is very important -- it gets to the heart of what is wrong about the media reaction to "sexting". This girl did not kill herself because she send a naked picture. She killed herself because her fellow students and her teachers bullied and punished her for doing so.

A while ago, there was a post about a boy who used voluntarily sent naked pictures of other boys to blackmail them into having sex with him -- he was rightly denounced as a rapist. No one suggested that it was their "fault" for sending him the picture in the first place.

This is turning into a story about "sexting" -- but it shouldn't be. It's a story of harassment and bullying and adults who aided and abetted this.
posted by jb at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2009 [13 favorites]


That article is really very weird....not only does it go through all sorts of contortions to avoid suggesting "it's not a good idea to send naked pictures of yourself to classmates" it seems to imply that if anyone DOES suggest that, it's no different than saying "wore a short skirt? you deserved to be raped!"

No, I think it's actually trying to make the point that saying "Well, of course suicide is the natural result of sending a naked picture of yourself to a boy, and she was totally responsible for what happened" IS an awful lot like saying "wore a short skirt? you deserved to be raped!"

As taz just said above, the message coming from the MSM articles seems to suggest that naked photos = death = of-course!
posted by Ouisch at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hope her classmates and teachers have learned that there were consequences to their actions.

I certainly agree with that. It reminds me of Columbine, to be honest. Tragedy after extreme bullying, but we quickly ignore the bullying. At least with Columbine it was easy to say that the perpetrators actions were extreme and that they and they alone were responsible with the way they responded to getting bullied.

But I've learned that people usually shift blame elsewhere after being partially responsible for tragedy, and I doubt that any of these kids are going to give a shit. And frankly, if they can grow up to be decent members of society and learn something from this, than that's the best thing they can take away from this episode. Keep in mind that just like Beth was a 13 year old, so were the people bullying her.

It does suck about the school and the adults that should have protected her. I make no excuses for their behavior. But that's Florida for you.

I'd rather that they learn that from you, their parent, not from an object lesson via the suicide of a 13-year-old girl.

Parenting is about taking the learning opportunities that life presents you and making them meaningful and providing context. It doesn't take the suicide of a 13 year old to teach my kids about life, but I'll be damned if I won't use the hard lessons as well as the easy ones.

No, this isn't an ad hominem attack, it's an analysis of what you said.

Sure it was an attack. Your additional paragraphs certainly were the analysis, though.

It's hard to talk about parenting with people who are probably not parents. I'm am astounded that a bunch of women are hounding me because I said that I want my children to learn from bad things happening to others instead of themselves.
posted by taumeson at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually - the case of those boys being raped through blackmail shows that boys can be shamed as badly though threatening to release the photos. And they didn't even know at first that the blackmailer was male -- they thought it was a girl.
posted by jb at 8:53 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Kutsuwamushi,

Thanks for saying what I wanted to say but did not know how to. On a side note, I do not understand how referring to the girl's death in a passive voice glorifies what she did.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2009


It's hard to talk about parenting with people who are probably not parents. I'm am astounded that a bunch of women are hounding me because I said that I want my children to learn from bad things happening to others instead of themselves.

I am the parent of a deceased child who had to learn an awful lot of lessons from my child's death, using those "lessons" as silver lining to keep my ass getting out of bed every day. And I disagree with (and am a little appalled at) your initial statement. I appreciated others speaking up with their dislike of it, because I would not have been able to do so with civility.
posted by bunnycup at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2009 [14 favorites]


I certainly agree with that. It reminds me of Columbine, to be honest. Tragedy after extreme bullying, but we quickly ignore the bullying. At least with Columbine it was easy to say that the perpetrators actions were extreme and that they and they alone were responsible with the way they responded to getting bullied.

I may be recalling it wrongly, but while bullying was suggested or suspected as a rationale for the Columbine High School Massacre, it was later dispelled. Harris and Klebold were widely considered "weird" kids, but were largely left alone rather than the victims of overwhelming bullying.
posted by explosion at 8:59 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


No, this isn't an ad hominem attack, it's an analysis of what you said.

Sure it was an attack. Your additional paragraphs certainly were the analysis, though.


Just to be clear, an ad hominem argument is where you dismiss someone's premise because of a personal trait of the one who presented the premise. Such as saying something like "Of course someone like you would say that, you didn't even go to college."

It's hard to talk about parenting with people who are probably not parents. I'm am astounded that a bunch of women are hounding me because I said that I want my children to learn from bad things happening to others instead of themselves.

See, that's an ad hominem right there.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:00 AM on December 4, 2009 [44 favorites]


I'm am astounded that a bunch of women are hounding me because I said that I want my children to learn from bad things happening to others instead of themselves.

"A bunch of women"? Your misogyny is showing here.

Most if not all of this "bunch of women" have been daughters. Some of this "bunch of women" are mothers.

MetaFilter: A Bunch of Women.

See, that's an ad hominem right there.

Ad feminam, which apparently doesn't count.


taumeson, on the off chance you care, here is what was creepy about your statement. You didn't say "Perhaps my daughters will learn from this tragedy that other people will treat them like crap if they dare to express their sexuality in ways that other people can exploit." You said, and I quote, "Frankly, if these kinds of stories can keep my daughters from acting in a way I would be upset over..."

Your being upset is not the issue. How do you not get that? IT'S NOT ABOUT YOUR BEING UPSET.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2009 [31 favorites]


I'm am astounded that a bunch of women are hounding me because I said that I want my children to learn from bad things happening to others instead of themselves.

I'm not sure why it should astound you that women and men would be horrified that you would use a 13 year old's suicide as a lesson to your daughter about what the dead girl--the victim--did wrong.

It reminds me of Columbine, to be honest. Tragedy after extreme bullying, but we quickly ignore the bullying. At least with Columbine it was easy to say that the perpetrators actions were extreme and that they and they alone were responsible with the way they responded to getting bullied.

I just read Columbine by David Cullen. Excellent book. Klebold and Harris didn't kill because they were bullied. In fact, they don't appear to have been bullied much, if at all. They had a group of close friends and Harris even dated a lot. Harris turned out to be a psychopath and Klebold suicidally depressed--that's what really caused Columbine. In a very simplistic nutshell.
posted by Mavri at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2009 [13 favorites]


Was just going to mention Dave Cullen's book about Columbine, but Mavri is quicker on the send button than I am. *tips hate to Mavri* Far from being bullied, both Klebold and Harris had a circle of friends, and Harris even went to the prom, betraying no indication of what was to come just days later. Columbine is painfully hard to read, but I think it's necessary reading, not least because it illuminates a lot of tropes that we take for granted about that day, tropes that do not reflect the reality of that day, or the days that preceded it.
posted by bakerina at 9:12 AM on December 4, 2009


I think the media hype certainly has a hand to play in the weird double-standard in which sexting is both a cool thing form of sexual expression and justification for severe harassment. It's really bizarre and I can't quite wrap my head around it.

Having compromising photos of yourself be taken is a mistake. Chainmailing them around is sexual harassment. And it would be nice if we saw some of the attention given to the sexual harassers of the story rather than the victim.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:13 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Gahhhhh. *tips HAT* to Mavri. HAT. Not hate. Mavri, I don't hate you.
posted by bakerina at 9:13 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the reason that these stories focus on the sexting aspect, rather than the bullying, is that they are aimed at parents. And while success may not be assured in keeping your own children from sending nude photos of themselves to classmates, it's certainly a more realistic goal than changing the hearts and minds of every bully in your kids' school.
posted by palliser at 9:13 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am one step closer to raising my (someday) kids like the 'crazy' conservative Christian mom my best friend had when we were kids. Even though he turned out homeless and schizophrenic.

-
posted by General Tonic at 9:17 AM on December 4, 2009


Just to be clear...ad hominem right there.

My bad. I thought that implying that my kids having me as a father was something to be sorry for was a bit of a personal attack. I've now learned that ad hominem is a particular type of personal attack.

And I disagree with (and am a little appalled at) your initial statement.

To be clear, you're appalled that I made a rhetorical statement about how I don't like that the only reason we're even talking about this is because it's about bullying intersecting with female sexuality, and that there is a huge 900lb gorilla in the room called "bullying" that we never seem to deal with?
posted by taumeson at 9:19 AM on December 4, 2009


.
posted by yeloson at 9:20 AM on December 4, 2009


I don't like that the only reason we're even talking about this is because it's about bullying intersecting with female sexuality

What the holy fuck? Are you seriously saying that you don't like that this story got media attention BECAUSE IT'S ABOUT A GIRL WHO WAS BULLIED MERCILESSLY INTO TAKING TOPLESS PICTURES AND THEN BULLIED MERCILESSLY AS THE RESULT OF HAVING TAKEN THE TOPLESS PICTURES?

There isn't a limited quantity of outrage. Our being outraged about the horrible experiences this girl endured doesn't take anything away from you, or from any boy who has ever been bullied. It's not a zero-sum game unless you make it one.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:22 AM on December 4, 2009 [10 favorites]


Parenting is about taking the learning opportunities that life presents you and making them meaningful and providing context.

More often, parenting is about taking the learning opportunities that life presents you and warping them to reinforce your status quo.
posted by hermitosis at 9:22 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I feel very, very sorry for your daughters.
ooh, ad hominem attacks. excellent. let me break out the popcorn.
That's not an Ad Hominem attack. You're a creep who wants to terrify your daughters into not doing stuff that would "upset" you by telling them they'll be hounded in school, called sluts, etc if they do it.

Of course, it's probably not the case at all. Different schools have vastly different cultures, and your daughters will have a pretty good idea of how their peers will respond. In some schools it might not be that big of a deal at all. Depends on the school.

Furthermore, the consequence for Hope was far out of proportion to what she actually did, even without the suicide. Which obviously means you endorse the extreme tormenting of young girls in order to keep them in line.
I'm am astounded that a bunch of women are hounding me because I said that I want my children to learn from bad things happening to others instead of themselves.
I know, it's just stunning that women could resent people trying to control them by letting sexism run rampant in order to create negative consequences for ordinary behavior. Astounding even.
posted by delmoi at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2009 [16 favorites]


I thought that implying that my kids having me as a father was something to be sorry for was a bit of a personal attack.

I didn't see anyone saying that. I saw people saying that they were sorry for kids whose father made a post that implied that, to him, the message of this story was that his kids should obey him and not do things he "would be upset over."
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:25 AM on December 4, 2009


More often, parenting is about taking the learning opportunities that life presents you and warping them to reinforce your status quo.

Yes. The correct lesson here is "if people bully you into giving them topless pictures of yourself, they will bully you still further and you will end up at the bottom of a shitstorm that may make you so miserable you want to die," not "if you do something your father is 'upset over' you will die."
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:26 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


And you know, I can't help but think of the way in which people rushed to give David Letterman a pat on the back after his blackmail confession. Most people seemed to regard his admitted philandering as distasteful, but the concept shaking him down for cash (or a big check) over it was generally considered even more ugly.

palliser: I think the reason that these stories focus on the sexting aspect, rather than the bullying, is that they are aimed at parents. And while success may not be assured in keeping your own children from sending nude photos of themselves to classmates, it's certainly a more realistic goal than changing the hearts and minds of every bully in your kids' school.

Well, isn't this a contradiction that we can shame kids away from sexually explicit flirtation, but can't shame kids away from sexual harassment? It's not about changing hearts and minds, because I really don't care if Suzy thinks Jane is a horrible slut and won't talk to her. It's the behavior of sexual harassment that concerns me.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:26 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


So. Basically the argument I'm hearing here is that when 13 year olds do something unwise, it's totally ok to gather up as a group and taunt, mock, and bully them AND that the appropriate adult response is to ignore that mental torture because the child did something unwise to initiate it?

Gotcha. So never do anything stupid as a child, and if you do, the social circles forced upon you have the total right to berate you, provide verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and threatening sexual actions, and you should never make mistakes.

Sounds completely reasonable.

Let me know when we start stoning drug users and AIDs patients, 'kay?
posted by yeloson at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Your being upset is not the issue. How do you not get that? IT'S NOT ABOUT YOUR BEING UPSET.

I'm their father, trying to make sure my kids stay along the straight and narrow. Of course it's about whether or not I'd be upset about their behavior.

13 year old's suicide as a lesson to your daughter about what the dead girl--the victim--did wrong.

She's not the victim of a murder -- she killed herself. She's merely a victim of bullying. I would use this as an example of a few things:

1. that one's sexting pictures can get out of your control, don't do it.
2. that people who hate you can get ahold of your naked pics, so don't do it.
3. that bullying can get SO BAD that sometimes people kill themselves over it, and it's important to be strong because everything passes.

Klebold and Harris didn't kill because they were bullied. In fact, they don't appear to have been bullied much, if at all. They had a group of close friends and Harris even dated a lot.

The lens of time distorts a lot of memories. I don't remember getting hit much as a kid, but then again DFS came to my house a few times, so my teachers must have seen something. We tend to distort and forget the bad things, like how much our friends were bullied in high school, especially as we grow up and start to gain perspective.

That Klebold was a psychopath, I have no doubt. But the festering hate came from somewhere, and from what I remember they were actually unpopular kids with a close circle of friends who hated the popular jocks. Plenty of psychopaths, killers, rapists, have relationships with others and even get married and have kids.

Like I mentioned earlier, people like to deflect blame. I'm sure it makes people feel better that somebody official has said that Columbine wasn't about bullying.
posted by taumeson at 9:33 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Having compromising photos of yourself be taken is a mistake. Chainmailing them around is sexual harassment. And it would be nice if we saw some of the attention given to the sexual harassers of the story rather than the victim.

Weirdly, this reminds me of an incident from when I was in Grade 7. Only boys were involved.

It started with a fight. Two guys squaring off after school for some reason or other, one popular, the other a "loser". A crowd of other guys gathered around, goading them on, in particular encouraging the popular guy, dissing the "loser". Violence ensued. The "loser" got his nose broken. It quickly became a major incident with Principal and parents getting involved.

The weird thing was the aftermath. The "loser" and the popular guy both got suspended for a day or two for fighting. But everyone in the crowd who goaded them on received more serious penalties (suspensions, detentions, ongoing grounds cleanup, even some mandatory Civics training as I recall).

Now, almost four decades later, all I can think is, how enlightened! That Principal and those parents narrowed right in and "got" the truly guilty parties; that is, we the ugly mob that enabled the violence, that thirsted for it, that demanded it. Lesson learned. Society is us, and we were to blame.
posted by philip-random at 9:36 AM on December 4, 2009 [43 favorites]


I don't think the lesson you should take from this story is "don't text topless pics of yourself." I think the lesson is don't be part of a group that bullies someone because whether you see it or not, you might cause that person to suffer intolerable pain. That's what I would teach my kids, if I were using this as an object lesson.
posted by prefpara at 9:37 AM on December 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


Oh of COURSE, I didn't realize she was merely a victim of bullying.
posted by bunnycup at 9:37 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


and that there is a huge 900lb gorilla in the room called "bullying" that we never seem to deal with?

Are you kidding? I mean, I don't know who you mean by "we" here - Metafilter sees a post that's at least tangentially related to bullying quite often, and I know more about how many and in what ways mefites were bullied than I really want to (because it's awful and sad).

In case you're talking about The World Out There not dealing with bullying, well, yes and no. It comes in batches, when a story like this breaks and everyone goes around to cable talk shows moaning about how awful bullying is. Some schools and school systems seem to have made strides in dealing with it effectively, and others (many many others) haven't.
posted by rtha at 9:38 AM on December 4, 2009


Let me know when we start stoning drug users and AIDs patients, 'kay?

Categorizing AIDS patients as a group of people who have done "something unwise" seems, in itself, rather unwise.
posted by hermitosis at 9:39 AM on December 4, 2009


Furthermore, the consequence for Hope was far out of proportion to what she actually did, even without the suicide. Which obviously means you endorse the extreme tormenting of young girls in order to keep them in line.

Obviously.

"if people bully you into giving them topless pictures of yourself, they will bully you still further and you will end up at the bottom of a shitstorm that may make you so miserable you want to die,"

that's another good lesson.
posted by taumeson at 9:41 AM on December 4, 2009


Well, isn't this a contradiction that we can shame kids away from sexually explicit flirtation, but can't shame kids away from sexual harassment?

Oh, I think a parent has a great shot at keeping their own child from sexually harassing others. The problem is that if it's your child you're trying to protect, keeping her from being a sexual harasser isn't going to do it. You'd have to keep the other kids in the school from being sexual harassers. Easier (though not easy, and not entirely possible) is keeping your own child from sending the image in the first place.

I'm also not saying it's great that these news stories focus so much on the parental point of view, with their inset boxes on "how to keep your child from sexting"; I'm just saying it's in fact the audience they're focused on.
posted by palliser at 9:42 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm their father, trying to make sure my kids stay along the straight and narrow. Of course it's about whether or not I'd be upset about their behavior.

Tameson, you're getting piled on here. You slipped up in your initial statement (ie: made it sound like it was "all about you" even if that was not your intention) and your subsequent defenses are only digging you in deeper. That is, the mob is rather riled and smelling blood. I recommend you just take a break for a while.
posted by philip-random at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2009


So. Basically the argument I'm hearing here is that when 13 year olds do something unwise, it's totally ok to gather up as a group and taunt, mock, and bully them AND that the appropriate adult response is to ignore that mental torture because the child did something unwise to initiate it?

That's what Ross Douthat thinks.

(Btw, I couldn't remember the guy's name, so I Googled "NYT columnist with goatee" and I got it in the third result)
posted by delmoi at 9:44 AM on December 4, 2009


taumeson, I really don't want to turn this into a pile-on, I swear. Nor do I want to have a major derail over Columbine. But I do have *small* issues with a couple of your statements.

I'm sure it makes people feel better that somebody official has said that Columbine wasn't about bullying.

I don't know about other people, but my own statement was based on reading a book by a journalist who spent ten years researching and writing that book,and who talked to a hell of a lot more people, and read a hell of a lot more documents, than I, Some Person 900 Miles Away With an Opinion, did. That's all.

That Klebold was a psychopath, I have no doubt.

Again, all I have to go on is Dave Cullen's reportage, but if it is accurate: Dylan Klebold was not a psychopath. Dylan Klebold was suicidally depressed. And he was close friends with Eric Harris, who *was* a psychopath.

And no, I'm not using the above as an excuse to minimize the real harm bullying does to girls *and* to boys. As Sidhedevil said, outrage is not a finite, limited-supply resource.
posted by bakerina at 9:44 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


(I mean I googled first to find out what his name was, then again to find an article about his views on slut shaming)
posted by delmoi at 9:45 AM on December 4, 2009


What the holy fuck? Are you seriously saying that you don't like that this story got media attention BECAUSE IT'S ABOUT A GIRL WHO WAS BULLIED MERCILESSLY INTO TAKING TOPLESS PICTURES AND THEN BULLIED MERCILESSLY AS THE RESULT OF HAVING TAKEN THE TOPLESS PICTURES?

No, and I never said that. I did ask a rhetorical question about why we're getting upset NOW:

"Why all the outrage...Are we saying that THIS is the reason to get outraged -- that all of the other episodes of abuse are warranted or normal?"
posted by taumeson at 9:46 AM on December 4, 2009


I just don't think it gets said enough. If the only think you see when you see a victim is a person who has failed to avoid being victimized, you're crazy! 100% agree with the person upthread who said that taking away from this "don't sext" is like reading about a rape taking away from that "don't wear short skirts, don't get drunk." Not enough voices in our society are reacting to these tragedies by saying, "don't abuse! Don't torment! Don't prey on the weak! Don't be heartless! Don't use shame as a weapon!" The people who tortured this poor girl were wrong. What they did was wrong. She was not the most wrong! They were the most wrong! I am feeling a lot of feelings and need to go take a walk.
posted by prefpara at 9:51 AM on December 4, 2009 [23 favorites]


Dylan Klebold was not a psychopath. Dylan Klebold was suicidally depressed. And he was close friends with Eric Harris, who *was* a psychopath.

Sorry, I meant Eric Harris, actually. I wanted to make it clear that I wasn't trying to excuse their behavior, but I was hoping to point out that just because one kid's a psychopath and one kid is able to get a date doesn't mean they weren't bullied.

Taumeson, you're getting piled on here.

Thanks, Phil. I think I will. It's not the first dogpile I've created around here. I don't think like many MeFites, I suppose. I was just trying to spark a conversation about bullying and our reasons for analyzing it / being upset over it.
posted by taumeson at 9:51 AM on December 4, 2009


Klebold and Harris didn't kill because they were bullied. In fact, they don't appear to have been bullied much, if at all. They had a group of close friends and Harris even dated a lot.

The lens of time distorts a lot of memories. I don't remember getting hit much as a kid, but then again DFS came to my house a few times, so my teachers must have seen something. We tend to distort and forget the bad things, like how much our friends were bullied in high school, especially as we grow up and start to gain perspective.

Seriously, read the book before you presume that the snap judgments made by the media in the first couple of days after the murders are the truth about Columbine. Klebold and Harris left behind journals, short stories, and videos recording their thoughts about the killings and about their lives prior to the formation of any mass murder plan. Contemporaneous, first-person accounts are the primary evidence that Harris was a psychopath and Klebold was profoundly depressed. The primary evidence that Columbine was caused by bullying is media-driven guesswork done in the heat of a tragedy. I don't discount your experience or the experiences of girls like Hope, and I also don't doubt that bullying could drive someone to murder, but Columbine isn't about bullying.
posted by Mavri at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


palliser: Certainly. I don't think anyone is begrudging guidance that kids should be more discrete in regards to their sexual experimentation.

But on the other hand, parents do demand action in regards to violence and drug abuse in schools beyond just keeping the reputation of their own clean.

taumeson: Oh, this is an issue near and dear to my heart for the last 25 years. But in contrast to what other people are saying, outrage is a limited supply for me, and if I froth at the mouth every day regarding how Lawrence King and Hope Witsell were victims of escalating harassment, I tend to get the crazy treatment.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:55 AM on December 4, 2009


taumeson-

If you're really concerned about the "900 gorilla in the room" why do you seem perfectly happy to bring the conversation again and again back to yourself?

And in regards to this:

"if people bully you into giving them topless pictures of yourself, they will bully you still further and you will end up at the bottom of a shitstorm that may make you so miserable you want to die,"

that's another good lesson.

That comment is, to me, so revolting I'm having trouble grappling with it. This comment is what the FFP is dealing with, that the bullying of kids was awful, but what was worse was that the adults further shamed her. Thus this girl feeling like she had absolutely no one who would protect and help her INCLUDING ADULTS is OK with you because it will help you to use fear to instill "proper" behavior in your own children?

To teach kids to be strong in the face of bullying is a good lesson. To teach adults how to intervene when bullying occurs in a way that benefits all (like philip-random's example) is a better lesson.
posted by miss-lapin at 9:56 AM on December 4, 2009 [10 favorites]


from the article: As Veronica Arreola said on her Twitter, while the media insists on calling this a “sexting-related suicide,” it’s much more accurately referred to as a “slut-shaming suicide.”

hear. fucking. hear.

regarding the consequences of one's actions. let me put forth an alternative way to think about consequences.

there are consequences for sending nude pictures of yourself. I think we all know this, and we all agree that anyone doing so should be aware of them and prepared for them, in an ideal world. so that's handled. we now agree on what the consequences are for one of the parties involved, and we all hope that our children are raised to understand the consequences if they are that party, and act in their best interests regarding same.

what about the other parties? I would say that we all also agree that tormenting a girl the way this girl was tormented is horrible. so when do we start reinforcing within the minds of our children the consequences for that behavior? when do we make it as clear as we can that shaming a girl this badly has consequenes, too? and how are we avoiding talking about those consequences, in our media and in our daily lives, both in the things we say about this incident and other incidents like it? for example, when we focus on sexting instead of an entire school full of children calling someone a whore everywhere she goes as though we were living in the 1st century instead of the 21st?

I'd really really like it if we considered things from this angle, and had a discussion about that. I'd like to see a little more symmetry in our emphasis on consequences. Because the asymmetry exists in various nuances of the discussion. When I have children, I intend to discourage them from sending revealing pictures of themselves to classmates (and navigating that territory is, of itself, treacherous and I can only hope that I'm up to the task of doing so effectively and healthily) but I hope to do it without sending the message that their bodies are wrong things, or that they're sluts for sharing themselves or their bodies with someone they care about. I hope to do it while sending the message that other people are fucking shitholes that can't be trusted. (hi! i'm a cynic!) and that they must care for themselves and their opinion of themselves more than they care for the opinions a boy/girl/school may have of them. in truth, I'd like to think that if I do that successfully, the result is that they don't want to send pictures of their private parts to other students, but only because they don't want whatever acceptance they're looking for at the price of making themselves vulnerable in submission to someone else's discretion.

More importantly, I hope to raise children who wouldn't want to betray someone's trust so heartlessly, and wouldn't want to torment someone so cruelly, because they'd understand the consequences of those actions. because then... maybe... if someone makes the mistake of trusting someone with something that personal when they shouldn't have, the consequence of that needn't be the universal shame of every single person they know being heaped on them so strongly that they can't live with themselves any longer.

consequences are great, but as a society and as a people, we can discuss them universally instead of focusing with laser precision on one girl's body and what she chose to do with it. we can discuss how a town so completely failed to express even the basest level of compassion and sympathy, and what the consequences of that were, and how that behavior itself is a consequence of a larger societal failing to create an atmosphere where that behavior isn't acceptable.
posted by shmegegge at 10:00 AM on December 4, 2009 [41 favorites]


I was just trying to spark a conversation...

This seems to be the mistake lots of people make lately when they wade into sensitive issues. If you have a point to make, then make it and resume listening to what everyone else has to say. Otherwise it just becomes an intense derail as you end up tirelessly defending the point that no one was arguing about until you showed up.
posted by hermitosis at 10:02 AM on December 4, 2009 [11 favorites]


Frankly, if these kinds of stories can keep my daughters from acting in a way I would be upset over (including but not limited to sending out naughty pictures via cell phone during their teenage years), than perhaps some good can come of this.

Never mind the tragedy, there's personal utility!

Look, from your later comments I get that you take bullying seriously and feel some empathy for its victims, but this is a statement so insensitive it makes one wonder if butter melts in your mouth.
posted by BigSky at 10:04 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


shmegegge: Incredible comment. I thought the word "Exactly!" several times. Thank you for that nuanced examination of consequences, very well said.
posted by bunnycup at 10:05 AM on December 4, 2009


.
posted by dr. moot at 10:06 AM on December 4, 2009


If I were the parent of a girl, I would talk to her often about self-respect, mutual respect, how to respond to pushy requests. As the mother of a man, I still talk to him about self-respect, mutual respect, and not tolerating bullying. Parents give kids cellphones, and many parents know nothing at all about texting and sending photos by phone.

Bullies in school grow up to be bullies at work or in the neighborhood. I've seen other parents tolerate bullying because they won't stand up to or say No to kids. Everybody loses.

Incredibly sad story.

.
posted by theora55 at 10:06 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


.



What a douche bag for spread around a photo that is just meant for him. He deserves some responsibility for what happened here. I doubt he has the maturity to accept it though. But yet there is plenty blame to be spread here. Media needs to stop marketing to children with ads that show them needed to be sexy in order to get a boy to like them. What ever happened to simply talking to someone and having them like you for who you are? Kids are trying to grow up way too fast and are not enjoying their childhood. This young lady should be alive and well. This story is very sad.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:07 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The death is a tragedy, and nothing that the girl did deserved that treatment. But as others have said, I find some parts of the article to be preposterous. Bullying of all kinds is terrible, but framing the passing of topless photos between classmates as non-consensual sex (oh, sorry, sexual conduct) is idiotic. Expecting boys to refrain from doing such things, and parents to effectively discourage such things, reflects a grave misunderstanding of the male psyche. I'd really focus more on the bullying. The girl did make a serious mistake, and some of this is predictable, even though it was deeply unjust. Does gender really need to enter into the relevant issues here.
posted by Edgewise at 10:07 AM on December 4, 2009


What a douche bag for spread around a photo that is just meant for him. He deserves some responsibility for what happened here. I doubt he has the maturity to accept it though.

The boy didn't do it. FTA: "Accounts vary, but many students describe the chain of events this way: The last week of school in June, Hope forwarded a photo of her breasts to the cell phone of Alex Eargood, a boy she liked. A rival girl, who was the girlfriend of another boy Hope liked and a friend of Alex’s, asked to borrow Alex’s phone on the bus. That girl found the image and forwarded it to other students."
posted by bunnycup at 10:10 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Reading in the original article that Hope "knew" it was her own fault made me unspeakably angry. I was glad to see it get called out, among many other things.

The comment I would like to make when we talk about how differently a boy/girl might be treated over this actually comes from personal experience though. When I was in high school, me and some male friends were talking about sex, and when the subject of masturbation came up I agreed with them that I (and as far as I knew everybody else) did it pretty frequently. Literally every person In that discussion said that they did it and it was no big deal. Unfortunately, every other person in that discussion was male.

Did I make a bad call by being honest? Oh fuck yes. I literally couldn't spend a break or lunchtime without someone bringing it up and calling me dirty or disgusting for months. Even after the initial fascination died down, for the rest of my time in that school people would bring it up. One or two people told me I was brave for being honest, one or two friends told me that It was completely okay that I did it, but that they didn't because it was disgusting, and I spent a lot of time regretting ever telling the truth.

In retrospect? I guess I am glad I did it. I didn't compromise my honesty, I wasn't then and still am not ashamed of my sexuality, but I know I got lucky. Even as a kid I was pretty happy and pretty hardy, so none of this left me particularly emotionally scarred, however, the long winded point I'm making is this: Not one of the boys in that conversation ever felt it come back on them. No one bullied them over it, as far as I know no one even mentioned it. What, for me was dirty and disgusting and shameful, for them was just a fact of life.

.
posted by emperor.seamus at 10:14 AM on December 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter: There isn't a limited quantity of outrage.
posted by hippybear at 10:15 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, to me all the hysteria regarding nude pictures is just another iteration of panic regarding new media. We had it over novels, the waltz, the tango, jazz, rock & roll, music video, comic books and games. Now it's internet messaging. It's probably the case that teens were flashing each other since the invention of the first garment and a nudity taboo. My crazy grandmother would rant and rave about the immodesty of braless hippies, but her mother was apparently a teen mother and woman of loose morals in the 20s and 30s, so there is a history there. We know that a typical puritan bride was teenaged and pregnant from New England church records as well.

So, be it resolved that kids are going to experiment sexually, from dirty dancing and grinding, to seeking out the innuendo in lyrics, to porn under the mattress, to flirting and flashing. The hysteria surrounding sexting strikes me as relatively disproportionate to the risks, especially when we have disturbing evidence regarding the prevalence of sexual harassment, coercion, and assault in schools.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:17 AM on December 4, 2009


Nice derail, peoples....

What you really mean is "don't do anything you can be shamed for," which is the advice that would have prevented this from happening if she had followed it.

Kutsuwamushi, no, that's not what I meant. Whether or not shame is an appropriate means of enforcing public morality and whether or not what Hope did falls on one side or the other of that line is irrelevant to my point. What I meant was that you're doing something you don't want other people to know about, regardless of the reasons behind it, the internet is not the place to do it. In short, don't do anything on the internet that you wouldn't do on Main St.

Whatever we think about teenage sexuality, whatever the gender of the participants, most people of all ages and genders don't want their sexual activities to be public knowledge. Ergo, they shouldn't do it in public or on the internet, which amounts to the same thing.

The story here would be a lot less complicated if Hope hadn't taken the pictures but her boyfriend had blabbed to his buddies. There I'd be completely with you: what she does in private she has a reason to believe will be kept private. But that isn't what happened, and so while the response of her peers was unquestionably disproportionate, unfair, and downright mean, I don't think the author of the linked article can get away with the conclusions she'd like to.

By the way, disguised here is a claim that sending naked pictures of yourself via your phone is not something about which one ought to feel ashamed. I'm not going to argue that point or any other point of sexual morality in this thread--the two or three derails currently in progress are more than enough, thank you--but I do feel compelled to point out that for your argument to hold weight you need to include that as a premise. This is, I would contend, far from uncontroversial.
posted by valkyryn at 10:21 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


100% agree with the person upthread who said that taking away from this "don't sext" is like reading about a rape taking away from that "don't wear short skirts, don't get drunk."

I think what you're saying here is that this is not the first reaction we should have, as compassionate human beings, and you're absolutely right. We should feel horrible for the victim and horrified at the assailant.

But I have to say, again as a parent, because again I think that helps to explain the slant to these stories, that the first wild thought you have is "how do I protect my child from something like this?" And a partial, imperfect answer to that is, yes, don't sext.

As for the comparison you drew to rape, I will definitely be advising my daughter not to get so drunk at a gathering that she doesn't know what's going on around her (or have a designated friend who's not getting drunk and makes sure everyone gets back to their own beds, alone, if that's everyone's intention when sober). And I will tell her that this will help reduce, but not eliminate, her chances of sexual assault. I will also tell her that if anything bad happens to her, under any circumstances, it would be the fault of the assailant, not her, and she would receive nothing from me but love and support and compassion.

This is probably pretty non-controversial advice.

But everyone here is also very right that parents should work on not raising little monsters, just as they work on protecting their children from the monsters.
posted by palliser at 10:21 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


What the hell is wrong with us?

.
posted by tyllwin at 10:27 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Not enough voices in our society are reacting to these tragedies by saying, "don't abuse! Don't torment! Don't prey on the weak! Don't be heartless! Don't use shame as a weapon!" The people who tortured this poor girl were wrong. What they did was wrong. She was not the most wrong! They were the most wrong! I am feeling a lot of feelings and need to go take a walk.

I agree with you wholeheartedly, prefpara.

When you come back, you might want to take a look at this link. It goes well with what you are saying.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:33 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Expecting boys to refrain from doing such things, and parents to effectively discourage such things, reflects a grave misunderstanding of the male psyche.

Riiiight. Because males are genetically programmed to spread naked pictures around? To badger girls into providing naked pictures? To harass girls for being "sluts"? And we shouldn't (and can't) expect more from them, because boys are just randy horndogs with absolutely no sense of morals or self control?

I find that a pretty fucking pessimistic view of manhood, personally.

Boys and men are better than that, if only their parents and our fucking society would help teach them how to be.
posted by Ouisch at 10:35 AM on December 4, 2009 [30 favorites]


But I have to say, again as a parent, because again I think that helps to explain the slant to these stories, that the first wild thought you have is "how do I protect my child from something like this?" And a partial, imperfect answer to that is, yes, don't sext.

Yup, just like my parents said, DON'T DO DRUGS. Worked until I was twelve.

I've heard it said that as of age ten, kids take roughly 50 percent of their guidance from their families, 50 percent from their peers ... and it slants more and more toward their peers as they get older. Given this, it's an error to assume that parental instruction, regardless of how rational, is going to win out over "other factors".

So what makes for a good parent then? Perhaps, the wisdom and conscientiousness to allow for their diminishing influence and to be open to other means of "harm reduction" as their kids grow older and move through increasingly loaded and complex situations. Easier said than done, of course, but whoever said that being a parent was easy?
posted by philip-random at 10:36 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


but framing the passing of topless photos between classmates as non-consensual sex (oh, sorry, sexual conduct) is idiotic. Expecting boys to refrain from doing such things, and parents to effectively discourage such things, reflects a grave misunderstanding of the male psyche.

I totally disagree. Forwarding the photo was an inextricable part of the harassment and bullying (whether done by a boy or a girl). I don't think we should lose sight of that. Just because we're in the internet age doesn't mean that we have to lose all concepts of confidentiality and discretion. It wasn't ok to expose people to embarrassment in public before the internet, and it's still not ok to do so now. The school certainly would have punished someone who taped a naked photographs of the girl on a locker -- why did they allow the photo to be forwarded without punishing the forwarders?
posted by yarly at 10:36 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


As a former (5 years) step-dad I have spent some time thinking about parenting. It's my job as a parent to allow the kids to make some mistakes because the kid's own errors are a more powerful lesson than those of their peers. (Watch, Alex is going to crash his bike in a couple seconds.) And you can't shadow them 24 hours a day anyway. It is also my job to not allow them to make certain mistakes because the consequences can be too severe or they are too inexperienced to understand the range of potential consequences (hide the weed).
Kids and teenagers are of course the definition of poor impulse control. Talking to your kids about any danger is not a complete or guaranteed method to prevent your child from acting impulsively (I told you that was going to happen.). So the solution as it applies here, my option A. as a parent is simple and easy if you are willing to put up with a few years of nagging: get your kid a cell phone that doesn't take or display pictures. It's easier than trying to change society or rely on a child to control their impulses and I've heard tell of a time in the olden days when children actually did not have cell phones that took and displayed pictures.
posted by vapidave at 10:37 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: When there seems to be a limited quantity of outrage, just wait a few more comments.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:38 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


but framing the passing of topless photos between classmates as non-consensual sex (oh, sorry, sexual conduct) is idiotic. Expecting boys to refrain from doing such things, and parents to effectively discourage such things, reflects a grave misunderstanding of the male psyche.

This is pretty condescending to boys and men.
posted by Pax at 10:40 AM on December 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


Edgewise: "Expecting boys to refrain from doing such things, and parents to effectively discourage such things, reflects a grave misunderstanding of the male psyche."

as a boy, you're full of shit.
posted by shmegegge at 10:46 AM on December 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


As someone who was bullied badly for a while as a child, and for whom administrators also royally screwed things up in the way they handled the situation, I'd just like to express my sadness at Hope's situation and her death.

In my case, people blamed the victim because apparently I couldn't really be that innocent and gentle, I must be lying and instigating it somehow. And in Hope's case, they failed her in a worse way.

This seriously makes me sad.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:47 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I know lots of men now, and knew lots of boys/young men in high school in college, who would not pass a photo of a peer around like that. Trade copies of Hustler or Playboy? Sure. Humiliate a classmate? No.

It's not required by genetics or hormones, and lots and lots of boys and men don't do this kind of thing, ever.

And people accuse me of thinking ill of men. Sheesh.
posted by rtha at 11:02 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


hurdy gurdy girl, I love that list. "Use the buddy system" is my favorite. I remember when this came out, I definitely emailed it to all my friends. At the same time, it's sad that the list is an obvious joke.

I think one of the reasons we struggle to deal with this issue is that, before an assault happens, there's a tendency to think that it's not really necessary to tell all these nice young people not to commit horrible acts. They would never do such a thing, and everyone knows that bad things are bad, and if we tried to teach them not to do bad things, they would just be insulted and it's not necessary. And after someone crosses the line and becomes an abuser, we think, well that person is different from everyone else and their behavior is somehow (genetically? Biologically? Socially?) inevitable anyway, so we still don't need to talk to all these nice young people about not doing bad things because they never would...
posted by prefpara at 11:14 AM on December 4, 2009


Expecting boys to refrain from doing such things, and parents to effectively discourage such things, reflects a grave misunderstanding of the male psyche. I'd really focus more on the bullying. The girl did make a serious mistake, and some of this is predictable, even though it was deeply unjust. Does gender really need to enter into the relevant issues here.

Your own comments point to yes, at least as far as your own arguments go. You can't justify what you consider components of the "male psyche", then come back and ask if gender is relevant.

But simply given the facts in this case (and in the other case mentioned in the article), yes, gender is important. It's a relevant angle for discussion given society's double standards that still exist over female sexuality and expression thereof.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The analogous situation is a boy texting a picture of his penis.

Teenage boys aren't being bombarded with cultural messages telling them that it's cool to text pictures of their penis to teenage girls, though.


They are bombared with the cultural message that it's neither okay, nor legal to show their penis to girls. The message they're given is that it would be sexual harassment and undesirable to see thus few I imagine have any desire to do so. When girls get charged for doing so, I think there's a reasonable outrage that our sexual climate punishes them for this. Presumably we could teach them from a younger age that it is wrong to sext but is that desireable either? So I think it's going to happen that girls send the pictures much more often than boys and it's the disgusting aftermath that can be dealt with.
posted by kigpig at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2009


The lesson for kids should be: "Don't bully people, because if you do you'll be an asshole."
posted by delmoi at 12:14 PM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


What an awful story. 13 is a horrible age -- at that age it's almost impossible to see that things will change. I'm glad that at least she did have some good friends -- friends that tried to "shield" her -- so even though she must have felt very alone, she did have some loving and kindness in her life.

I know a lot of people want to take events like this and make it into an "issue" and use it to fuel this or that agenda (even if it's an agenda that I mostly feel aligned with, like feminism). But it just seems a little callous to me -- this was a real girl that died, not just a "representative example" of our fucked up culture. Culture will always have fucked up elements, though yes, we should try to change that. But when Hope was hurting, do you think explaining to her that she was a "victim" of our culture would have helped her?

I think that the real crime that happened here was the one perpetrated by the school (and I don't know where her parents were in all this, they might also be assholes). When I was in middle school I was at various times a "Hope" and at other times I behaved like the kids that tormented her. When I was like Hope, and desperately needed someone's (an adult's) help, the school basically covered their bases by telling my parents that I was a potential danger to myself and then washed their hands of me. When I was a troublemaker, I was treated like a criminal mastermind who engineered plots to break out of school and such -- I didn't think that was too strange at the time because I (like most young teenagers) didn't realize just how young I was. But looking back, I can't believe the way they (the principal, other teachers) talked to me and the things they accused me -- a tiny, very young girl -- of. What I really was was a desperately unhappy, confused young girl crying out for help and attention. I was depressed, a cutter, and developed an eating disorder in 8th grade. I went to one of the teachers that I trusted most -- my health teacher -- and told her that I was purging. She taught me how to do squats and told me that purging would make my skin look bad!!!!! Yes, that's exactly what she did!!!! Oh my god, I'm still so bitter about that.

And maybe I shouldn't be. Maybe there was nothing she really could have done. But ten years later, when I was hospitalized for depression, an eating disorder, etc., I couldn't help but look back on that early attempt at getting help with anger. They knew the kinds of problems I had. And they never asked what was going on in my home. They didn't care. Those people shouldn't have been working with kids, or at least not kids that age. But then, I think it probably takes a very, very special kind of person to be able to work well with middle schoolers!

My feelings about who's to blame in Hope's situation are thus clearly very biased. But I do want to caution people against blaming the other kids too much. While they certainly were very cruel and should be seriously punished, I definitely understand what it's like to join in that kind of activity. I was at times really mean to other kids in school, and looking back, I think I just never really *thought about* it too much. I just did it. I know that may be horrible, but I also think it's the nature of that age. Hopefully those kids, like most people as they grow up, will realize soon enough how horrible their actions were. And then they'll have a lot of guilt to deal with. Honestly, that will be punishment for a lifetime.
posted by imalaowai at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's dangerous for girls to be licentious, because sexting leads to actual sex which leads to pregnancy OR WORSE and abortion is murder and keeping it is a burden on your WHOLE FAMILY FOREVER.

But you know, boys will be boys.
posted by hermitosis at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


Chiming in very briefly to say that it's because of the attitude we have in the U.S. that while I'm proud of certain projects I've done that can't be talked about because they might be NSFW, I still draw the lines in how and where I want those projects promoted. A recent example that I don't want to go into right now involved a whole lot of shaming when I asked a question on my Facebook and got a small amount of scorn.

I remember one time when I was a sophomore in high school and was flirting with a fellow trivia team member who was a year younger than me. While we did engage in some heavy flirting, he sent me a letter one day that got way too graphic for my sensibilities. And yet, I felt ashamed because I'd encouraged some of the flirting. I can't recall exactly how I handled it, but I do still remember the embarassment. Thank goodness he was gentleman enough to keep it between us, but if my responses to some of his earlier notes got out...!
posted by TrishaLynn at 12:41 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


And so while Hope Witsell made her decision, that decision rests not only on her, but also on the head of our misogynistic, victim-blaming, rape culture

Mastercheddaar: Media needs to stop marketing to children with ads that show them needed to be sexy in order to get a boy to like them.

cmgonzalez: But simply given the facts in this case (and in the other case mentioned in the article), yes, gender is important. It's a relevant angle for discussion given society's double standards that still exist over female sexuality and expression thereof.

These are actually the points that leap out at me about this story, too. I don't disagree with jmalaowai that this tragedy is a story about specific individuals,too, but I think it is also yet another example of how really dangerous our societal sexualization of children, especially young girls is. The message for girls like Hope (what an ironic name she has) is that they have to be "hot" to be attractive, yet the stigma and social condemnation for girls who obey this message is brutal. I actually think the viciousness about sexual young girls is worse than ever before, much worse than when I was in school.

My heart also breaks for this child and her family.
posted by bearwife at 12:46 PM on December 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


bearwife: I think it is also yet another example of how really dangerous our societal sexualization of children, especially young girls is. The message for girls like Hope (what an ironic name she has) is that they have to be "hot" to be attractive, yet the stigma and social condemnation for girls who obey this message is brutal.

Unfortunately, that's the direction that society, this great amorphous mass of cultural currents (in may ways directed with intended consequences; in some ways, not) wants things to tilt to. Growing up, girls and young women have it constantly drummed into them that their looks, their bodies, their sexuality in toto is something that they must learn to use, because that's how they shall be judged. However, should, and this is the grim part, any individual young women attempt to judge her own sexuality – that is, determine herself how it should be used (or not), and to what degree (or not) – she gets a quick reminder: too liberal (or in many cases, any at all) sexual expression makes her a slut; not enough, or none, and she's mousy, or frigid, or a hairy-armpitted man-hater, or whatever. But she is reminded: you're not free to do as you please.

And all the time the message is: your sexuality is not yours to decide how to use. It is ours, society's at large, and we will use it as we wish. And if that results in you killing yourself, well, that's tragic but there's nothing we can do if you don't learn the rules.
posted by Len at 1:14 PM on December 4, 2009 [10 favorites]


But I have to say, again as a parent, because again I think that helps to explain the slant to these stories, that the first wild thought you have is "how do I protect my child from something like this?" And a partial, imperfect answer to that is, yes, don't sext.

I see this as a fallacy because women were slut-shamed in my high school a full decade before the low-cost digital camera. Usually then it involved malicious rumors regarding who made out with whom at a party, visible hickeys, or getting caught lip-locking. The camera may add more punch, but the words and strategies are the same.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:14 PM on December 4, 2009


I see this as a fallacy because women were slut-shamed in my high school a full decade before the low-cost digital camera. Usually then it involved malicious rumors regarding who made out with whom at a party, visible hickeys, or getting caught lip-locking. The camera may add more punch, but the words and strategies are the same.

Agree. More than one full decade before.
posted by Pax at 1:23 PM on December 4, 2009


what about the other parties? I would say that we all also agree that tormenting a girl the way this girl was tormented is horrible. so when do we start reinforcing within the minds of our children the consequences for that behavior? when do we make it as clear as we can that shaming a girl this badly has consequences, too?

We can and should reinforce it all day long, but I think it's really hard for people in general (and teenagers in specific) to care about consequences that are not obviously and directly affecting them. I don't think that "a girl committed suicide who wouldn't have, if you hadn't added to the culture of shame" is going to be a consequence that most teens would care about, especially since it is soooooooo easy to divorce one's self from one's role in a girl's suicide if all you did was push a few buttons on a phone to forward a picture. But every single person who forwarded the pictures played a small part in the whole thing reaching a critical mass of shame.

How do you start to get people to care about something (like a classmate's suicide) that 1) seemingly doesn't impact their lives at all, and 2) seems very out of proportion to the amount of malice that you put into forwarding a pic?
posted by 23skidoo at 1:28 PM on December 4, 2009


We just had a whole big metafilter thread regarding sexual harassment, in which it was made pretty darn clear that it has little to do with the behavior or appearance of the target, and that it's extremely hard for women to entirely avoid it without becoming entirely phobic of the world.

Should sexting be shameful? I'll defend the notion that some forms of shame should be kept entirely individual and private. If it doesn't involve sexual assault or professional misconduct, it's none of my business. Most people's sex lives would be deadly embarrassing if made public, but the mature person says, "excuse me" and pretends it didn't happen.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:34 PM on December 4, 2009


"Expecting [people] to refrain from doing such things, and parents to effectively discourage such things, reflects a grave misunderstanding of [human behavior]."
posted by prak at 1:53 PM on December 4, 2009


"Died after being tormented" is a strange euphemism for suicide, and one I hope doesn't catch on. Let's not rationalize or glorify what she did just to show how bad the other people were.

What?
posted by small_ruminant at 1:59 PM on December 4, 2009


23skidoo: "but I think it's really hard for people in general (and teenagers in specific) to care about consequences that are not obviously and directly affecting them."

I'm no expert on child rearing, but i'm inclined to think that it starts with the culture you raise the child in, though there are other forces at work as well. these kids didn't just come up with the idea that Hope was a slut on their own. They've been raised in a culture that doesn't mind when someone gets called a slut, but is ready to pounce when someone exhibits control over their own sexuality. So a lot of that is grown within our own cultural responses to that, and the major goal of feminism has always been to reduce the cultural message of "women should behave this way, or else they're dirty and wrong" and "women are valued this way, or else men won't want them and that's what matters."

so generally I make it a point to consider that the next time someone makes a big deal about a magazine article, or a character in a movie or how a public figure is discussed in the news. the next time I'm tempted to say "oh come on, that's just the kind of thing people say," I try to recall that that's just the kind of thing people say all the time, and that that creates the kind of culture where all of a sudden an entire school treats someone like this and no one bats an eye at it, and suddenly it's "what can you do?" well, what I can do is listen the next time someone talks about the effect on our culture of how women are depicted, and support movements to reduce that.
posted by shmegegge at 2:00 PM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


How do you start to get people to care about something (like a classmate's suicide) that 1) seemingly doesn't impact their lives at all, and 2) seems very out of proportion to the amount of malice that you put into forwarding a pic?

I base this on 2 assumptions:
1. Sexting will happen
2. Sometimes the photos will leak for a host of reasons - in the first case it was a jealous girl and the guy deleted the photo and seemed to be sincere. While this may be an exception to the rule of how they get distributed, somehow or another, some will (breakup revenge or bad decision making on who to send them too seem the most likely)
3. The photos will spread somewhat exponentially once leaked and there's little ability to stop it before it's too late.

I haven't had many chances (and none involving sexting since that's after my time) to view the results of the following strategy but I have found it successful when I have:

I have plenty of acquaintances or drinking buddies that will refer to women as slut, tramp, whore or whatever have you. These are not necessarily overall mean people nor are they dullards. So it always seemed counter intuitive. These same men are out looking for sexual situations often and failing, yet they insult the very behavior that they purport to want. Explaining this with varying levels of civility or anger depending on the situation has stopped them from continuing, sometimes followed with apologies but at the very least with no more dickishness.

I've even seen it in groups when I was younger when guys would be together speaking about some 'trashy' girl and what things she did and the heads start to nod when I would curtly pop in the discussion to point out the stupid inconsistency of what they were saying they would stop.

And I think it's even easier with girls trash talking eachother with a simple "well I'd rather be friends with/hook up with (whatever the case details) than you" and they would quickly STFU. I can draw parallel examples but nothing direct so it remains somewhat untested.

Which brings me to this:

I'm glad that at least she did have some good friends -- friends that tried to "shield" her -- so even though she must have felt very alone, she did have some loving and kindness in her life.

It says she had a tight knit group of friends but the quoted word shield only shows up for "Shields Middle School" so I think it's unclear whether she had a support structure afterwards and things like that are often the difference. Also important is that they don't just shield her but defend her against them.


posted by kigpig at 2:01 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


on a more micro level, I believe that children can be raised to dislike hurting someone emotionally. I certainly was, and it's not because I'm just good like that. I had parents who made it clear to me how language and behavior was hurtful, and reminded me of my own pain when I would behave badly toward others. It's fucking hard to raise a kid well, but we - as children - resist impulses when we're conscience of their consequences and they're undesirable, and there's that word again, so yeah. maybe it's the cynic in me rearing its head again, but I've always gotten the impression that too many parents leave their children to grow in what isn't necessarily a moral vacuum but which has empty spots in it that they don't tend to, and cruelty is fostered by children taking their moral cues from each other.

again, I'm no child rearing expert, though.
posted by shmegegge at 2:05 PM on December 4, 2009


on a more micro level, I believe that children can be raised to dislike hurting someone emotionally. I certainly was, and it's not because I'm just good like that.

I was raised this way too, and took it very much to heart, but I still participated in my share of slut-shaming, because it was always nice when people were making fun of someone other than me. It's horrible, but that's how it so often works.
posted by hermitosis at 2:16 PM on December 4, 2009


hermitosis: "but I still participated in my share of slut-shaming, because it was always nice when people were making fun of someone other than me. It's horrible, but that's how it so often works."

yeah. just to be clear, my childhood is also full of terrible things I've done, for much the same reason. so I'm not trying to be like "kids can all be raised like me! i'm so awesome!" I just think that there's a lot of room between "driving a girl to suicide" and "sometimes participating in shameful behavior," especially when we're thinking of what could have been done to prevent this.
posted by shmegegge at 2:20 PM on December 4, 2009


3. that bullying can get SO BAD that sometimes people kill themselves over it, and it's important to be strong because everything passes.

Fuck that!

Kids aren't strong because we tell them to be. They're strong because they feel they're loved/supported/have self-worth and a lot of other intangibles.

I want my kid to *tell me* if he's being bullied. I might not be able to do anything about it, but at least I can monitor the situation, listen to him and encourage him not to blame himself or think he deserves it somehow.
posted by morganw at 3:04 PM on December 4, 2009


66 dots for the 66 years she had left to live
               .. ..... .....
..... ..... ..... ..... .....
..... ..... ..... ..... .....
....

posted by Decimask at 3:38 PM on December 4, 2009


By the way, I'm guessing he parents weren't exactly supportive during this time. They obviously knew about it. My guess is they were piling on at home as well.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 PM on December 4, 2009


There have been a couple of times since the whole sexting thing became a media issue that I've heard the specter of "child pornography" brought up. In the majority of cases, I don't think it's appropriate to have that kind of label.

This case, on the other hand, brings that possibility up. This was a nude picture that students were forwarding around that hadn't been originally sent to them by the subject of the photo. Nude pictures of kids are seriously frowned upon in this society, with disastrous consequences for anyone involved.

The adults in this scenario, from what I've read, seriously screwed up this message, after the fact, and a girl is dead because of that screw up.

Child porn is bad. Sexting is a form of child pornography that technology and teenage willfulness has made very common. Dealing with it after the fact is just as important as the message of prevention. Putting a few PSAs on the idiotbox does not excuse adults from needing to be able to deal with the issue appropriately.

I hope the adults in this case are being appropriately educated about their mistakes and the proper responses that are needed in the future.
posted by Revvy at 4:14 PM on December 4, 2009


Of course, popular pop singer Rihanna feels bad for your boyfriend if you don't send him nude pictures.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:28 PM on December 4, 2009


I see this as a fallacy because women were slut-shamed in my high school a full decade before the low-cost digital camera

This. I graduated in 1982. And not just by other kids--they were institutionally slut-shamed by the administration of our (public) high school if they got pregnant, as I've said before.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:03 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


So I think it's going to happen that girls send the pictures much more often than boys

Especially if boys actively bully girls into sending them naked pictures, as happened in this case. To me, that's the saddest part of the whole thing--she didn't want to send the naked pictures in the first place, according to her friends' account.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:07 PM on December 4, 2009


I don't think a boy has been bullied for being a slut in the history of mankind. What a ridiculous double standard girls live under in school / religion / well pretty much everything in society actually.
posted by tehloki at 5:44 PM on December 4, 2009


Please read "pro-girl" as opposed to "anti-boy" in that comment if you can
posted by tehloki at 5:45 PM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


You don't want to worry about someone else uploading photos of you, don't do anything you'd be ashamed of.

What about the things I'm not ashamed of but other people would try to ruin my life over, anyway? Great victim-blaming, bully enabling society you're sticking up for, there, champ.

OTOH, if a teenage boy had texted a photo of his penis to his teenage boyfriend, I am sure a shitstorm of Biblical proportions would ensue.

If he texted a picture of his penis to the wrong girl he'd be a convicted, labelled sex pedophile.

ooh, ad hominem attacks. excellent. let me break out the popcorn.

If you're going to tell people you raise your daughters with the equivalent of "Go out in that outfit and you'll get raped and you'll deserve it, young lady!" you can expect some well-deserved criticism.

But regardless of what she did, the bullying was so out of control and the responses of the school so wildly inappropriate, and the price that she and her family had to pay so unbearably extreme. No one wants to, or should, blame Hope for this.

The proper thing to do with a 13 year old girl who sends out a naked picture of herself is to tell her to quit being silly. The proper thing to do to boys and girls who spread it around and harrass her is whatever the appropriate punishment for gross bullying is in your neck of the woods.

The appropriate punishment for the teachers who collaborated in the that bullying is a good, hard, punch in the mouth. Followed by a swift and permanant exit from their profession./

When I have children, I intend to discourage them from sending revealing pictures of themselves to classmates (and navigating that territory is, of itself, treacherous and I can only hope that I'm up to the task of doing so effectively and healthily) but I hope to do it without sending the message that their bodies are wrong things, or that they're sluts for sharing themselves or their bodies with someone they care about. I hope to do it while sending the message that other people are fucking shitholes that can't be trusted. (hi! i'm a cynic!)

Amen.

Expecting boys to refrain from doing such things, and parents to effectively discourage such things, reflects a grave misunderstanding of the male psyche.

What in the fucking hell of fucking hells?

Can we not have sexist horseshit like this, please?

Of course, popular pop singer Rihanna feels bad for your boyfriend if you don't send him nude pictures.

And there isn't. Really. Assuming your boyfriend isn't the kind of arse that will share them around in ways you don't like. You can mangle the gender combos on that any way you like, too.


And .
posted by rodgerd at 6:04 PM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nah, sexting is fine, just ask Beyonce.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:25 AM on December 5, 2009


In the Tampa newspaper article it mentioned that her parents sent her to a Christian counselor who rejected her, saying she didn't want to be there. I'm guessing that means she had the idea that she didn't do something wrong and was the victim. By the end of the summer she accepts her punishment, one of her friends said that she accepted that is was her own fault, maybe thinking that by doing so it would be over. But it wasn't, the kids and school continue to punish her. Florida has a very strong evangelical thing going on here including the whole purity ring bullshit. Before we condemn that school and the kids who bullied her there we need to consider the environment. These kids have been told by everyone that "purity" and especially the purity of girls (purity balls are for girls only!) is the most important thing about teen sexuality, or even just about a teen girl as a person. I am not surprised that this happened in the least. Sure bullying is a problem, but this attitude towards girls is encouraged and condoned by the parents, the school, and hell even God hates those slutty slutty sluts. I am not trying to diminish the problem of bullying in the least, but how can we work towards getting rid of that behavior when everyone in their lives justify the attitude of girls who display any sexuality are evil and deserve what they get.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 7:20 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is such a terrible thing to happen, and it's blinding how my views on the role of gender in our society have been transformed by my participation here on Metafilter.

I hope that her family and friends find peace in this, and that the right lessons are taken away by everybody who failed this girl.
posted by onalark at 7:23 AM on December 5, 2009


Oh, that poor girl, and her poor family. Although at the same time I find it interesting that the parents seem to blame the school for not telling them that Hope was a suicide risk. From the Tampa bay article:

One Hillsborough School District official agreed to speak generally about how schools handle students who may be suicide risks. And that would involve a call to the parents if the threat of suicide seemed real.

"If it's felt that students are at risk for harming themselves, there is a followup with parents," said Tracy Schatzberg, the psychological services supervisor for Hillsborough schools. "We would involve parents depending on the level of risk."

Said Donna Witsell: "They dropped the ball big time."


The school should absolutely have done more, and should be held fully responsible for their role in Hope's bullying and persecution. But why is the school more responsible than the parents in watching out for Hope's mental state?
posted by badmoonrising at 8:19 AM on December 5, 2009


Although at the same time I find it interesting that the parents seem to blame the school for not telling them that Hope was a suicide risk.

They don't want to blame themselves, which is understandable human behavior.

Also, seeing as the bullying was happening at school, and was reinforced by adult school personnel, the school is immensely at fault.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:36 AM on December 5, 2009


Categorizing AIDS patients as a group of people who have done "something unwise" seems, in itself, rather unwise.

I'm mocking the mentality of people who assume "Those things happen to THOSE people because they did something", not advocating the same.

Next time I'll try to be more clear in my sarcasm.
posted by yeloson at 6:57 PM on December 5, 2009


Could slut shamming be covered by hate crimes laws? Probably not, but both Beth Shields Middle School (Hope Witsell) and Sycamore High School (Jesse Logan) seem guilty of culpable/criminal negligence by encouraging severe bullying and slut shamming.

I like to see charges filed against the appropriate members of the school administration. I mean, it's not the schools responsibility to stop all bullying, kids will be kids, but administrators would quickly create a shit storm when they encourage bullying. Ideally, the police should identify the worst bullies, hall them in for questioning, get testimony that they were encouraged by the administration, and then charge the administrators with negligence.

A responsible administrator would have told the buys, "I know you like having a photo of her nude, but you could be charged for child pornography for merely possessing the photo, so delete it and shut up. If you don't shut up, the cops might take an interest, catch one of your friends with the photo, and send them to jail, so your putting each other at risk by bullying her."
posted by jeffburdges at 3:52 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


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