High School Observations

Today I got a little reminder of what I’m going to be up against in high school.  My observation class was watching the tail end of Million Dollar Baby, a movie I had heard a lot about, but not actually seen.

I got to see the big fight seen with the infamous stool.  I got to see the opponent who fights dirty.  I got to hear students call her a “heman” and a “sheman” as a result of her musculature, her facial structure, her lack of hilary swankness.  While the character is an antagonist, the actress herself is a real person, and a real woman, and in no need of an attack on whatever gender she may be… Judging from her IMDB page Lucia Rijker fits into society’s norm for a “woman” well enough. (She appears “softer” in other photos, and more sexualized in some.)  But the 9th graders I saw today thought Billie the Bear was a horrific example of sheman androgyny and made sooo many jokes against her in such an inappopriate fashion.  Imagine what it’s like to live with those comments made about you everyday, yet these comments come with no remorse or thought for this person, no recognition that we don’t have a world of two perfect, separate genders- especially if we are basing them on sex, which society allows only one definition of (male or female).  In reality biological sex is not that simple with many people experiencing variations, and gender just renders it all the more complicated.

Another question- why is the antagonist so much more masculine and ungirly as far as stereotypes are concerned? Why does Swank’s hair have to be “prettier”?   (And why do we consider any style prettier than another?)Why is it the the transgression to a more masculine build and the bear nickname makes a villian while Swank has a sweet nickname that the students explained to me means “Beloved” or some variation thereof?

Here’s the other part that bothered me… When protagonist Swank is paralyzed in the hospital, she receives a highly non sexual spongebath. She is suffering from skin ulcers. Her body is largely covered by a towel, no more nude than if she were in a sun dress or something… yet I heard at least one boy say “hey dude you can almost see her boobs.”  Where is the compassion in these kids or the recognition that this is a portrayal of human suffering that should not be watched for the kickback of almost seeing boobs… What are their parents showing them at home?

What is society showing them?  Am I the only one bothered by this?  When she tries to kill herself by biting her tongue, why do they joke and laugh loudly? Why do they joke about killing her and not getting caught? Are they just immature and unable to handle the content? Is there more to it?  Why do they laugh at people getting punched over and over, losing blood and teeth? Is it okay as long as it’s a villain? Is it okay because the directors intend it to be humorous? Is it okay because it’s only a game? It’s only a movie?

Psst PS: After further googling and reading on http://www.luciarijker.net/ I realized that this woman is actually a boxer and also assisted in training Swank for the movie.  I didn’t catch this at first because, well, I don’t know anything about boxing.

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3 Responses to “High School Observations”

  1. A.Y. Siu Says:

    Where is the compassion in these kids or the recognition that this is a portrayal of human suffering that should not be watched for the kickback of almost seeing boobs… What are their parents showing them at home?

    That inappropriate remark is probably more symptomatic of what his parents are not showing him at home. Sex ed at home? Probably non-existent. Availability of anatomy books or informational books on sexuality (Our Bodies, Ourselves, for example)? Probably also non-existent.

    If someone feels the need to perv out on a “boob” in a totally non-sexual scene in a movie that is supposed to elicit an empathetic emotional response, he probably hasn’t had many opportunities to view breasts and/or he has been conditioned to sexually objectify women at every opportunity.

    Most likely, though, it’s a boy who doesn’t get enough attention at home. Making lewd remarks in class is his way of getting attention (and what he thinks is respect) from his classmates.

  2. M Says:

    Very good point, especially about what they do not see or hear at home. The hard part for me is how are we supposed to combat it? Right now as an “observer” of course I am not supposed to participate or interject… but I’m wondering how to appropriately handle this kind of thing in the future when I am responsible for a classroom. Thanks for the insight.

  3. pernetteduguillet Says:

    The issue of sexuality is an especially difficult one to handle, I imagine, for high school english teachers, when students are expected to read works with themes relating to sex. Some students are hard put to catch the rampant sexual innuendo in Shakespeare’s plays. Is the teacher neglecting his or her scholarly duty if she/he does not explain these to the students? How should the teacher explain the metaphors to the students without unpleasant repercussions? And what about the situation that we see here, where the students inappropriately, or inaccurately, assert sexual themes. I could see a reading of Tess of the D’Urbervilles spawning some difficult discussions. I think that you will figure out a way to manage these things with grace and give the hooligans some awareness of the implications of their actions.

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