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Sexism Doesn’t End in High School; It Just Goes Underground

A bitch is a girl who disagrees with you. A slut is the girl you see kissing a boy outside class who isn’t you. A skank is a girl who shows the class you’re not the only smart one in the room. A whore is for when every other world has failed and she still won’t shut up. My teachers let it happen. Some laughed along with them. Some tried to stop them, never to much effect. I sat in classrooms where I was one of two or three girls out of at least fifteen and often I was the only one who spoke. 

 

I have not heard those words in classrooms for almost a year. It is a relief worthy of tears. But they have been replaced by a new word. Fake. Fake hair, fake opinions, fake nails, fake intelligence. I am a fake geek, a fake fan, I don’t know what I’m talking about and it shows. Boys should not have to listen to opinions coming out of the mouth of a girl in mini skirts and sparkly masks. A professor will not tolerate calling another student a bitch. But trying to expose everything she says as vapid and empty? Well that’s just healthy discourse.

 

This started in eighth grade. I watched it seep into the girls around me. Some went quiet. Others became one of the guys. Some of the smart ones just kept their intelligence to themselves. I stand on a chair to write on the white board in AP World History, a girl barely an inch taller than me standing on an identical chair on the other side of the board. ‘Why are all the short people writing up there?’ my teacher asks playfully. ‘Because we’re the smart ones’ spills out of my mouth before I can barely think the words. Only the girls laugh. 

 

I talk about my disability, my femininity, my gay parents, my sexual assault. I delight in Marvel movies, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Curiosity Stream documentaries. I talk about these things often. I refuse to stop talking about them. If I can connect with even a couple of the boys maybe the abuse will stop. It never does.

 

My teachers tell me I am one of their favorites. They bump me to AP, advise me to take up a writing minor, use me as the example highlighting how I work twice as hard and don’t complain even while dealing with chronic illness. I stopped complaining a long time ago. I stopped when I realized it would never convince my teachers of the electrical storms that crackle through my body and wake me up at night. But being held as an example makes others angry. They think I have it easy. They think I’m being coddled. They have not lived my truth. It will take them a long time to understand. 

 

I wear pink and bright lipstick. I reclaim the words creepy stalker fangirl. I decided a long time ago that if they are going to hate me, I would give them a reason. I do not blend in. I’ve never been able to and it is exhausting to try. I am loud, eccentric, challenging, and never shut up. I call out fiction for double standards of perfection and condemnation of the work that goes into it. I explain why a woman’s peak development is not settling down with a man. I defend my parents, I fight with Trump supporters, I speak about the history of my people and my family’s religion. Slut, Fake, Bitch, Stupid. Call me whatever you want. I’ve heard it all dozens of times and I will just keep talking.

Anne is a sophomore at UT studying journalism and creative writing. Her interests are young adult fiction, makeup, fashion, and social justice advocacy.
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