Target: Brother Larry Lavallee, Principal
Goal: Tell administrators at Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington, New Jersey, to acknowledge, apologize for, and discontinue the school’s sexist anti-swearing policy.
Administrators at Queen of Peace High School, a Catholic school in North Arlington, New Jersey, recently decided that swearing at the school had gotten out of hand. The solution? Make only the female students take a pledge to stop swearing. Such a policy is sexist and reinforces outdated and harmful stereotypes about both men and women. Sign the petition and demand an apology and a retraction of Queen of Peace’s anti-swearing policy.
The school’s newly instated swearing ban requires female students–and only female students–to publicly recite the following oath: “I do solemnly swear not to use profanities of any kind within the walls and properties of Queen of Peace High School. In other words, I swear not to swear. So help me God.” The male students were instructed not to swear “in the presence of ladies” but were not required to make any formal oath promising not to do so. The school argues that its policy is effective because the boys will eventually follow the girls’ squeaky-clean lead, although administrators would not elaborate on how this osmosis-like approach is more effective than simply requiring the boys to take the pledge as well .
Singling out girls as the paragons of virtue within the school reinforces an outdated and narrowly-defined definition of womanhood and femininity, casting the girls as delicate “ladies” who are responsible for keeping the boys in check. The policy also insults the male students, reinforcing the pervasive sexist idea that boys are somehow less capable of taking responsibility for their own actions.
“We want ladies to act like ladies,” said teacher Lori Flynn, who proposed the ban. But why does gender even have to come into play in this scenario? If the school has such a problem with its students swearing, why can’t it enforce a non-gendered policy calling for respectful and non-offensive language from all students?
Making girls bear the responsibility for “civilizing” their male peers–and neglecting to recognize the agency of male students themselves–is sexist, insulting, and wrong. Sign the petition and demand that Queen of Peace High School retract its anti-swearing policy and apologize for its promotion of sexist stereotypes.
Dear Brother Lavallee,
When it comes to disciplinary policies, it is certainly acceptable for a high school to have a rule against swearing. However, it is absolutely unacceptable for an anti-swearing policy to become an exercise in reinforcing outdated, offensive, and harmful gendered stereotypes and double standards. Queen of Peace’s anti-swearing policy is a perfect example of an unnecessarily sexist policy, and it must be replaced with a rule that is respectful and inclusive of the entire student body–boys and girls alike.
The current anti-swearing policy, which urges the female students to “act like ladies” and compels them to take an anti-swearing oath in front of their peers, promotes a narrow and old-fashioned definition of femininity. It implies that female students are more delicate than their male peers and makes them responsible for “civilizing” their fellow students. Why not implement a policy that emphasizes personal responsibility for one’s actions rather than placing the onus of responsibility for the male students’ behavior on their female classmates?
The policy as it stands only serves to reinforce harmful gendered stereotypes about the behaviors and roles of men and women. If Queen of Peace feels that an anti-swearing policy is in order, it is perfectly within its rights to enforce one. However, a policy that simultaneously demonizes female students while forcing them to police the behavior of their peers is counterproductive to the cultivation of individual growth and a sense of personal responsibility. Therefore, it is imperative that Queen of Peace replace its current policy with a more respectful, inclusive, and equitable policy.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: nikoretro via Flickr