I once knew this teenage pair. One boy and one girl had found themselves in a relationship with each other. Before the girl and boy became a couple, they were both considered social outcasts within their high school. The boy who had a soft-spoken demeanor and was often mocked and called “geek” by other males because of his love for Dragon Ball Z. The girl was never invited to parties for the “popular girls” because of the way she dressed while being nick named “Broomstick” because of her thin physique. The pressure of being bullied and ridiculed that they both experienced separately seemed to decrease the more time they shared with each other. What was once hard to do individually now together the young couple began to ignore all the strange looks and laughs from their peers. 

     Like most adolescents who find love, the young couple began to spend every free moment together. Long endearing hugs each time they passed each other in-between class. They would hold hands while during lunchtime, often sharing one plate. And they of course took part in the typical after-school kissing by the bleachers. Besides being attached at the hip, no student or staff viewed the young couple as troublemakerswhich is why it became a shock when it was announced that both boy and girl were suspended from school. 

     The school staff was informed that the young couple was caught performing sexual act by the janitor inside one of the gym locker rooms. The rumor amongst the students became “She got caught giving him head, or oral sex.

     Life for the young couple changed immediately once they both returned to school. The boy who was once labeled a “Gay Geek” was now invited at the lunch table with the male jocks and highly praised for his actions. The girl was even further alienated while being called “bitch,” “hoe,” and “slut” on a regular basis by both male and female classmates. The boy never spoke or sat next to the girl again and as time passed would often join in with his new friends to call her cruel names. As more time passedthe boy started dating someone from the same “popular girls clique” who had spray-painted “Whore” on the girl’s locker. The once inseparable young couple was barely a memory. 

I volunteered as a mentor at this high school so I had a front row seat to witnesses the event unfoldsThis situation is a testament that sexism and misogyny, if left uncheckedcan be practiced as a youth and later lived as an adult. I reached out to various “Woke” women friends of mine for their wisdom on how to help the young girl. My one lady friend said to me:

“She needs support because so many unhealthy issues from sex and feeling dirty or a hoe are hard to overcome in a healthy relationship.”  

As advised by my “Woke” woman friend, I made sure I gave the young girl space but also informed her that I am here if ever she needed to talk.  She smiled and just saidThank you.” When I tried to talk to the young boy about his “changed” behavior and advise him on why he felt the need to mistreat the first person in school that showed him kindness, he just replied “I dunno.”

The incident made me think of the millions of other young girls (like my niece) who could be facing similar situations whether through a sexual act or any behavior that can be “judged” as inappropriate for a young woman. Countless times in the single-digits age, I was damn near thrown unto a crowd of girls encouraged to “Hurry up and be a man, while my sister who was always told “Don’t be no fast girl,” couldn’t have boy phone calls until her late teens. That form of social conditioning is why a teenage boy who was once a pariah was now praised for his “Rite-of-passage” while the young girl was “Shamed.” To help fight this toxic mentality, I had to also become a student and learn from those who are more knowledgeable than I. Despite being a black man who has had a lifetime of my fair share of racial prejudice; I have never experienced gender discrimination.  The fight against ignorance is not a class one completes in a couple of sessions. There is no end date. The battle can only be fought with the gaining of knowledge-of-self and the forever will to receive wisdom from others.