Last week I played a web-based game with my 10th grade students, which prompts them to enter a “team name” to participate. I watched the students’ teams pop up on my interactive white board at the front of the classroom as they logged into the game, and then, to my shock, this is what appeared:
mrs [x] is fat [as fuck]
Mind you, I am 4 1/2 months pregnant with twins, and they know this. I was so stunned, I could hardly speak. I closed down the game and made them sit in silence for the remaining 15 minutes of class while I busied myself casually with quizzes I needed to grade. Never in 13 years of teaching has any student ever attacked me so personally, viciously and publicly blasting me for my physicality. As the adult in the room, I needed time to consider how to respond, so it was something I chewed on all night and throughout the morning as I formulated a measured reaction to this teachable moment. A few things came to me in this reflection:
- If I were not so obviously pregnant rather than fat and this comment not been so utterly absurd, it probably would have affected me in a different way. I may have let myself – if only some tiny remnant of the self-loathing and vulnerable teenager within – believe that it was true. The knowledge that these desperately longed-for babies are responsible for the changes to my body that prompted this student to try to humiliate me served as an armor against my assailant.
- In my many years of experience, I have dealt with every shade of crazy, but this incident was different. This demonstrated a kind of audacity I have never seen, a calculated attack on a female teacher’s body while emotions were sober and calm, and I do not believe it is mere coincidence that this happened a few short weeks after Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing brag aired on every news station in America.
- While I am a grown woman who is mature and rational enough to stand solidly on the foundation of my sense of worth and dismiss a cutting remark from an angry, teenage pissant, the 15 year-old girls in my class are decidedly more vulnerable. They received a very clear and menacing message from this about their bodies and the consequences of failing to be thin. This is the Trump Effect and its impact on our girls.
I also learned not too to long ago that both Bacon and LeiLei are girls. I never imagined myself as a mom of girls, not that I ever had a preference, but my gut screamed toy trucks and trips to the ER for stitches, so this knowledge gave me pause. I am a girl. I am intimately acquainted with the realities of how complicated and confusing it can be to navigate the impossible and contradictory imperatives we bear as women, but I also feel particularly well equipped as a result of my experiences to raise strong, confident girls.
For me, today, that begins with casting my vote against this raving demagogue who has contaminated our civic discourse with his incoherent lies and emboldened the putrid underbelly of American bigotry with his toxic rhetoric on women and brown people. It feels like the most important vote I have ever cast. Today I voted for my daughters and the world I hope they will grow up in versus the dystopian vision that threatens from the other side. “May the odds be ever in [their] favor.”