Opinion: The Importance of Uncomfortable Conversations


Photo courtesy of teachhub.com

Melinda Reed, Editor-in-Chief

Over the course of writing the article “Same Beast, Different Form: Sexual Harassment in the Technological Age,” I learned a lot about my generation, my school, and reporting in general. 

I started researching this topic because of rumors I’d heard from my sisters and friends, so I already had preconceived notions of the issue. Well, only one, really: that harassers had unforgivably harmed another person and did so in violation of the well-known laws of consent. To me, there were clear moral absolutes, and my job was to lay them out for the world to see.

Predictably, doing research shattered my preconceived notion. I’m not letting harassers completely off the hook— I still believe that by high school, people should have the compassion and common sense not to send unsolicited explicit pictures— but I don’t see any of it as unforgivable anymore. I want to believe that someone who has sent that kind of image before would not do so once they know the real, significant harm it can cause.

Which leads me to the next logical question: why don’t people know this harm exists? For some of the students I’ve talked to, sending such pictures is an obvious violation of the recipient’s rights. And yet it still happens. We’re not all on the same page here, and I feel that it is very, very important that we get there. 

Luckily, our state and school district recognize the importance of comprehensive sex education. Both the ninth and twelfth grade health class courses of study tackle difficult topics, including the intersection of technology and sexuality. I applaud Morris Hills for including this as an essential part of a student’s education. Still, it’s my hope that anyone reading the article on sexual harassment will see that we need increased emphasis in our classrooms on the topic of consent.

I don’t say this in an attempt to blame anyone, especially our teachers, for a phenomenon many adults consider unimaginable and disturbing. The onus is on the harassers. But as easy as it would be to say, “Well, since it’s their irresponsibility that caused this, they can be the ones to stop it,” that won’t necessarily cause the substantial change that needs to happen. Our focus needs to be on fixing the situation instead of pointing fingers.

There’s a quote from Nelson Mandela that hangs in the hallway near the main office: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I used to think about how this was true for students, how our education was a gift and a tool we wield. And while I still believe that, I also see another message for educators: you have the power to shape young minds, to finally produce a generation that respects each other’s identities and boundaries. That is a gift in itself, and it should be used to the fullest extent possible. 

So I’m asking that we have these difficult conversations about sexual harassment and consent, especially in our health classrooms. It will be uncomfortable; it’s supposed to be. But the alternative is far, far worse.

For anyone and everyone out there who knows just how harmful that alternative is, remember that it does not have to be like this. Repeat this to yourself: It does not have to be like this. We can do better. We are better. Let’s start talking.