In addition to teaching, AP Statistics teacher Debbie Frazier works as the COO of the company, Thyrm, led by her and her husband who design, create and sell solutions for tactical issues faced in the police and military department. However, according to Frazier, it’s mostly the men who serve that field so being a minority amongst them, it’s as though no woman has worked there before.
“[So] I take a little offense [to that] but not very much because I’m very secure with my identity,” Frazier said. “But if you’re an unknown entity across the Internet, they don’t know that [but] in a place where there are a lot of women, it could just be an oversight net and I let [it] go.”
While she could feel misguidedly left out by being regularly referred to as a male, Frazier makes it clear that there is a difference between being referred to as such and being called a “guy.”
“If I were to say ‘yeah, I’m just one of the guys,’ I don’t actually say that thinking I’m a male, I’m just saying that I’m not a defined member of the group who stands out, I blend in just like everybody else,” Frazier said. “You’re not drawing attention to yourself, so I think ‘guys’ might imply that we aren’t looking for individuals, we’re just talking about a collective group.”
Junior Rukmini Banerjee agrees with Frazier, stating that “guys” is used to incorporate everyone in the group.
“When people use certain words that do imply a certain kind of microaggression, it usually has an underlying meaning that’s harmful to some sort of group, but ‘hey guys’ is just a general way of greeting,” Banerjee said. “When you’re saying the phrase ‘hey guys,’ you’re assuming there will be girls and non-binary people there. It’s not meant to exclude anyone.”
However, transgender male junior Kaleb Gogue states otherwise, bringing up the concept of sensitivity when people can become uncomfortable with the terminology.
“We can be as sensitive as other people around us want to be. If someone told me that they were uncomfortable with [saying guys], I’d obviously try to refrain from using and apologize if I did and made them uncomfortable in past situations like I can see if a transgender female felt offended by that,” Gogue said. “Obviously, I think she’d want to distance herself away from that and honestly, if somebody told me that they didn’t like that, I would stop using it.”
Banerjee partially agrees with Gogue but believes that sensitivity shouldn’t be a problem if the term is meant to call everyone of different genders and backgrounds.
“What about girls, what about non-binary people? When you’re saying the phrase ‘hey guys,’ you’re assuming there will be girls and non-binary people there,” Banerjee said. “It’s not meant to exclude anyone.”
Frazier takes a different approach, also taking into account the English terminology and the usage of “guys” to pluralize “you.”
“People are often looking for a term that means ‘you’ without saying ‘you’ because ‘you’ has a sharp tone to it in our language and so ‘guys’ softens it a little bit and makes it feel more comfortable,” Frazier said. “‘Hey, you guys!’ It sounds like it’s a comfortable group that you’re with so I think that’s where words come from and it softens. It’s much more informal so I think it’s popular as a greeting for a group.”
Banerjee also believes that everyone caught onto the term and began using to associate it with a group of people.
“Eventually girls started saying it to their girlfriends, guys started saying it to their guy friends, non-binary people probably say it to their non-binary friends,” Banerjee said. “It’s just been used so much to address so many people, now you just associate it with people in general. It’s just who you address it to and now people use it to address everyone.”
Gogue adds that the term’s usage is affected by the way society acknowledges it.
“There’s a male-dominated society [where] that’s probably where it stemmed from,” Gogue said. “It’s not something you really think about and as we progress, it’s just common.”
However, Banerjee points out the potential of oversensitivity and how that permeates some of the feminist agenda, which she says can be unhelpful.
“Political correctness culture is a really bad thing for feminists because as a result, people feel like they can’t say anything,” Banerjee said. “Some phrases like ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘stop acting like a girl,’ that actually implies something that’s negative, but now everyone feels like everything that they say is so offensive [so] people are too afraid to actually speak up when it is offensive.”
Gogue finds that feminists usually notice terms that have the possibility to offend someone where others don’t notice it most of the time; he also states that it relies on one’s perception upon the meaning of the term and its usage. Thus, according to Gogue, it’s important to see how it can affect others.
“Feminists probably learned, besides transgender people, [and thought] about [these words and phrases] because most of us don’t think about it, we just use it,” Gogue said. “And unless it’s particularly harmful to you and your beliefs, I don’t think you notice it.”
The first day of school. The first impressions. The first conversations. Establishing relationships and getting to know each other is a routine that English teacher Randy Holaday is familiar with. He starts the year with a presentation about himself so students can get insight about who he is. As he shows some slides about his personal life, he indirectly shows an important facet of himself.
“Day one of class, I come out to them,” Holaday said. “I always do an ‘about me’ slide presentation that has pictures from my life, pictures of things I’m interested in, and one of them is just me and my boyfriend at prom that we went to two years ago, and I have pictures of our vacations.”
Despite the different reactions from his students, hopes they understand a lesson on the first day of school: respect is the baseline expectation when students are interacting in his classroom.
“It’s a very general statement saying like, ‘We will respect each other’s viewpoints, regardless of the context and the person,’ so that this classroom is safe for all students to learn,” Holaday said.
GSA club advisor and Spanish teacher Joyce Fortuna has a similar approach to making students in the LGBTQ+ community feel more safe in the classroom by using gender neutral words with students.
“Instead of saying to a girl, ‘Are you going to go with your boyfriend to the prom?’ I might say, ‘Are you going with someone to the prom?’” Fortune said. “Or, ‘Are you interested in someone?’”
Holaday and Fortuna both say they try to establish a safe environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community in their classrooms, and students like sophomore Ritu Karivaradasamy says her experiences at MVHS as a member of the LGBTQ+ community have been mostly positive.
“For the most part, I haven’t seen any students make fun of the LGBT community, whether it be online or in person,” Karivaradasamy said. “Obviously, I sometimes hear the occasional ‘that’s so gay!’ from an ignorant classmate, but that can hardly be counted as bullying, and small comments like that don’t really bother me. All in all, the kids at our school are pretty great when it comes to kindness and tolerance, and I feel so lucky to be in this environment.”
However, in some instances, the environment for some isn’t always positive, as Holaday has heard about some situations his past LBGTQ+ students have gone through outside the classroom.
“There are microaggressions that occurred in the language used, particularly the ones I’ve heard most about are females identifying as lesbian and the over sexualization of lesbians by men,” Holaday said. “Then, the use of the word f-----. I’ve never experienced it [microaggressions] directly, I’ve only ever heard it secondhand from students, so I’ve never known the students that were saying that to be able to address [the usage of microagressions] in any official way.”
Kimber Leigh Shelton at Niagara University explains the possible negative psychological effects of individuals of the LGBTQ+ community being impacted by a microaggression. In her study, individuals felt “wrong, abnormal, or inferior” to others when they are affected by microaggressions, an example being that non LGBTQ+ members are “making stereotypical assumptions” about members of the community.
According to Merriam-Webster, a stereotype is a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude or uncritical judgment. Fortuna says the microaggression of making stereotypical assumptions are solely stemmed from the fact that society generalizes a certain stereotype to a group of people. She also believes that these stereotypes may hold a bit of truth, but it doesn’t apply to everyone in the community.
“For example, the gay male community has taken on a certain way of talking and carrying themselves,” Fortuna said. “It’s kind of a marker and sort of a way to kind of say to people, ‘this is who I am.’ Certain people do that as [a] kind of a as a message, but it doesn’t mean that everybody fits that stereotype. Some people have chosen to do that, so you shouldn’t generalize to everybody.”
In regards to making assumptions, Fortuna believes it’s inevitable. When one makes the wrong assumption, she adds that one must realize that they made a mistake and just move on.
“Well, we all assume. We have to. We can’t go through the world being completely open,” Fortuna said. “When we see people, we just sort of assume a certain reality, because that’s how we work our brains. I think assuming gives us a certain stability and a groundedness in our lives.”
With reference to a different perspective, Karivaradasamy says assumptions do not bother her too much.
“I don’t think it’s offensive at all when people assume my sexuality because it’s understandable,” Karivaradasamy said. “Statistically most people are straight. I don’t feel affected by others’ assumption because being gay isn’t a defining characteristic of my personality; there are so many more important things about me that matter more than my sexuality.”
Through her experiences, the responses from other students about her being part of the LGBTQ+ community have been positive. However, she believes it varies depending on one’s social environment.
“I do understand that one’s environment is very important,” Karivaradasamy said. “For example, in a prejudiced environment, a straight person who is perceived as gay could be ridiculed and possibly bullied by his or her peers, for no reason at all.”
When Holaday was growing up, he states that the feeling of fear was present as someone would assume his sexuality, because he believes that the social environment he was disclosed in, at the time, was adverse.
“I think normally I am assumed straight. It did create fear because, what would happen if I corrected someone?” Holaday said. “Or, if I was having a conversation with a super masculine man, who stereotypically would be uncomfortable with a gay man, it created fear that changing his mind and saying something that would ruin the relationship would cause a distinct lack of comfort.”
Karivaradasamy, alongside Fortuna, believes that assumptions are a normal thing that people do everyday, and there is no way to stop people from making assumptions, but to focus on correcting whoever did and move on.
“I think it’s impossible to police what we assume about each other,” Karivaradasamy said. “Everyone is constantly making subconscious judgements about others, whether it be about personality, intelligence ... We need to accept that judging each other is part of human nature, and only thing we can do about implicit assumption is to politely correct each other and move on.”
This year’s Honors American Literature classes started their first unit with a question projected on the powerpoint screen: “Where are you really from?” Watch the video below for student and teacher perspectives on whether the question is considered a microaggression and other reactions to its inclusion in this year’s HAmLit curriculum.
It’s “that time of the month” again.
The week that every adolescent woman resents; the week filled with agonizing cramps and constant uneasiness — all to be endured in quiet pain.
Menstruation is a natural phenomenon where the lining of the uterus is discharged through the vagina. Despite approximately 50 percent of the world’s population being affected, periods come with a great stigma.
Junior Alex Yang understands that a period is a normal bodily process, but he can’t help but feel uncomfortable talking about it with others.
“I’m not actually sure why it’s so weird. It’s embarrassing. It’s one of those things that shouldn’t be weird because [all females go] through it,” Yang said. “But I don’t bring it up as much in conversation because first off, it’s rude and misogynistic if you assume someone’s on their period because they’re acting weird. That’s not okay to do. [But also] girls aren’t as comfortable talking about it so I don’t [either]. If I do it’s just weird for them sometimes.”
Science teacher Kyle Jones felt a similar uncomfortableness regarding periods when he was younger. His family never seriously discussed it with him, and he says his school didn’t teach him anything important enough for him to remember. As a result, he tried to ignore the subject altogether, perceiving it as taboo and impertinent to his life.
“It … took my first real relationship with another person to actually have a conversation about the ins and outs of it and come to a point where I could appreciate what [it] meant to them, how it made them feel, what they were going through,” Jones said. “Being somebody who understood that to a point where I could be supportive and understanding of it.”
Although she is female, biology teacher Lora Lerner couldn’t openly talk about periods until she got hers. In fact, instead of learning about it and how to deal with it from school or parents, she gained most of her knowledge from Judy Blume’s fiction books.
“It didn’t feel like I could openly talk about it, not because anybody ever made me feel bad, but just nobody did,” Lerner said. “So if nobody did, clearly, you just weren’t supposed to. That was the clear message that was given even though I don’t remember anybody shaming me about it or anything.”
According to Lerner, the stigma surrounding periods can sometimes be converted into the form of an unthoughtful joke or tease. She believes that the people who make comments like, “she’s just moody because she’s on [her] period,” or “are you on your period? You’re in a bad mood,” don’t fully understand how offensive these words are.
“I’ve had people say that to me,” Lerner said. “And the only way to guarantee that somebody gets more mad at you is to tell them that they’re in a bad mood … There’s something about somebody telling you why you feel the way you do is so offensive. It’s like, ‘let me have my own feelings. Don’t tell me why I’m supposed to feel that way, or that I’m in a bad mood, maybe ask me why I’m in a bad mood.’”
Although sophomore Roya Ahmadi hasn’t experienced these comments herself, her friends have received a handful, which has brought the subject into her attention.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to say because first of all, if they are on their period — and maybe [they are in a bad mood] actually because they’re on their period — but you don’t need to mention that,” Ahmadi said. “Especially if they didn’t bring it up, it’s not super fair for a guy to be like, ‘Hey, is that what’s happening?’”
Consequently, Yang tries to avoid making any comments relating periods and a girl’s mood. He sees how rude it can be, even if one says it without bad intentions.
“I think that [girls] could be going through something entirely different,” Yang said. “Even if periods are a big reason for mood swings, saying ‘are you on your period?’… invalidates their feelings because you’re … automatically excusing [their] behavior as just a mood swing.”
Although Jones knows that nobody should be subject to the above mentioned remarks, he’s heard the statement made so often that he rarely reacts anymore.
“The way it’s used is often just as a blanket statement for anytime a woman is moody or not going along with what the person feels like they should be,” Jones said. “I think there’s a point where sometimes it’s used in such a disconnected way from the actual thing that it becomes a colloquialism that is so removed from the original … that it’s not even related to the actual thing.”
Like Jones, Ahmadi doesn’t respond in an extreme way, but with a different forethought. She doesn’t want to immediately jump on anyone for saying such things, and thinks their ignorance should be addressed by making people aware of the impact of their words.
“I think ‘offensive’ is a … strong word,” Ahmadi said. “I feel like if someone said that to me, I would be taken aback, as in, ‘why don’t you … think that my emotions are genuine and that I’m actually saying this to you?,’ rather than blaming it on whether or not I’m on my period.”
Lerner believes that it can be offensive when anybody — regardless of whether or not they go through a period — asks the question, but she believes that each person has a different intention when asking.
“We all know you can’t say certain racial terms outside of a group,” Lerner said. “That may be fair or not fair, but that’s reality. We do take it differently when it’s somebody that’s in our group versus outside of our group. I think there’s a built-in extra offensiveness when boys say it because [they] don’t even understand what it’s like to have a period … Whereas when a girl says it, at least they know where you’re coming from. Even then, it’s presumptuous.”
Contrary to Lerner’s views, Jones would consider it more disrespectful if a woman said the derogatory phrase to another woman.
“You’re still using it and you know exactly what it means,” Jones said. “At least you can say, ‘Well, the guy’s just stupid. He doesn’t even know what it is. He’s just being dumb.’ But for the girls there’s a layer of understanding … which is more malicious.”
Nevertheless, both Lerner and Jones agree that people should avoid saying this phrase because it can be demeaning and shows blatant disregard for a woman’s actual feelings. Lerner actively tries to inform people that those comments are offensive, and hopes that others can also react with a more composed manner.
“I’ve tried to make that a teachable moment, but I’m not perfect either and sometimes I just get more mad,” Lerner said. “Sometimes I’m in a bad mood. [However,] it also doesn’t mean that you’re never moody because of your period. Sometimes you are. But it certainly doesn’t help for somebody to assume that.”