Posted by: hellonhairylegs | May 3, 2008

High School is Depressing

This is what my schedule looks like on a Thursday

Maths: 20 white guys in a 25 person class. The results are not pretty.

Chemistry: We learn how humanity has screwed up the environment and how we’re all screwed. In our spiffy extra credit in-depth study we also learn that nobody really cares.

Recess: “Progressive” group makes jokes about gang rape and I start playing bingo.

History: Women are a paragraph in every chapter or a chapter in every book.

French: Every noun is gendered; males take precedence over females in groups. There is no equivalent of Ms. Apparently women in France are no longer defined by their marital status!

Lunch: Random White Guy “I don’t know why you feminists are so angry.”

English: Books written by white guys about white guys.

Then I have a 50/50 chance of being yelled and/ or honked at while I walk home. ‘Tis delightful.

Here is the Hollaback Australia Website if you want to email photos or stories of harassment. The sidebar has links to other Hollaback websites.



  1. Certainly shows that we’re nowhere near a ‘postfeminist’ world. I hope you can find a way to survive relatively unscathed, and go on to bigger and better things.

  2. I’m just biding my time until university. I can’t wait to become the radical feminist who puts fear into the heart of every asshat in her class.

  3. […] is inheriting a ‘postfeminist’ world, read Hell On Hairy Legs’ summary of a day in the life of a feminist highschooler. This is what my schedule looks like on a […]

  4. I am sorry this happened to you

    I have to put up with people thinking that my ethnicity makes it “OK” to do all sorts of horrible things to me both when i lived in the former USSR and since i came to Australia

    also in my life at school right now
    apparently being born overseas and having a accent makes you a stuck up c*ck tease 😦

  5. Thank you for a breathtaking post.

  6. […] out hellonhairylegs’ summary of day spent imprisoned in a modern institution of patriarchal […]

  7. Ugh. My math class is exactly the same way; I am the only female minority student in the class. I get to put up with oh-so-cool liberal white males complaining that the teacher’s a “bitch” and that they “got raped” by the latest test.

    French class is the demographic opposite; I have nineteen female classmates and one male classmate. Of course, the teacher uses masculine plural adjectives to describe us because of that one guy.

  8. Go here via IBTP. If it’s any consolation, I didn’t figure out a lot of stuff you are able to see around you until I was much older, and wasted a lot of time and energy as a result.
    I like your writing!

  9. I wish I could tell you university is better. Trails off, shakes head, comes back to reality. I can’t.

  10. The one consolation radical feminism can provide is that at least you understand your stresses and where they come from. You are free from blaming yourself, as so many delusional anti-feminists tend to do. And when you find someone that gets it, it’s a real thrill, though nobody’s perfect.

  11. I say it’s better to be feared than liked.

    I see that high school has not changed a bit. Except in my day, I had to wear a dress/skirt unless the temperature was below 0 degrees fahrenheit.

  12. Hey, I’m her — the university “radical feminist who puts fear into the heart of every asshat in her class.” You’ll love it! πŸ™‚

    Unfortunately, you’ll also occasionally come home and sob/throw things/scream/rip out your hair/set the house on fire because one of those asshats insisted on devoting the whole class period to exploring the oppression of dudes.

    Awesome blog, btw. I’m linking.

  13. My freshman year of college I took a history class with a prof who supposedly hated women. Out of 25 students in the class, I was the only girl. The prof would address us as “Gentlemen…and Kimberly.” He was never outwardly hostile, although he ALWAYS assigned me books on female subjects (it was a seminar class, we all read different stuff).

    Believe it or not, looking back, it was one of my favorite classes.

  14. WOW, it’s amazing to see someone so young with such clear ideas! Try to keep them!

    Oh, and I love the name of your blog. I wish I had the confidence to be so open about my hairy legs πŸ˜›

  15. “I can’t wait to become the radical feminist who puts fear into the heart of every asshat in her class.”


  16. Ha. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear much has changed since I was in high school. Though I am happy to see that at least your high school has a radical feminist πŸ™‚ Wish I would have had the ovaries to be like that when I was there!! Rock on.

  17. >I’m just biding my time until university. I can’t wait to become the radical feminist who puts fear into the heart of every asshat in her class.

    Why wait?

  18. i feel like posting “hang in there” but that brings to mind crappy motivational posters of kittens in socks and stuff.

    but seriously, being feminist already in high school isn’t always fun, but it makes your life better because you know more about why things happen the way they do, and even better, you know why and when to stay the hell away from certain people/not take crap from people. Without a feminist analysis, you end up allowing people to be mean to you/exploit you and thinking that it’s your role to manage them and their feelings. It’s not! you rock!

  19. hello! just came here via twisty. you sound awesome. yay for more australian feminist bloggers.

  20. University isn’t much better. At least from where I’m sitting. CompSci Jr. Year writing course – 30 males and me. University job – 20 males and three of us (using ‘us’ losely, I’m the only radical feminist). 300 student lecture – regularly visually accosted by penises drawn on the little desktop thing-a-ma-dealies or on the backs of seats – one time a guy even drew stick figure porn in the margins of his notebook. I didn’t have the ovaries to say anything to him… *sad face*

  21. Yeah, high school sucked ass. Then again, college kinda sucks ass too, but you’ll run into more people, relatively-speaking, who understand you and where you are coming from.
    And rock on with the hairy legs, I have basically stopped shaving for a couple of years now and I have no qualms about it. You are an intelligent young woman, and even though it’s hard getting through school every day, keep your head up. And stay radical πŸ˜‰

  22. Just discovered your blog. I’m finding at university that there aren’t many feminists at all! (Except in the humanities department). I’m just depressed that many of the women studying around me are happy to be treated as second class citizens. We need more bloggers like you…..

  23. Hurra for hairy legs!

    And, I really think figuring this out while it’s actually happening to you will be helpful… As opposed to trying to figure out where the stupid gender stereotypes in your head come from years later and figuring out “damn, high school really screwed me up!”

  24. Ripley has a point. One thing worse than being a feminist already in high school is (was) being in high school before the “second wave” of feminism in the USA was a line on the horizon.

    Catholic high school.

    All I can suggest is: Take notes. Observe as an anthropologist. Look back and laugh at them. And remember you’re not alone.

    I’m here via Twisty too, just BTW.

  25. Wow. I’m a bit overwhelmed. Thanks to Lauredhel and Twisty for linking and thank you to everyone who has commented.

    Yes, high school with feminism is definitely preferable to high school without.

    To everyone who commented saying university is just as bad as high school: I hope it isn’t true. If it is true I’m willing to try and change X University as much as possible (provided I don’t have to do too much paperwork).

    I will endeavour to stay radical and I will work on my evil feminist glare.

    Thanks to all,

  26. College will be slightly better. There’s a whole course called “Women’s Studies” with books by women about women. But it’s optional.

  27. Great post hellon πŸ™‚

    I went to uni as a mature-age student and was often sad to see how silent many of the young women were in the face of some pretty sexist stuff coming from the uppity young dudes in tutorial discussions. I got myself quite a rep as the cranky old femmobolsho, but a fair few of these young women would approach me after tutes with a ‘good on you for saying that’ or some such.

    When you get to uni, don’t forget to seek out the campus womens group; most unis have ’em.

  28. You’re Australian?

  29. if you think high school is depressing ..wait until you enter the big wide world!

  30. College is hells of better than high school. At least you get to choose your classes/professors, so you can avoid the worst of the sexist ass-hats as best you can. Plus there are actually people there who think in some of the same ways as you – “misery loves company” is a depressing idea, but I do buy into the emergent properties of a system where multiple people are willing to complain about problems.

    Not to say college is perfect – it absolutely still has its fair share and then some of d-bags. You just have a better selection of choices to deal with them, is all.

  31. man, i’m not looking forward to high skool…

  32. Here in Arkansas, my Nigel, who is a grad student TA at his university, recently asked all the feminists in his class to raise their hands — a second year class, about 75% female. Not one hand went up.

    It is Arkansas, mind you, buckle on the Bible belt. But even so. Nor do I get better results at my university, with my senior level students. Grr.

  33. If only my students had your insight…and sass.

  34. This is an incredible post, and I did not have the courage to be so out of the closet as far as being a feminist in High School. College was where I opened up, and I think you will have better luck there, too. You are inspiring to me, keep up the good work.

  35. Oh, I’m so glad those highschool days are over for me. Hang in there, you’ll get out soon and hopefully find a more feminist-friendly environment for a few years.

  36. College is so much better, especially ones that offer a women’s studies major/minor.
    At my school there is even a Feminist Empowerment Movement-a feminist club.

  37. Hey, Hellon, found this via Twisty. Great post and good work promoting Hollaback here.

  38. Also here via Twisty. You brought me right back, although I was not openly feminist until university.

    I majored in math + physics, did grad school in physics. I had lots of those one-of-a-distinct-minority classroom experiences. Here is a hint: sit at the front – not just at the front, in the first row. I did it because of my eyesight, but it ended up saving my career. When you’re up front, you can pretend it’s just you and the professor, and allow yourself to forget about the boys in the back. Even if the professor is sexist, you’re dealing with one rather than 20.

    Also, French does have a Ms equivalent: these days everyone above 20 is Madame, married or not. If your French teacher says otherwise, they haven’t been back to France in the last 10 years. But yes, it used to be awful: unmarried older women being referred to as Mademoiselle, wtf.

    About high school vs. college – college is better, but in some ways the burden is always on you to make a decent working environment out of a place that would be perfectly comfortable to have you drop out.

    Oh, and guys get better as they grow older and realize that being misogynistic assholes destroys the core of their humanity. At least some of them. Then one can be friends. Also women get better too, as they discover giving into the patriarchy is soul-sucking rather than rewarding. Then they become kick-ass allies. So future=better, I would say yes.

  39. Hey check out the work of this Canadian young feminist organization I’m part of that is currently winning at getting a women’s and gender studies course into the provincial high school curriculum.. as well, we work with amazing anti-oppression minded high school teachers and students to create feminist spaces within and outside of the classroom…

    the miss g project for equity in education :

  40. Great post. Im a teen feminist too from India. Yeah, I realized im a feminist one fine day at high school.

  41. I hear you – my high school commerce class started out a with a 50/50 ratio, but bullying from the pig-headed boys club drove girls away until there were only 2 of us left. Those boys now work for some of the top firms in the country.

  42. This takes me back to the days when my calculus teacher smiled, patted me on the head and said, “You’re just not wired for it, dear.” My only consolation was a half-semester Women’s Studies class, my first steps into the world of patriarchy-blaming.

    But be of good cheer. Although it can be painful, it’s better to be aware.

  43. DAMN. If only I had been this smart in high school, I might have saved myself loads of therapy. I have high hopes for you, padawan…the Force is strong in you!

  44. This is why I want to homeschool my child, especially if zie turns out to be biologically female. Nice to know nothing has changed in 15 years.

  45. I graduated high school 20 years ago (!) and the only things that appear to have changed is a) the focus on the environment (we were told in health class that sex would kill us because we would get AIDS) b) there were less women in the history books.

    It’ll get better when you’re in university–at least academically.

  46. I found your blog from feministing, and I think it’s awesome you’re a feminist already. Your comment about French class reminds me of my 9th grade Spanish teacher reminding us, “Spanish is a macho language!” whenever discussion about pronoun usage came up. I went to a women’s college after high school and loved it. If you end up at a coed university, you should form a feminist group if there isn’t one already. Hopefully you’ll be able to find other feminists that way.

  47. My high school experience was that there were as many females as males (sometimes more!) that succeeded in just about every category of academics and clubs. The curriculum may have needed serious revising, but the student’s attitudes don’t.

    …mostly. I will admit there were isolated cases of anti-feminism, but these people were jerks anyway, and weren’t taken seriously, except by their uber-submissive girlfriends.

    I sadly thought that my experience reflected the country’s, but I guess we still have a way to go.

  48. I recommend that you start some serious shit in college, but that you also go to grad school. Then you can become a professor and influence a whole generation of shit-starters.

  49. as a high school feminist in the states, i feel your pain. we were discussing the historical roles of women in my history class (since my history teacher is awesome & totally feminist) and we were talking about how women were historically expected to make babies and be mothers. (as if they aren’t still today.) this one boy had the gall to say, “they should.”
    of course, my feminist ass got up on him and said, “says who!?! you? who are you to decide what women should and shouldn’t do?” of course, the entire class started laughing and another boy said, “yeah, [name of asshat who made the comment], why don’t you become a mother?”

    sigh. i hate the patriarchy.

  50. Yeah, what they all said. You give me some hope that my daughter (only about 1.5 years old) will be able to keep a clear head in the face of patriarchal nonsense.

  51. Great post! You summed up high school for me, also in Australia. Uni *is* better, so keep hope! You’ll still have to deal with jerks and it’s definitely not perfect, but you’ll find more people with the same common interests as you, and there’s more opportunities to get involved with feminist activism too.

  52. Just being aware enough to get this depressed is an achievement, I guess.

  53. I had the bizarre experience in eighth grade of a teacher being shocked that I considered myself politically conservative, because I had so many ‘radical’ ideas that I spoke about in class. He was talking about the fact that every time any of the boys made a sexist comment or joke, I called them on it.

    I was gobsmacked that considering myself the equal of everyone else in class was ‘radical’. Scared me a bit.

  54. FWIW, gender in romance languages has absolutely nothing to do with the gender of men and women. It is a grammatical construct and you will only find yourself chasing your tail if you try to morph it into saying something meaningful about men and women. There is no method to why this is feminine but THAT is masculine: it is like that through centuries of phonetic and morphological changes and interactions with past and conflicting languages. It’s a cutesy way of explaining things (“spanish is a *macho* language”, etc.), but has no actual basis in linguistics. (Check my IP, I live in France and have been speaking/studying it for a long time.)

    Furthermore, you’d be well served if you found outside sources for things in your classes being left out. It’ll spark your interest more and give you a broader perspective to compare to ordinary class work. For example, in history, you could read Zinn’s People’s History of the United States and suggest it to your teacher as a potential topic of discussion. Hopefully your teacher is better than mine was, because when I showed her that book she handed it back to me a few weeks later with a dismissive “everyone has their own opinion.” Heh… but it’s not like you’re not used to being ignored, right?

  55. Here via IBTP (a bit late to the party, but whatev!). You remind me of me in high school (not particularly happy days, for any critical thinkers or non-conformists). For me, University was about a million times better then high school. Once I hit uni, I surrounded myself with supportive, like-minded friends and was fortunate to be in a program where critical thinking and open debate prevailed. Most importantly, I could just be myself. Now I’m doing my PhD and I focus on feminist issues; yay! It is not all sunshine and roses, but it is incomparably better then high school ever was!!! So hold on to the hope that things get better!!

  56. It is not better in college, just seems that way because it is much easier to isolate yourself in the larger environment and hide in female dominated areas. If you go into one of the male dominated fields like business, engineering, some sciences then you will see that it is actually worse, not better as there is even less supervision of those guys.

  57. I had no idea you were still in High School πŸ˜‰ I understand your hatred of the male-centricity of French. I learn Spanish, a beautiful (and easy!) language but I often think that I would hate to have it as my first language – the language of my heart = because at least with English you can ALMOST avoid the androcentricity of it (the male dominance of it). You just say ‘he or she’ or ‘humankind’, and you are alright – with Spanish and French almost every sentence proclaims “man = the general human being”.

    I love your blog a lot, it is high on my list of favourite feminist blogs. Was it you that posted (ages ago) about the two-thirds ‘rule’ in movies? (two actors for every one actress, if we are lucky). I’ve always associated that with you, and it was the first time I’d thought about the disproportionate gender ratios in film – and so many other areas of life! Now everywhere I look I see women marginalised and men at the centre.

  58. Thank you Amelia. πŸ™‚

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