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I Would Like To Apologize For The Tone Of My ‘UGLY HOE’ Article

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computer-typingAfter reading some of the more insightful comments on my article covering the Irving, Texas yearbook prank, I realize I probably should have worded my viewpoint with a little more sensitivity.

My belief, and I’m largely sticking to it, is that name-calling is almost always outside of one’s control. Words are only as powerful as we allow them to be. One reader, Bill Mothershead, had a similar view, which I’ll repost here:

What you CAN control is how your child deals with harrassment, name calling and generally getting crapped on. Give them the tools to be the bigger person and not let petty stuff like this affect their self worth, and the assholes aren’t such a big problem at the end of the day.

To address some of your assumptions, I was not a popular kid nor a victim of bullying in high school. I actually withdrew from my peer group altogether because I didn’t agree with their decisions to drink and smoke. I suffered my last two years as a virtual nobody, which is a strange experience nobody talks about. But it’s true that I’ve never been on either side of the bullying thing, so it is difficult for me to understand it.

As for why I thought this yearbook misnomer was funny, I’ll answer you frankly: I don’t know this girl. When I first saw the photo, pictured above, all of the cheerleader’s faces were blurred. Below, the glaring phrase in all caps — “UGLY HOE.” It took me off guard. I laughed. End of story.

Reader Mel suggested, “What if she were your daughter? Would it be funny then?” You’re absolutely right, Mel. I’d be enraged if it was my own daughter, because I love her, and she means the world to me. This cheerleader, on the other hand, is a stranger. I don’t know her name or what makes her tick. We would all be exhausted if we spent every ounce of our empathy on people we didn’t know. This is why we often do nothing to combat strife in foreign countries but rally together for those down the street.

I’m not saying this is right, I’m just saying it’s reality. And I’ve realized that as a writer for a large platform like Mommyish, I do owe you — and the anonymous victim — an apology, because I don’t want you to mistake something that was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek for re-victimization of the cheerleader. I don’t know her, that’s true, but I also don’t want to contribute to the pain she might already be feeling.

If the victim is reading, I’m sorry, and I absolutely believe that you’re strong enough to not let a couple of words ruin your life. Negative phrases directed at kids can only be phased out slowly, through rigorous cultural change and adult intervention, which are both absolutely necessary. But your reaction to them is instant, and completely in your control.

There were other points readers brought to my attention that I hadn’t considered, as well. The cost to reprint the yearbooks would be a serious problem, considering how tight school budgets are as-is — so thank you to multiple readers for bringing that up. And if what reader MomJones says is true, that only an adult would have had access to change the final draft, I am appalled. Kids are kind of expected to be horrible to each other, but an adult, especially a teacher, should know better.

I am not pro-slut shaming. I just don’t take the word “ho” very seriously. Maybe you do, but I don’t, and that’s fine. And I never, ever said that the person who changed the name should get off without punishment. My husband was attacked physically and verbally for his ethnicity in high school, but he never told an adult at the school because he would have been risking further shame among his peers for not being able to fight his own battles. I wish he would have told his parents, however, because they could have moved him to a different school before he faced the worst fight — one that almost killed him.
Believe me, I am sensitive to this issue. But sometimes I feel like all of this talk in the media about bullying just urges bullies to bully harder, and victims to withdraw.

(photo: wrangler / Shutterstock)