Our first Scholar in Residence visited the school this week to speak to Middle and Senior students as well as parents. New York Times best-selling author Rosalind Wiseman, whose writing inspired the movie Mean Girls, came to speak to students about everything from dealing with cliques to media awareness.
“Everybody, no matter what, must be treated with dignity,” says Ms. Wiseman. “Dignity is not negotiable.”
Ms. Wiseman shared emails written to her by different students, asking for advice on everything from how to tell a friend that you find their behaviour to others cruel to how to deal with someone, even a friend, directly insulting you. She stressed that in any situation where a student feels uncomfortable, the most important thing is that they are able to express themselves.
“You’ve got to be able to take your feelings and put them into words,” says Ms. Wiseman, stressing that no one can control how another person chooses to react. “It doesn’t matter what they think.”
She also spoke about the different pressures placed on each gender by the media, from music to advertising. “Boys have lots of emotions,” says Ms. Wiseman, “but they’re told to show a narrow range of feeling.” Ms. Wiseman believes this has a lot to do with why boys tend to laugh when faced with an uncomfortable situation – because they feel they are limited to being either angry or happy.
Ms. Wiseman showed snippets of two music videos, one from rapper Kanye West and one from girl-group The Pussycat Dolls, to point out to the students how videos are used to influence them, including product placement and the glorification of an idea. In one video, she had girls pay attention to the words of the song and think critically about whether or not they were empowering. She also gave examples of subtle racial stereotypes and a lack of accurate diversity in advertising and products marketed to young people.
“People are trying to sell you things all the time,” warns Ms. Wiseman. “If you’re not paying attention, you’ll be taken advantage of.”
After Ms. Wiseman spoke, several students went up to her to thank her for speaking to them and Ms. Wiseman encouraged them to add her as a friend on Facebook and to contact her if they ever had a problem. As the students filed out, more than one remarked that they wished the talk had been longer than an hour.