Last week, a Reddit user pointed out that curious prom posters—approved by the principal—had begun appearing on her high school’s walls. The posters, which featured a woman made out of words suggesting good qualities, reminded young men that prom was “a night to protect her character.”
The signs, which did not feature a male counterpart (because having sex does not affect a man’s character), rankled students at Lincoln High School, who expressed that it was unfair and, frankly, gross to print posters that suggest that doing something sexual on prom night would somehow render a woman no longer “classy,” “honest,” or “loyal.”
Here’s the poster:
Senior Kelsey Schindl was one of the many offended by the fliers, created by The Crossing of Manitowoc County, a Wisconsin Crisis Pregnancy Center (for the uninitiated, CPCs are typically faith-based anti-abortion organizations that routinely lie to women about risks associated with abortion). Schindl, who correctly believes that having sex and having integrity have nothing to do with each other, asked if she could post notices with opposing views but was told no, according to the Associated Press. “I’m not endorsing teens to have sex,” Schindl said, “but you’re not a bad person if you do and you’re not a bad person if you don’t.”
The school district and the organizations sponsoring the posters disagree that the message is at all sexist or shaming of women, not seeing the fact that the sign is all about protecting “the woman’s character” as a problem.
Manitowoc Public School District said in a statement the posters were meant to “promote a positive prom experience” and did not promote a religious theme.
“Social media reaction has demonstrated that any message can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, many never contemplated or intended to be part of the original message,” the district said.
In a statement, Holy Family Memorial said it “supports the core message” of the poster of “social responsibility and safe behaviors for both young women and men.” The Crossing of Manitowoc County said in a statement it hopes the poster encourages students to act in a way that “prom will be a ‘night to remember, not a night to regret.’”
It’s not clear how a poster featuring a woman whose character might be ruined by doing it on prom night might have been misinterpreted by social media (it’s a pretty basic message), but the school district isn’t apologizing and neither, unsurprisingly, is The Crossing Of Manitowoc County. When I called The Crossing to see if I could obtain a high-quality version of the poster, I was told that the only person taking calls about the poster now was the executive director, which suggests that mine was likely not the first. The woman who answered the phone, Belinda, seemed very flustered about the whole thing.
In 2015, telling young women that it’s their responsibility to keep chaste and virginal in order to retain their “character” is just plain irresponsible. Also irresponsible? The fact that of all the words the artist could have put in the woman’s hair, they chose “potential,” which is a pretty sick burn. If you’re going to prom, your hair game should already be on point, whether you’re planning to have sex or not. (That’s actually a message I can get behind.)
Feministing reports that after being reminded that it’s a public school, Lincoln High took the posters down.