From Our Readers Dirty Mouth? Clean It Up, Ladies. From Our Readers

What the f**k? A Catholic high school has come under scrutiny after requiring its female students to recite a pledge in which they swore not to, well, swear.

Last week during homeroom, Girls at Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington, N.J., raised their right hands and said in unison, “I do solemnly promise not to use profanities of any kind within the walls and properties of Queen of Peace High School…So help me God.” Upon completion of the mass recitation, each girl was each given a pin (lips with a red slash through them!) to wear as a reminder of her promise.

The whole not-swearing-in-school thing isn’t so controversial; after all, teens all across the English-speaking world have long known that dropping f-bombs in class is likely to land them in detention. What’s new about Queen of Peace’s take on the prohibition is that the school isn’t requiring its male students to make the same promise the girls did. Teacher Lori Flynn told ABCNews.com that although the girls’ language wasn’t particularly foul, instances of “subtle swearing” encouraged administrators to give the one-month policy a try. She called the experiment “a really sweet, innocent, special treat for the ladies specifically for the month of February kind of thing.” (Personally, I prefer truffles and roses during the month of Hallmark love, but, like, that’s just me.)

So why not the boys? Beyond being a “sweet, innocent, special treat for the ladies,” it’s not such a leap to assume that double standards are at play in administrators’ decision not to require male students to promise to clean up their language – though anyone who’s met a 21st-century teenage boy can attest to their common tendency toward the uncouth. Boys will be boys, and sometimes being a boy includes yelling “Shit!” when you get a C on a math test – but swearing is unladylike, and being ladylike is an old-fashioned value to be returned to and upheld.

Ah, yes, old-fashioned values. The girls’ pledge is also apparently part of a broader civility campaign, run in conjunction with National Catholic Schools Week (I didn’t know that was a thing, but then again, I’m Jewish.) as part of an effort to return to values of yore. You know, like back in the 1950s when dad came home from a hard day of bread-winning, and mom, clad in high heels and a frilly apron, already had meatloaf, potatoes and a highball waiting for him on the kitchen table. Weren’t those the good-old days, when women knew their place and their perfectly lipsticked mouths never dared speak the crass swear words reserved for men?

Earlier this week, as I listened to hosts on my local radio station debate whether Queen of Peace’s gender-specific policy holds any water, I was shocked to hear only from female callers in support of it. Over and over, I heard that word again: “unladylike”. Callers said that women who swear only do it for attention; that women who swear don’t respect themselves and garner less respect from men; that women who swear lack confidence, education, and class. The only differing opinion came from a Southern caller who forewent the gender binary altogether and declared that all Northerners, male and female alike, are inherently ruder and more foul-mouthed than their genteel counterparts below the Mason-Dixon Line. But not a single caller said what I would’ve, which is this:

I am a successful, confident, educated woman – and I also swear a lot. I swear not because I have a limited vocabulary but because sometimes swear words are simply the best words for expressing a given sentiment. I swear not because I lack class, but because I have too much self-respect to ever worry about whether my lexicon can be considered “ladylike”. I swear because I’m angry (“I can’t f**king believe this is happening.”) and I swear because I’m happy (“I can’t f**king believe this is happening!”) I swear because my boyfriend is in the military and that’s what they do, aside from defending our freedom, and I’ve gotten used to it. I swear because sometimes, I just like the way the words feel in my mouth.

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  1. I guess all the catholic girls can always drop to their knees and ask God for forgiveness.

  2. I really agree with you on this matter! I believe it’s ridiculous if you can’t swear. I live in the Netherlands and we have a very, swearing culture, not sure how to say that. Especially in the work place by boss and employee there’s loads of swearing going on and there is definitely no censoring on TV. So I think a refraint isn’t so bad every once and a while, just to make you notice how often you swear. But it shouldn’t be because of your gender.

  3. Well f***ing said! I swear for many reasons, because its fun, because I still get a thrill of childish pride when I drop an f bomb, because there are few things more satisfying then screaming profanity when you stub your toe and because sometimes there are just no other words. If some people believe swearing makes me sound common, unladylike and uneducated so be it. It doesn’t change the fact that I am in the second year of my degree – and nailing it btw! – and can walk in high heels like the best of them. Swearing is a choice. My choice. I have been challenged to go without swearing and I haven’t done it. Not because I can’t because I don’t want to. Not only do I enjoy it too much but when someone tells me not to do something I actively do the opposite and take a savage pleasure in doing so. Not only is it wrong to hold ladies to a higher standard than men it is also antiquated and outdated. women haven’t fought for equality for years for that. What’s worse is the teachers at that school genuinely believes it is a treat. If any of the girls at the school are like me swearing will only become more prominent in their speech. Which I hope is the case. And besides isn’t swearing not to swear hilariously ironic?!

  4. I think swearing excessively does makes a person sound uneducated. However, there are plenty of times where the situation calls for it and no one should think less of a person because they utter a profanity once in a while. That said, holding females to higher standards than males is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t understand why they would even bother if males were not included. It’s gender bias.

  5. Just want to mention the fact that two of my favourite comedians Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin, who swear all the time, are both really successful, have class and are amazing. Just thought that needed to be said.

  6. Agree with this so much. Plus, sometimes it just FEELS GOOD to swear. It’s a release.

  7. I don’t think there should be a double standard for cursing, you’re right. But I DO believe that there is something to be said for someone that lacks the restraint to think of a less offensive (and probably more representative) word than a curse word to convey the way they feel–male or female. It is just abrasive to hear people using curse words as frequently as I hear them now and it DOES sound uneducated (regardless of the gender).

  8. And that is why I left private school after 1 year… doesn’t make any sense!

  9. Also, yeah-obviously the double standard aspect of this is totally bs. I’m not going to go on an angry rant about it though; because it’s so ridiculous, I don’t really feel like it needs my defense (with this audience). I will say that if my daughter’s future (non-Catholic) school did this, they would undoubtedly experience the fury of my wrath!

  10. Words are expression-unless they are used deliberately as a weapon against someone else, who cares? Sh*t! When you’re hurt/excited/angry/whatever is certainly different than calling someone a sh*t-stain. So essentially, I think intent matters more than the actual words.

  11. I agree that the high school boys should also have to do the oath if the girls do, but I’m going to disagree with you about your opinion of swearing in general. Excessive “bad” language, in my opinion, makes any person, regardless of gender, look like a classless fool. I lose respect for any person who is constantly swearing. I understand it can be enjoyable, and the occasional cuss is to be expected from everyone, but remember that there are plenty of words out there to help express feelings. Repeat after me: let’s all solemnly swear to henceforth make conversations more interesting and intelligent by never–just kidding. Do what you like, but don’t expect to look as smart as you probably are if you overindulge.

  12. Simply stated, women have always been held to higher standards. I challenge the men to try to do the same. Game over.

  13. You say you censor yourself in certain situations, around children being the main one you cite, or indeed when you wish to be professional. Well I put it to you that the school in question is filled with both. High school is a springboard into a working life, and in order to prepare these young minds for a professional working mindset, I can see how this would be beneficial.

    I don’t agree that the boys should be excluded and it should be a female only – oath? But I agree with the main intent of phasing out swearing within the confines of the school grounds. That’s not to say that these girls can’t go home and “evaluate the surroundings” before they spew verbal diarrhoea of the foulest words they can conjure. At school however, its a different matter.

    That said, there is something wistful about the generations past where men were men, and women were women. At least everyone knew where they stood back in the 50′s. And there were a lot more long lasting couples, lifelong companionships seem to be dying a death.

    Is it right they got treated differently, No.
    Has it been this way for centuries? Yes.
    My Advice… Go make me a sandwich :-p

    • Here’s your sandwich, luv. Lemme know if you can taste the poop.

    • You just made my eyes roll so far back into my head I am now blind. jkadshjsdhjkdsjlakgdjgdgs!!!

    • Dude, grow the fuck up. You should have more class than to say that to someone when that joke is so tired it’s ridiculous.

    • Everyone knew where they stood?

      Women are still fighting for the right to choose where we stand. And it was so much harder in the 50s. Can you imagine being a woman in one of those long lasting relationships – so unhappy, but not having the means to leave? You know why woman are less likely to marry, or more likely to ask for a divorce? Because we can. We don’t need men. You want a lifelong companion? Remember to treat her with respect. Every day.

    • Fuck you.

  14. I absolutely agree with you when you say “swear words are simply the best words for expressing a given sentiment.” They just seem to make everything more emphasis and full of true feelings.

  15. I am so tired of “women having to do this” or “not do that” simply because of our gender. It is wrong. Screw the “old fashioned” ways where we “knew our place”. Anyone who is intimidated by independent women and their ways can just get over it.

  16. i went to catholic school for years and never had to do something like this! i agree with you, this is ridiculous. if girls are expected to keep it clean, boys should be, too.

  17. I really appreciate and agree with what you have to say on this matter. Great piece!

  18. so why don’t they just show them The Stepford Wives and tell them to model their behavior after that? This infuriates me, and I agree wholeheartedly with your opinions.

    • Any time someone uses the “Boys will be boys” cliche I want to scream. People do what you let them get away with. End of story. Why are boys enternally given a get out of jail free card? I have heard over and over again that boys are easier to raise but I don’t think that’s true. People just chalk up everything they do wrong to this adage and that somehow makes it ok… It’s simply not fair to the girls of the world to have to abide by a different set of rules simply because of the organs they were or weren’t born with.

      • Kristy, I completely agree with you. Males generally swear far more than females. However, I think that they may have a plan in place by getting female to stop swearing first… I have a friend who does not swear, not does she allow me to swear around her… Out of my respect for her, I don’t swear around her.

  19. I read somewhere that when we swear, our brain exudes the hormones that are associated with pain relief and pleasure. I don’t know if this is scientifically accurate but sometimes it does feel like it! I occasionally swear, not too much, sometimes I don’t even notice it, but when I hear someone swearing it sounds bad to me. I agree that schoolkids should not be allowed to swear at school-not just girls, but all kids. However, that oath things sounds rather extreme to me. And when it comes to how we talk, I think it’s the family backround that matters and affects most, and not the school.

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