Students, Vanity Fair, and #MeToo

Last December, my daughter, Lucy True, was born into a world that included a man who had openly bragged about sexually assaulting  women being voted into our highest office. Thank God she was also born into a time when women finally got tired of taking it. I love that we are now in a #MeToo era because that is what my daughters will inherit. They, too get to matter. They, too get to own what happens to their bodies.

I wish I had spoken up when I was in my first teaching position and the special education teacher came into my classroom. He put his foot up on my desk and announced that though his wife wasn’t interested in sex anymore, he was. This from a colleague I had said hello to once at the copy machine. I spoke to the union rep who told me that I had to make it clear to him that he was being inappropriate before anyone from the union could speak to him. This was when I was 23. I was too shy to tell a waitress that I would like creamer for my coffee, let alone tell a colleague at my new job that he was being inappropriate. That, and I thought it was just me. I thought there was something was wrong with me and that was why I was targeted.

A former model, Paulina Porizkova, recently described sexual harassment as a “compliment.” She, too, took it personally. She took it to mean that she was found pretty and therefore “worthy” of harassment. But sexual harassment and sexual assault are not personal.

Now, after each new wave of #MeToos, it concretizes for me how un-personal sexual harassment and assault is. In fact, it is the depersonalization aspect that makes this a predatory behavior, and that affects everyone. If it was never about me, then others were at risk too. I know now that me not speaking up meant he could have gone on to harass other female faculty members, or, even more appalling as I think about it now, female students.

Which brings me to JLo’s booty. Now, I need to make it clear that I’m not anti-booty. My favorite booty shots include Beyonce’s covered-though fabulous performance in “Single Ladies” seen here and Pink’s booty shot during an ethereal “Glitter in the Air” performance at the Grammys, seen here.

This photo, though, the one of JLo’s booty?
IMG_3688This was in the December 2017 issue of Vanity Fair. The photo of the booty is in a spread about JLo’s and A-Rod’s relationship. My first thought? She does have a nice booty. My second thought? Something about this bugs.

Again, to be clear, I’m not putting down JLo’s booty. I think the reason why this photo bugs, though, is that it is HIS hand that is pulling up her skirt to reveal her butt. And their faces are turned as if someone is watching a scene that is private. Kind of like a photo that gets passed around social media without the person in the photo giving consent. And those two aspects together create a different narrative than JLo simply hiking up her skirt to show off her assets–or Beyonce strutting her stuff with her dancers. No one watching Bey could say that she doesn’t own every bit of her performance and her body. But this photo? It feels off.

I know, I know: It’s a lot of fuss over a photo. On one hand, I could say the photo is about about JLo, her butt, and if we only had perfect butts too, we would be wearing the diamond studded undies. But this picture isn’t about a perfect butt. It’s about a man taking control over a woman’s butt, and that ain’t personal: It’s the very kind of depersonalization–dehumanization–that the #MeToo movement is calling out.

If my older daughter is going to show her booty to an audience, then believe me, at three years old and a raging threenager, that girl is going to show off those buns. But I don’t ever want her to think that letting someone else show her butt to the world, in a magazine or social media, is okay. And I have to teach her that. Because if Vanity Fair didn’t get the memo, at least my threenager will.

This is a critical moment in time when women are speaking up about our rights to our bodies, and our students and children are paying attention. How we talk about what is happening will determine whether children and teenagers will feel they have a right to speak up too. Kids don’t have much life experience and even less life context, but adults do. We can let them know that we have their backs if they speak up. They aren’t to blame, they aren’t alone, and they matter as people who own their own bodies. But empowering our children starts with talking about what is happening in the news, what is wrong with this photo, and saying out loud to my threenager and to my students why I wish I had spoken up seventeen years ago.

And, looking at JLo’s expression here, I do wonder if a more appropriate caption for this photo might read: Me Too. 


Identifiers for sexual abuse in teenagers CAN include:

  1. Tattoos
  2. Excessive piercings
  3. Hair color that is unnatural (pink, blue, green, etc.)
  4. Cutting
  5. Wearing emo or goth clothing.
  6. Not bathing
  7. Overtly sexual behavior
  8. Drug or alcohol abuse

These are all ways that teenagers take back ownership of their bodies.

To bring this information to your school in the form of a workshop, go to or email

3 thoughts on “Students, Vanity Fair, and #MeToo

  1. Thank you, Jessie. This makes me want to weep and rage, and is another excellent reminder about why we must keep on standing up and shouting out about what justice is and isn’t.


  2. Re: the Cher video, I just wish it weren’t a mix of Cher’s performance and huge, destructive, military weapons made to kill thousands of people. The too-frequent mix of sex and violence (even the potential for violence) is troubling.


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