A New Jersey Catholic school wanted to make kids quit cursing, so they asked girls to take a vocabulary purity pledge, vowing not to use foul language for the month of February. But the boys? They were told not to swear, but they didn't have to make any promises.
Related: Is Chivalry Sexist?
"We want ladies to act like ladies," Lori Flynn, the teacher who administered the pledge at Queen of Peace High School, told The Record newspaper in Woodland Park, N.J.
On Friday morning, female students stood, raised their right hands, and recited: “I do solemnly swear not to use profanities of any kind within the walls and properties of Queen of Peace High School. In other words, I swear not to swear. So help me God.”
After the girls had committed themselves to the no-cursing plan, Flynn reportedly told the boys, "Gentlemen, you are not to swear in the presence of ladies." But when girls aren't in the room? Say whatever you want, "gentlemen."
Nicholas Recart, 16, confessed that he can't help cursing while playing baseball -- he's a pitcher -- and figures he'll keep on doing so. But still, "It's unattractive when girls have potty mouths," he told The Record.
The Catholic school's principal, Brother Larry Lavallee, was quick to defend the double standard, explaining that the girls are far more vulgar than the boys. Flynn told ABC News that while the girls' language wasn't a serious issue, there were doing too much "subtle swearing."
But experts say that swearing doesn't depend on gender. According to Timothy Jay, a professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the author of "Why We Curse," the more extroverted and dominant you are, the more you're likely to curse a blue streak. Your average American says a bad word of some sort 80 to 90 times a day, and those no-potty-mouth pledges "never work," he told The Record. Jay appears to be correct: According to NorthJersey.com, one girl "blurted out a common anatomical vulgarism" just three minutes after taking the pledge.
Flynn explained that teachers are hoping the boys will follow the girls' lead and clean up their own language voluntarily, and here's where we find ourselves choking back a few choice words. But the printable part of our thought process is this: So, if the boys don't bother to find gentler alternatives to the f-bomb, it's the girls' fault for not inspiring them? Why do girls have to make a public vow while the guys get a few role models and advance absolution?
Yahoo! Shine's calls to the school were not immediately returned, but Flynn did explain the logic of the pledge to ABC News, saying, "It was supposed to be a really sweet, innocent, special treat for the ladies."
We're not sure exactly what the "special treat" is supposed to be: That the girls get to hide their real feelings for a month? That they get to feel like failures if the boys decide to ignore them and curse anyway? Or maybe it's the reward that's in store for those who stay cuss-free until March 1st: lollipops and pins featuring a pair of pink lips with a red line through them. (Bonus: The pins could also be used for a "girls should be seen but not heard month" if the school decides to try that next!)
There's a difference between encouraging respect and reinforcing sexism. Making only the girls promise not to curse doesn't inspire boys to behave, it just sets girls up for failure. It also implies that boys can be trusted to make good decisions on their own while girls need to be supervised (if not by an authority figure, then at least by one another) in order to make the right choice.
Sixteen-year-old Dana Cotter thought the pledge needed to be recited by all students, and we totally agree. If the girls must act more like ladies, she told The Record, then "boys should be more like gentlemen."
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