Teach boys to own their actions, not that girls 'ruin everything'

Tennessee HS AD on leave for critical comments about girls (0:48)

Soddy-Daisy High School AD Jared Hensley makes a comment that "girls ruin everything" when referencing the school's strict dress code. (0:48)

Girls can be blamed for just about anything. It's been a thing since the dawn of time. Just ask Soddy-Daisy High School assistant principal and athletic director Jared Hensley.

Hensley announced a rule Wednesday morning that banned the wearing of athletic shorts at school. He said the code would be unpopular with the boys who attend the school, which is near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and he expounded on why the change was necessary in a video that was posted on YouTube and has since been removed.

"And if you want to blame someone, blame the girls, because they pretty much ruin everything," Hensley said. "They ruin the dress code, well -- ask Adam. Look at Eve. That's really all you got to get to. You can go back to the beginning of time.

"So, it'll be like that for the rest of your life; get used to it, keep your mouth shut, suck it up and follow the rules."

On Wednesday afternoon, Hamilton County Superintendent Bryan Johnson released a statement condemning Hensley's comments and announcing the AD was put on leave.

The school's code isn't anything new. Rules governing how girls and women should dress are fairly ubiquitous and are often invoked as a means to protect boys and men from clothing that is deemed to be too revealing (short shorts, spaghetti straps, etc.). Girls and women have been sent home from school, removed from airplanes and even chided on tennis courts for violating dress codes.

But in this case, the rule largely affects boys. In his remarks, he hinted at another common dress code that requires the length of girls' skirts and shorts by saying, "Boys, you're thinking 'I don't understand why, it's not fair, athletic shorts go past your knees.'" And instead of fully explaining the reasoning for the rule -- which, by the way, he said he helped to make -- he blamed teenagers who, unfortunately for them, happened to be girls. As if it were their collective fault the rules existed in the first place.

To say such a thing is ridiculous, but to dismissively wave it away as inconsequential is to ignore the implications of what Hensley said. The mere fact that someone in a position of authority even thought that "ruin everything" is an appropriate thing to say highlights the reality that policing girls and women is tantamount to the maintenance of the most comfortable learning environment for (heterosexual) boys and men.

Hensley, running away from his own decision, barely even acknowledges his own decision-making power, opting to put the burden on someone else. It's the girls' fault that he had to make this rule. It's the girls' fault that dress codes exist anyway. It's the girls' fault that bare shoulders and thighs distract their peers.

At some point -- actually, at EVERY point -- boys are responsible for their actions. They are responsible for the way they look at girls. They are responsible for the way they touch girls. And yes, Adam was responsible for eating the damn apple in the first place. After all, he could have said no. Right?

Oh, my mistake. That point is used to harpoon a woman's credibility only when she dares to attempt to hold a man accountable.

That's what this is about. Hensley, as a proxy for men, is setting the rules here, and when he feels forced to change them, he takes no responsibility for that decision. In doing so, he also gave every single boy at that school permission to blame their own inconveniences on their female counterparts.

Drop the ball on the one-yard line because you celebrated too early? The cheerleaders were distracting. Daydreamed during the test for which you didn't study enough? The girl in front of you kept crossing and uncrossing her legs. Get your phone confiscated because you were looking at it in class? A hot girl sent you a sexy photo. It's easy to pin something on another person to avoid accountability, especially when a school official is modeling that behavior.

Sometimes a stupid statement is just a stupid statement. And that might have been true in this case, except that it's not. One does not simply mention Adam and Eve and "the beginning of time" in reference to a dress-code rule change that he blamed on girls.

This is a pervasive problem, and it's about time we acknowledge it. Perhaps then we could create inclusive education environments for all children. And who knows? Maybe we could teach young men the importance of accountability and ownership.

Because, you know, boys ruin things too.