Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Art of the Stab

Gold Guns Girls - Metric (mp3)
Wink - Blue Mountain (mp3)

The April 1 NYTimes op-ed piece entitled "The Myth of Mean Girls" was published on the perfect day, because the authors are fools. They use the story of Phoebe Prince's suicide after she was barraged with threats as a time to talk about how girls aren't violent.

The op-ed writers work themselves into a lather rattling off statistics about how non-violent girls are, never once paying attention to the fact that the statistics they use -- assault, robbery, murder, other physically violent crimes -- had fuck-all to do with the kind of things that led to the girl's suicide. It's like using the story of an earthquake in Calexico, California, to talk about the failures of Obama's healthcare bill.

Phoebe Prince wasn't punched or stabbed or shot. She wasn't dangled off a building or dragged around behind a horse. She was emotionally beaten to death.

Boys use knives. Girls use mental daggers. Boys sweep the leg. Girls shred the synapses.

A handful of my female coworkers have teenage or college-aged daughters, and every single one of those girls said, without hesitation or uncertainty, that the middle school years were the cruelest and most uncomfortable years of their lives. These girls attended the all-girls school in town, and they all said the misery began to abate in the ninth grade and was more or less gone by the end of the sophomore year.

In coed schools, the misery stretches out a little longer, as the hallway locker battle of loves and crushes constantly swirls around them. I remember watching Heathers with some of my mom's students, and two of the girls kept laughing and saying, "Did the writer go to Red Bank?" and "Oh GOD I know that girl!!"

Part of this is about maturity. Girls tend to have greater control of their impulses. They take fewer risks. They throw fewer punches. They struggle less with ADHD.

But part of this goes back beyond Macbeth and Delilah. Why should women go around hitting and kicking things when they can get some doofus moron beefcake who's easily led around by his elephant trunk to do all that violent shit for them?

You never saw Don Corleone shoot anyone. Why should he when he has dozens of people eager and willing to do the wetwork for him? Same with girls. They stick with the mental cruelty. It's tougher to prosecute, and the scars last longer.

If you think I'm knocking the female gender, I beg you to reread, because that's certainly not the case. But women aren't all sweet li'l innocent angels. The blood they draw in fights are drawn out of the soul, not the skin. Black eyes and broken arms make for good pictures in a trial. You can't take a picture of a bleeding psyche. It's almost impossible to catch mental cruelty on a hallway camera.

So back to that op-ed piece. They're right. Boys are more physically dangerous, and it's not even close. If anything, the physical violence gap is growing. But don't go letting those facts lead you to believing girls are harmless.

Ask any teenage girl. They'll set you straight.

Metric's 2009 album Fantasies is just about the most addictive thing around and just won't leave my repeat list three months after I bought it. Blue Mountain played a cool set when they came to Chattanooga.

5 comments:

cinderkeys said...

As a girl on the lowest rung of the middle school totem pole, I could have told you that girls aren't harmless.

All things considered, though, I'm glad I was a girl and not a boy. At least I didn't have to put up with constant beat-downs. Emotional abuse isn't physical abuse, but physical abuse is also emotional abuse.

Daisy said...

I think for the most part. Physical abuse is easier to prevent. I don't remember too many people getting the crap physically beat out of them at school, but emotionally? Well, that's a different story. I am more afraid of my children being wounded emotionally than physically. I can see a physical wound and seek medical attention so that it heals. Emotional wounds can stay hidden and fester for many years. As a parent how do you heal that?

Billy said...

@cinderkeys -- Without question, boys are worse in this realm. However, many seem to act like that makes girls innocents, when the reality is that I know lots more girls than boys who are absolutely miserable in middle and high school. Part of this is hormonal, but part of it is the kind of girl-on-girl cruelty played out in their school lives.

@daisy -- There's something frightening about thinking of your children being injured in ways you can't see or know about unless they tell you, and even then, not quite knowing how to address the problem without being a dreaded Helicopter Parent.

cinderkeys said...

@Daisy: I don't know if there's much parents can do. I didn't bother to tell mine about most of the stuff that was going on, because it wouldn't have helped.

@Billy: I finally read the article you were commenting on. Mostly the guy was arguing that girls aren't physically violent, but yeah, he did conflate violence with overall meanness. I don't know anyone else who thinks girls are *nicer* than boys.

It's good that the school is taking this kind of harassment seriously now, I guess, but I doubt they'll be able to do anything but punish kids after the fact. Here's the best insight into school culture I've ever seen:

http://paulgraham.com/nerds.html

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