Wednesday, February 14, 2007

30 Going On 13

We've all been there:

You've gone to the library after school. It's been kind of a hectic day, maybe you had a fight with your best friend or your boyfriend, maybe a teacher singled you out for humiliation in Algebra that day. The point is you're feeling a little down. There is some crazy huge paper looming in your near future so you decide to get started on it. After navigating through the Dewy Decimal System, avoiding the creepy librarian and wandering the aisles you've finally found the books you need for your report. You think "I'll just sit down at one of the big tables and get a little work done while I wait for my ride." So, you plop down as quietly as you can at the ancient scarred wood table... and then you hear it.
The whispers and the giggles.

There are two girls huddled together in one of those study hutches across from you. You can see their heads pop up as they peer over it.They are both wearing different versions of the same trendy outfit. Their hair is sleek and shiny and long. They're wearing way too much eye make-up that just seems to accentuate their catty-ness. They are looking at you in your almost floor length, frumpy skirt and long sleeved knit top with your over sized coat and fuzzy red scarf. They sneer. They whisper to each other and dissolve into another bout of barely concealed laughter.

You wish you could disappear into the floor.

This happened to me last night.

It's so infuriating! I think I'm a pretty terrific person, y'know? I've been places, I've done stuff. I'm working really hard on a degree and most of the time I wouldn't let that kind of high school crap get to me. I've gotten used to the little "clackers" running around campus. These are the kids who are fresh out of high school and just haven't figured out that none of that stuff matters anymore. You know the ones. They're always on their pink Razr phones talking to their friends about what so-and-so said to them about who-ever-that-was blah, blah, blah. They're the girls that used to give me a hard time when I was in school. But I'm a grown up now. I don't have to take that shit from 19 year old little snots anymore!
This got me thinking about all that crap that's been in news over the last couple of years about female bullies and the like. Books like Queen Bees And Wannabees, Mean Girls Grown Up and Odd Girl Out. While I really do believe it's just a lot of hype, I can't deny that it sucks when you feel like that insecure kid all over again because of some snarky teen-ager. I found a terrific article written by Jennifer Foote Sweeney at about this idea that women are somehow meaner than men. She points out that: 1. there are no studies that prove that girls and woman are any "meaner" than men and boys, 2. if you're writing about female bullies and go out looking for stories about female bullies, chances are you're going to hear a lot about female bullies and 3. people tend to be "meaner" to their own gender. So men practice a slightly different version of bullying amongst themselves than women do.

It only makes sense that if men use a better-disguised form of bullying,
women are going to be more easily busted for aggressive behavior. And if people
are most aggressive with their own genders, women are going to have stories
about female bullies. Unfortunately, a book that uses those differences to
reveal a new vein of nastiness in the female gender profile is bound to be a big
hit. What better way to tap into feminism fatigue than to produce evidence of
the dangerous by-products?
No doubt, Mean Girls Grown Up will be used to
validate the position that women have abused the privileges of their new
empowerment and need to back off and be nice.

Well, to heck with that whole "back off and be nice" crap. I'll be nice when I make the same amount of money as a man and when our government stops trying to compromise my rights over my own body. "Polite women rarely make history" you know. Still, could we all just get together and agree not to snicker at each other in the library?

The best part about this scene: I was in the library reading A Vindication for The Rights of Women and The Feminine Mystique.


Marz said...

Dem bee-aitches! Let me get out my baseball bat and I'll meet you in the library. Time for sOOmbody to learn some manners!

Dude, that sucks. It sucks having to be the adult when you just want to slap the crap out of some little immature brat. That is the one part that sucks about being back at school.

Hang in there and yeah - interesting point from that article.

Thorny said...

Man, I HATE that! It just really sucks.

I have to admit I'm torn on the whole "female bullying" issue. Like, on the one hand, I absolutely agree that it's been over-hyped and used to say, "Oooh, feminism's bad, mmmmkay?" Because, seriously - that kind of snooty exclude-the-weird-girl BS was just as prevalent in the '50s as it is today.

On the other hand, I have to admit I'm glad to see people at least taking "verbal bullying" seriously. As a Weird Girl pretty much all my life, I remember frequently being advised about "sticks and stones" and told to "ignore it." Riiiiight.

However, I do hate that the media has turned it into basically a female-only phenomenon, when any young woman who's had some guy she went on a date with decide to start spreading rumors about how "easy" she is can attest that the boys are just as adept at wielding a vicious rumor as the girls are.

Anyway - sorry you got snickered at by the shallow 19-year-olds. That sucks. :(

runswithdog said...

I love Mary Wollstonecraft! I read Vindication years ago in grad school. Good stuff.

Isn't is awful how even though we know different - people can still make us feel inadequate, at least for a little while, until we come to our senses. I do dislike the cattiness and lack of support for each other that some women exhibit.

bazu said...

Amen. I know exactly how you feel. As a teacher, I still can't escape those feelings- sometimes, I'm a paranoiac and believe my barely-out-of-teenagehood students are laughing at me behind my back! What is weird is these structures continue long after school- the trauma stays with you, so you look for bullying and mocking even when it's not there any more. It sucks! No matter how old I get those old instincts are just too deeply ingrained...