This morning, at her request, Shayel and I discussed (let’s be honest, I did most of the talking) the recent teen suicides and the reports of the preceding horrific bullying. And then my kids go to school and I read some news and the first thing I see is that a 15 year old girl threw herself in front of a train because of the bullying she received from the football team after (reportedly) having sex with 4 of them (apparently in a single encounter at a party). And why weren’t the adults in this girl’s life investigating this sexual encounter? At 15, “sex with 4 football players at the same time at a party” should automatically be suspect. **LET ME BE EXPLICITLY CLEAR HERE. HER BEHAVIOUR IS IRRELEVANT WHEN WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SHAMING AND BULLYING**. It breaks my heart to hear stories of young teenage girls who think their sexual encounter was “normal” – even though when they tell it, there clearly was power imbalance and coercion (at best) but they believe that’s what sex is. ARGH.
As I discussed this morning with my 10 year old (10! I had to discuss slut shaming with my 10 year old. The little girl who plays pretend with her little sister and still likes to watch preschool tv shows), this isn’t really about bullying. There are core issues at play here that have to do with power structures, misrepresentation and shaming of female sexuality, deep rooted misogyny, obscenely low expectations of our young men essentially reducing them to their lizard brain, woefully inept sexuality education and a repeated acceptance of the little things that actually ultimately matter more than “blatant bullying.”
For example, I remember being harrassed on the bus by a nasty beast of a high school boy. He was horrid in so many ways – sexist, racist, smelly. He is the one and only person I remember having a passionate hatred for. Fortunately I didn’t have to encounter him often and he didn’t pick on me much. I was a “late bloomer”, something I cared little about but apparently it was something he felt he had the right to address and he made a comment one day about my pubic hair (or what he assume was a lack of it). I don’t remember all the details I just remember feeling repulsed more than anything and angry at this weasel of a creature for thinking he had any right to make such comments. But in spite of my chutzpah (which I had much of at the time), I didn’t know how to respond. I was trapped on a bus with him and I didn’t have the tools. And no one came to my aid. Not the kids, not the bus driver (he bullied her too), no one. I choked down the tears and tried to shrug it off. But here’s the thing, this is simple – it is NOT OK for a boy to comment on a girl’s body outside of an intimate relationship with her permission and even then, he better be respectful. See, this isn’t about bullying. This is about a boy who learned sexism and was allowed to make sexist comments by a society that continues to not only tolerate it but perpetuate it over and over and over again.