Hot tip! Always place newly dislodged teeth in a glass of milk!
-Just smash the shit out of the little fucks. Also, stop whinging. And get my smokes. – Typical bullying advice for girls, circa 1980.
In the 80s whacking bullies was standard operating procedure. For boys and girls. I know, because I went through primary school like a pneumatic claw hammer. It didn’t entirely prevent bullying – at best my approach earned little more than a short reprieve while everyone searched the long grass for teeth. However, for a buck-toothed ginga with a short fuse and a hillbilly squint, thumping someone was definitely a legitimate option.
In 2016 things are different. It’s still OK for boys to hit girls, it’s just not OK for them to hit back.
You see, in 2016 we give girls the tools to manage challenging situations in a mature and non-violent way. We engage with children to educate them about bullying. We empower them to recognise and manage it. We give them strategies to de-centre power relationships, embolden support networks, foster cohesiveness. In this way we have meaningful discussions about bullying.
Unless you’re a boy. If you’re a boy you can still just whack ‘em.
Oh sure, it’s not acceptable but it’s accepted. You see, both girls and boys are are subjected to the regime of decidedly adult polite fuckspeak above, but only girls are expected to take any notice of it. In schools across Australia you might recognise this fuckspeak as ‘peer support’.
Peer support expects children to behave like adults. This isn’t new. Modern childhood is increasingly considered little more than an inconvenient larval stage where school is just preparation for The Main Event (the soul-crushing banality of heavily-mortgaged suburban ennui, counting the steps until your febrile, rest-home death on your Fit-Bit).
Where was I? Ah yes….
The focus on childhood as the preparation for a productive adult life means girls especially must learn to behave like ‘successful adults’.
They are expected to behave like responsible young women. They must have a high ’emotional IQ’. They must talk in an inclusive, respectful way. They must manage and negotiate. They must rise above the petty squabbling of childhood. They’re still expected to be compliant and to learn well though – some things never change. This is why campaigns like ‘peer support’ are presented as school work, in class time: peer support is to be taken seriously. Girls must take everything seriously. They are little women.
In short, girls must modify their behaviour to maximise their social mobility. This is the politically acceptable form of adulting, the Life Matters version of My-First-Hot-Pants*.
Adulting isn’t new to boys. They’ve always been expected to behave like ‘young men’ in the playground, i.e., occasionally smash kids. It’s not condoned, but it’s expected. Boys are not expected to take ‘peer support’ seriously. Whacking someone remains firmly on the table.
This is how we normalise violence against women in a society where women have economic independence – we de-weaponise them.
If we are truly interested in equality we should recognise ‘peer support’ programs for what they truly are – a burden on girls who are expected to administer this playground regime of ‘self-moderation’ and ‘respectful dialogue’. The result is predictable. Girls internalise their failure to ‘manage’ violent playground behaviour. They get belted and feel guilty for it.
Perhaps in that respect it’s the most honest form of adulting yet.
*There are other forms of ‘adulting’ too – witness, for instance, the bedazzled nine-year-olds doing the bump-and- grind at the school Christmas concert. When girls make and re-make themselves through the modification of their ‘look’ they are behaving like adult women: commodifying themselves, mobilising their self-actualisation through consumption.
And just like with adult women this commodification is often little more than a direct transfer of ‘sexuality’ for power. (N.B – It’s still objectification if you pay for it yourself.) The hypersexualisation of girls is nothing more than the expanding commodification of female bodies – we make ourselves as products. Girls know that playing with their ‘look’ represents economic mobility.
It’s worth noting that the hypersexuality of girls is often presented as some weird, pseudo-paedophilic novelty, or a dystopian morality play. It’s not. That’s a distraction. It’s just every day materialism, embodied.
She’s so Charlie! (don’t worry chaps, she’ll still worship your tight arse, but she’ll just imagine it’s on her terms. Terms she will forever associate with the smell of industrial toilet cleaner).