Landing : Athabascau University

"The War on 12-Year-Old Girls" and "What it's like to be a teen girl" - bloggers take on "trolling" as bullying and misogyny

"The War on 12-Year-Old Girls" discusses an interview with the Reddit "troll" who posted pictures of teenage girls in their underwear and rape jokes. The author, Mary Elizabeth Williams, argues that the intensity of bullying against young women reflects the fear of girls who, during their teenage years, become more emotionally, intellectually, and sexually powerful. She cites a handful of other examples of online bullying of particular teenage girls and teenage girls in general.

I was referred to the Williams article via emma m. wooley's fabulous blog post, "What it's like being a teen girl." I can't say my experiences with teenage boys were as awful as hers, but I was definitely called a slut and a dyke on more than one occasion, and my lab partner in physics in grade 11, having heard that I was "bisexual" and lived away from my parents, considered that licence to try to touch my legs, which didn't even register as violence, as much as just the hazards that came with attending high school. wooley calls for action to educate men and boys:

My stories are not uncommon. They’re more common than we want to think. As my friend Panic said: “Ask anyone who is or has been a teenaged girl. 15-yr-old boys assaulting women is common. It’s ‘normal.’” It’s so normal, in fact, that we don’t talk about it until we’re women and we know it doesn’t have to be.

Pretty much everything in North American culture tells men and boys that women and girls are there for them. So please, do us some favours. Stop telling us that we have to take self defence. Stop telling us we shouldn’t drink or go out at night or on dates. Stop telling us that we need to be prepared for whatever “boys-be-boys” violations come our ways, because it’s bullshit. We don’t have to accept this or carry it around in silence.

Start talking with men and boys about the messages they’re getting about women and girls. Tell them that they are not entitled to our bodies, no matter what. Talk to them honestly and comprehensively about sexualization and objectification. Stop being afraid to talk about boundaries, sex, and pleasure—leaving that to schools, the Internet, and peers is simply not cutting it. Show them what consent really looks like.

I added the emphasis to "no matter what" because I think that's important. Sure these trolls are "sorry" once they're exposed, or they were just after attention and think their misogyny is meaningless, or they have some half-baked ideas about "freedom of speech." I can't imagine how any of that might change the fact that they are violating the very basic rights of an entire group of human beings to be persons. 

At the end of her piece, Williams writes: 

I wish I could write off the likes of Michael Brutsch [the troll interviewed on CNN] as one isolated, disturbed individual. And he’s exceptional; a king among trolls, to be sure. But he exists because there is a strong and vocal community of little creeps who are simultaneously aroused and hateful and scared to death of everything that a young girl represents. Who look at [a girl like my daughter] and feel so bad about their own pathetic selves they want nothing more than to tear her down and make her feel ever worse about herself. My dear daughter, I am so sorry these morons are out there, and that you and your friends are in their cross hairs. That they don’t see you as a person but a threat.

But I hope they’re right. I hope you and your friends grow up to be everything that scares the crap out of these idiots. I hope you all stay loud and strong and refuse to be pushed around by dirty weirdos hiding in their basements, anonymously trying put you down, rewarding each other with encouragement and bobbleheads.


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