I read the book Girlfighting by Lyn Mikel Brown to get an education. I went through middle school so I remember girl behavior but I hadn’t dealt with it again until moving to cohousing so I wanted to learn more.
The author says “Relationally victimize is what girls do. Girls learn early to use covert tactics like threatening to damage or control a girl’s relationships with others or to ignore or exclude someone they are angry with.” They do this since good girls are not allowed to use physical aggression and also to cover their actions more easily from adults. Girls try to control other girls as part of an oppressed group.
Reading the book made me realize how lucky I was. My friends and I didn’t do all that. I called my best friend since second grade and she said it was from being in such a small elementary school. It was a public school but had low numbers and they closed it down after we left sixth grade. I think we had a total of 8 girls in our class and double the boys. So, if we tried to ostracize it wouldn’t have worked – we would have been left alone. We knew we weren’t part of the cooler group of girls who played with the cutest boys but the line wasn’t that deep since we all talked to each other and enjoyed our class graduation party together.
Seventh grade was rough. Lots of kids from all over. I saw blood on the sidewalk where two girls physically fought and pulled out earrings and hair. My friend caught a girl stealing and she said she’d kill if she told so my friend moved onto private school from then on. I tried to join a cooler crowd but seeing my elementary friends look at me from across the cafeteria hurt too much. I’m glad I went back since the cooler crowd moved too fast for me.
I did experience a few times of girl control. Once when I dared to talk to the cutest boy in school on a beach trip. On the bus ride home, he was on another bus,, I heard a group of girls say “Let’s tease her ” and they did. I didn’t see them much after that day but saw their snickers when I dressed on school spirit day. The message was clear – no one has school spirit.
The other time, near the end of seventh grade, was when a group of girls in my math class (math class always had too much down time and too much social conflict time in my experience), decided I liked Larry. Uh, I liked Larry as a friend but noting more. They demanded that I must like Larry or they wouldn’t be my friend. Fine, I like Larry. And I got to stay in the group. Luckily summer break started and he wasn’t there in eighth grade so I never had to prove how I liked Larry.
I wanted to be younger when I had a milestone birthday in cohousing but I didn’t want middle school again. That’s what happened. The Relationally victimization. Some of the women made it clear – you are with them or against them. They found a man from the Conflict Resolution Team who I tried to ask for help and beat him to a pulp, with words, on how he should have not let me take the action I did to solve a problem. Most of the community figured it out – don’t go against the queen bees or you will be stung.
I hadn’t realized how deeply some women have used this in their entire lives. In the book, Girlfighting, she gives examples of grown women still managing their lives this way. I still feel lucky that that wasn’t my life and I had wonderful relationships with friends and everyone in high school and college. I was shocked it would show up in cohousing!
On page 194 the author says, “Hannah Ardnt says the nature of evil is thoughtlessness and inattention”. The opposite is sisterhood.
My life had been around feminists and bisexaual and lesbian women and was all about sisterhood. However, I have seen communities that turn the other way. They let this cruel game of control go unattested. We know who Hannah Ardnt studied and the horrors that came happen from inattention.