I have been a feminist since I was in 2nd grade. I even had a t-shirt about equality that I would wear to school. I remember one teacher sending me to other classes so they could read the shirt. To this day, I don’t know if they supported the idea or thought it quaint that a 9-year old was sporting it.
As such, I do NOT take well to “girly”. More-so, middle school (which wasn’t middle school for me, but a K-8) cemented my deep loathing of all things giggly, gossipy, super-shiny and glittery, bitchy, and exclusionary. I have absolutely NO patience for it. All of this, of course, makes my teaching of middle school girls incredibly ironic. After all, this is the breeding ground for everything Jersey Shore and Mean Girls.
These last few weeks at school have seen the escalation of stupid girl tricks. Because I find this behavior irritating and horrible, I tell my class so in VERY SPECIFIC TERMS. For example, I have three frenemies in my class. I don’t sit them together, but seriously, you can’t control eye contact. I only get 1/10 of any notes (I’m sure), so they bounce around as well. Sure I COULD restrict the students to their seats, but it’s hard to teach responsibility without giving them opportunities.
So the frenemy junk reached critical mass one day when two of the three really decided to “punish” the other for some unforgivable sin or another. Critical mass in this case involved four girls standing outside the room with an administrator SCREAMING at each other, and the rest of the class inside working on drawing battle lines.
Uhm, HELL no.
The remaining students were introduced to the most vehement, nasty, punitive teacher they’ve ever met. My battle cry has been TWICE AS HARD, TWICE AS LONG (which amuses me on a whole ‘nother level). If they buy into this junk, bring it into the classroom, and allow it to keep us from learning, I WILL PUNISH EVERYONE. Their job, I assured them, was to STAY OUT OF IT. Don’t ask, don’t listen, don’t tell.
Of course, a day later the frenemies were hanging out laughing, joking, taunting some other poor schmuck. Sigh.
Then we get the mean girls from next door who don’t do the right thing, and don’t appear to be told that it’s expected. One of them has taken to carrying a purse around school. She’s in the same class ALL DAY LONG, but she needs to carry a purse. Uhm, no. Now, this came up last year with other girls. I was told, then, in very uncertain terms that (conspiratorial whisper) “But I’m on my period”. “For a months?” I asked. “You’ve been carrying this purse FOR MONTHS! You mean to tell me that you’ve been bleeding EVERYDAY for MONTHS? Girl, I’d go see a doctor about that.”
Crestfallen face because, yes my friends, she was BUSTED. Are we adults THAT stupid? It seems to me we’re so afraid of students’ parents that we’ll accept any sort of junk from a child just to keep life peaceful. Yet, peaceful isn’t peaceful if the child bullies the adults. Furthermore, I pulled my pad out from my back pocket. She turned a few shades of “OH MY GOD!” and did what was requested. You know why? She was probably lying. Strangely, no parent backlash.
The other side of this comes from girls not coming to school because “I’m on my period.” This is not 200 BC. I doubt, sincerely, even then that a period was a good enough reason not to run from impending doom, take care of children, or feed the family. Who wants to deal with someone who goes out of commission 5-7 days a month? As I point out, I come to school 99% of the time. I exercise 80% of each month (sometimes daily, sometimes not). I have had my period since I was 11. I am able to function. Teaching girls that their periods mean that they get to sit around, whine and not do anything is insulting to females as a whole, but also damaging to the girls. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Here’s another round of judgment for you. MOST of the women encouraging this don’t have jobs. Furthermore, they can’t understand WHY they can’t hold jobs. It’s mind-boggling that we have people who CAN’T CONNECT THE DOTS. However, your period is NOT REASON ENOUGH to skip ANYTHING. Don’t even start on those few (less than 10%) of women who DO have trouble. As I always point out, chart it on a calendar and see your doctor. Years later, I can name only ONE woman who had anything done. Sad.
This then leads my to my last girly bit of garbage. This is where the “mean girl” goes where she doesn’t belong but acts stupid about it because, well, “How was I supposed to know?” Truly, my inner Irish nun wants to smack girls who pull this stunt. It’s an insult to me as a woman to think these girls are promoting being so stupid as to NOT KNOW where she is supposed to be. This type of “logical lying” fills me with extreme disgust. The only thing that makes it worse is its acceptance by adults. Again, how old are you that you can be manipulated by a 12-year old? You believe ALL lies or just those told by “cute little girls?”
As I told my students, you try one of these stunts, be prepared to a) get caught and b) be punished for them. You had better predict WHAT will happen. If only because I told you in advance what I expected. Your punishment will be TWICE AS LONG and TWICE AS HARD. Why? Because I expect MORE from you.
In fact, I expect more and better from every woman.