I read this article today because a friend posted a link to it on Facebook, quoting a line that at first didn’t seem especially evocative, given the real trauma of this topic: “You have no idea what it’s like to be a girl.”
It’s a well-written article, important, published in Rolling Stone this past September. You should read it. Why? Because it’s haunting. Because it’s terrifying. Because it shows that what feminists are fighting for is, literally, life or death. Without the huge superstructure of sexism that our culture rests on and in, this story would never have happened. The 15-year-old girl who committed suicide after having been sexually assaulted while she was passed out drunk and then subjected to shame and ridicule from friends and authority figures because the perpetrators posted photos of her naked body–she was the victim not only of a crime committed by boys who were her own acquaintances, but of an idea perpetrated by every aspect of the popular media every day: that women are bodies primarily made for sex, and not quite real human beings.
I am shaken, after reading this. The boys considered what they did a “prank.” They stripped an unconscious girl, drew on her with markers, touched her private parts, and posted pictures of her naked body–and, yes, without her consent (though legal consent cannot be given by a 15-year-old, nor someone who is under the influence). And then both they and other people shamed her for what happened.
I know this happens. I am not naive. It happened when I was in high school, and when my mother was in high school, and when her mother was. What’s new is just how immediate, pervasive, and inescapable the public shaming was. Young people may leave the building when the school day is over, but they don’t leave high school: it is always there, on social media, in instant messaging and text. They are in that surreal pot of self-consciousness and hormones and immaturity and judgment and peer pressure and insecurity ALL THE TIME.
And unfortunately, some of the most pernicious aspects of the larger society can be amplified in that self-contained high school society. So that, when this terrible series of events happened, it really did hinge on the truth that boys “have no idea what it’s like to be a girl.”