Tag Archives: Children

CyberBullying, Feminism, Mean Girls, Queen Bees and Boys

“Remember the days of the old school yard? We used to…”


The memory of my school days is rising up my throat, threatening to choke me. I’ve just finished watching 4 Corners on Cyberbullying. Today, two young boys (10 and 11) have just been charged with attempted murder of two younger boys in the UK. Today, my daughter tells me she’s the 2nd most hated girl in her year and she never has anyone to sit with at lunchtime. I hate to think what’s happening for the most hated girl… but i’ve seen her. And the boy in my son’s class that no-one will sit next to. And I’m scared that all of my children are treading close to the edge.

I think yearning for romance has more to do with a desire for the security of a relationship that keeps the schoolyard outside than about desire alone! Today, I’m reflecting on the entrenched antifeminism that is at the heart of navigating adolescence.

I’m halfway way through “Queen Bees and Wannabees” by Rosalind Wiseman, which was on the recommended reading list from Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, (see 4 Corners program above) and author of “Real Wired Child” and other titles (see previous post).

As it says in “Devil in the Daughters” (a fantastic review by Chloe Hooper):

Queen Bees and Wannabes is, by its own definition, an excruciating read. This is not to diminish Wiseman’s skill at deconstructing the make-up of the teenage court in all its Byzantine detail. (Opening her handbook was like being kidnapped and taken to a dark-hearted land, where I soon realised unfortunately I spoke the language fluently.)

Today. My almost 10yr old girl is heading for puberty and says that everyone hates her. She’s probably not the only one who feels that way but how would she know that? And what about my gorgeous gentle sensitive son? I’ve noticed that he’s heading for the losers and nerd boys corner of the playground more and more, in spite of being on the soccer team.

The first people I talked to about this book and my fears said, “I’ve got boys. It’s different. They don’t bully like girls. They just have a fight and get over it.” #FAIL

Getting past the personal though is why I’m getting passionate about Rosalind Wiseman and Empower.

The Owning Up™ program is based on the premise that social cruelty, degradation, and violence can be deconstructed and understood by examining how our culture teaches boys to be men and girls to be women. Further, the curriculum teaches children the skills to speak out against injustice and recognize that they have a responsibility to treat themselves and others with dignity.

I think that Queen Bees is a fine piece of feminist analysis, with racial and sexual prejudices opened up as well. Wiseman points out that she works equally with boys and girls, and that society’s definition of masculinity influences boys away from strength, individuality and towards violence, bullying and groups in the same way that definitions of femininity trap girls.

Boys and men who speak out against sexism or publicly support girls and women run the risk of being ridiculed by their peers as “fags”, “sissies”, “pussies” or in some circles “sensitive new age guys”. The often unexamined implication is that real men wouldn’t willingly support sexual equality and justice. (Women and girls who challenge male power or assertively confront sexism are often labeled “dykes” or “male-hating lesbians,” which effectively silinces many girls and women.)

This name-calling can have a powerful effect on boys’ and men’s willingness to break their complicit silence. They might have a well grounded fear that if they speak up, they too will be targeted for abuse.”

Wiseman is quoting Jackson Katz from “More Than a Few Good Men” (also over at Huffington Post).

The irony, she points out, is that in living up to the male ideal, boys and men learn to act cowardly. SILENCE is KING. Wiseman asserts that the marginalisation of feminism is doubly damaging. Feminists are seen as being anti-male rather than protesting gender and therefore men are not constructed as being victims of gender violence – as most boys and men are.

Just for today, I believe that feminism cannot succeed without unpacking the violence of group dynamics and stereotypes both masculine and feminine.

No great female artists? stay posted

can’t finish this one today but as i listened to the offspring harmonize at government house today, the evocations of baroque musicians sent shivers down my spine.

Perhaps it was the larger than life sized portraits of men staring over my shoulders, but I found myself wondering if my girls (who were attracting attention but more for their looks than their music) would suffer the same fate as Anna Magdalene Bach, or Artemisia Gentilischi or any other great female artist.

Appropriated, denied or destroyed.

Fly by Night – Frances Hardinge

Cheap book shops are one of the world’s great mysteries and joys. Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge is the best book I’ve read for a long long time. It was on the discount table. Go figure.

An oddly ironic place given the nature of the book itself and the free exchange of ideas and literature.

Orphaned daughter of an exiled intellectual, Mosca Mye runs away from home, pausing only to collect her sidekick, a pugnacious gander, and to burn her uncle’s mill to the ground in vengeful remembrance of things past. An overheard conversation sends her to rescue a travelling con-artist from the stocks, in the belief that he might prove useful to her, and together they leave the waterlogged village of Chough, where the petrifying springs bleach everything chalk-white, and head for a life of opportunity in the riverside towns and cities of the Fractured Kingdom.

.. from a rather sour review in the Guardian by Jan Mark. The Written Nerd has a more interesting review (to my mind) as he/she likes the book and is comparing two recent childrens works around the theme of censorship. Fly by Night and The Lost Colony by Grady Klein.

Strange Horizons’ review by Farah Mendelsohn touches upon Fly by Night in a review for Hardinge’s more recent book, Verdigris.

2042: Art on the Street – Newtown

I love that when the kids walk to school they have to go past the fierce car eating ants at King St Auto. No wonder our school has an Ant-Bullying Policy (sic).

Carcutter is a sculpture by Dillon McEwan and is in the forecourt of the always funky Newtown Auto as part of 2042: Art on the Street.

Ant Bullying at Newtown Public School

Newtown Public School’s Ant Bullying Perspective is described as an important part of School Policy in a school which strives to be a supportive environment for supporting the environment.

We all know that ants think they rule the world. Well, we’re not going to take it any more! Those deadly little fascist dictators will not prevail. Our lands have been besieged. Our liberty and picnics stolen. Our valiantly virulently green p&c is leading the charge with plans to astroturf our entire grass area. Or possibly even concrete it in true Fedterranea style!

So what do we teach our children, where and why? Are literacy and numeracy vastly overrated?
Primary schools have approx 1 hour a week for half a year for ‘science’! This is usually integrated with HSIE – Human Society and Its Environment aka history, geography and social studies. That’s why I started the science club after school (attended by more than 50% of students!).

Teachers have little specialist science training and access to no interesting resources or materials. No labs. No chemicals. No … you name it. Generally, I think the state of education in NSW is pretty good. Certainly it is in Newtown, where we have a demographic which enables parent support for many extra initiatives, comparatively little movement in teacher and student population and a range of incomes and backgrounds.

Still, are parents the difference? And what we are teaching our children? A couple of weeks ago, Tim Hawkes, the head of The King’s School, wrote a frank and thought-provoking opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald about how our education system is failing to provide students with information they might actually use in their adult lives.

And from T. H. White;

‘Wart found that he had tumbled off the drawbridge, landing with a smack on his side in the water. He found that the moat and the bridge had grown hundreds of times bigger. He knew that he was turning into a fish.
“Oh, Merlyn,” cried the Wart. “Please come too.”
“Just for this once,” said the large and solemn tench beside his ear, “I will come. But in future, you will have to go by yourself. Education is experience, and the essence of experience is self-reliance.”

Kerriejean throws down the gauntlet

KerrieJean, I might fit your target but I’m too big a person to rise to the bait! Garn, push me again! Andra

*I note, with mounting concern, the increasing reports of ‘up themselves’ parents hothousing children.

Hothousing, of course, refers to children having schedules more appropriate for US presidential candidates. It is now common for a typical day to start with juvenile Esperanto lessons, followed by highly competitive spelling bees conducted in Welsh, and then along to talent spotting trials for the London Olympics pole vaulting squad….and all this, well before school.

Despite constant warnings from concerned psychologists, parents (particularly working ones struggling on the newly determined poverty line of 150,000 dollars per annum) show NO signs of letting up.

blog it

Dr Who is Phenomenal

Dr Who is Phenomenal. I watch with my children, remembering my childhood. It is riveting exciting and provocative and it seems so appropriate in so many ways. I wonder about writing, I watch the confidential. I think about blogging about feminism i compare Donna Noble, Billie Piper and Martha Jones. I think about family and the nature of time, etc.