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16 April, 2009

School Daze and the Mobs

Inspired by some talk elsewhere in the blogworld and such about abuse and female abusers ...

I'm not actually going to go into depth on the mommy issues front, though that is obviously a major factor; I want to write about adolescent dynamics.

It has always been easier for me to write about the bullying from the boys; it was so concrete and clear and distinct. I can trace chunks of things to those specific actions, those specific situations. And it's ... acceptable, easy, part of the standard narrative, for a woman to write about trauma inflicted by male entities, to put stories about sexual harassment or violence out in the forefront and talk about them. Talk about this, and one will get the support and the emotional recognition and the sense of community that comes of having the experience recognised and categorised as like the rest of us.

In my early adolescence, there were adults (sex largely irrelevant, generally positively inclined towards me), background people (sex largely irrelevant, generally just Face In Crowd people and irrelevant), individuals (sex depending on the individual; of the individuals who were actually positive presences in my life, the overwhelming majority were male), and The Boy Mobs and The Girl Mobs.

To the Boy Mobs, I was a target: prey, a toy, an isolated female-appearing figure with no support network, an object on which they could vent their explorations of sexuality. I was under no illusions that they were friendly; their hostility and depersonalisation was simple and straightforward enough that it presented a certain amount of protection from them: what I saw was what I got. It just happened that what I saw was negative.

Girl Mobs were ... complicated. For the most part they were content to treat me with a distant, mocking derision, laughing when they did not ignore me. Sometimes they stared, making great goggle-eyes of pointed attentiveness to the space alien; every so often one might detach to approach me and ask a question - pop culture, stylish fashion, that sort of thing - in order to determine that yes, I was completely incompetent at socialising like real people and take that information back to the Girl Mob to titter over.

For some reason, though, I thought the Girl Mobs might be less hostile. I suspect because I had picked up on some of the cultural assumptions that People Of My Sex Are My Natural Allies And Likely To Think Like Me, because there's no damn good reason to think of it otherwise. Perhaps it was also because they were more likely to be content to simply ignore my existence than make a game of me, and that might almost pass for benign. Sometimes, when a member of a Girl Mob would approach me, she would pass herself off as an Individual, someone with whom I might be able to form a relationship, someone who might be a friend ...

... who might invite me to a slumber party at a nonexistent address.


Boy Mobs were more likely to be physically dangerous, but at least they didn't even pretend to treat me like a potential person in order to get my guard down. I didn't trust them, I didn't have any reason to like them, and even though they hurt me badly, I didn't expect anything but hurt from them, so there was no betrayal.

Girl Mobs, when they deigned to notice me, lived for the joy of crushing hope and destroying the dregs of capacity for trust that my mother left me. At least they generally considered me beneath their notice, and besides, setting up a good and proper backstab takes more finesse than trying to cop a feel on the bus.


Erin C. said...

Ouch. Your description of Boy Mobs and Girl Mobs is pretty much a spot on description of my junior high experience, except that in my case the Girl Mob eventually coalesced into a uniformly hostile enough entity that I was able to write them off as thoroughly as I did the Boy Mob. As lonely as it was to be in an eight-person class with seven other people who made torturing me their hobby, there was a kind of cold comfort in finally knowing that, no, there is no possibility of anything else with these people.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I suspect that I had the advantage of having a large enough school that that level of coalescing into uniformity was less likely -- less reinforcement of the "Everyone pick on this person" due to dilution of all the people who just don't care, plus other social entertainments.

Tajavi said...

I feel what you're saying. I was severely bullied and sexually abused for four years, at *three different schools*. I almost had no choice but to blame myself; you know the saying "what do all your problems have in common"? The difference for me was that, for the most part, boys utterly ignored me...which reinforced the Girl Mob's message that my lack of tits would only ever earn me male attention from pedophiles. Yes, I was told that. I wasn't so much mocked or excluded, as I was terrorized, told that abuse was what I was *for*, that I drew it naturally and deserved it. That was also what I was getting at home, from my Borderline mother. And there's really no memory in my mind, during those years, of Background people or Adults. The mobs did coalesce on me, and adults did seem distant and far away.

The downside was pretty obvious. The submissive posture I'd adopted to placate my mother at home just earned me more hostility at school. The upside was that I finally snapped. It touched off a spark of deep-seated rebellion inside me at the tender age of 13, far deeper than most teenage rebellion. When I gave the finger to the bullshit game the world was asking me to play, as a girl and as an abuse victim, I really, really meant it.

I planted myself in opposition to something, 17 years ago, something demented and soul-killing. Something that lived inside my mother, inside my schoolmates, inside many of my teachers, inside much of our culture. I declared myself the enemy of that *thing*, and I've never renounced that position.

And I think it's acutally helped me live a stronger, happier and more meaningful life, than if the torture hadn't been bad enough to turn me.

Much love, as usual...

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Huh, what I got was "With your kind of body, the only man you'll be able to attract is a closeted homosexual", myself, and not before I was more or less an adult.

Having a Borderline mother: it'll drive you crazy or it'll make you snap and take a stand against that *thing* that will never waver.

Or both. Sometimes it feels to me like both ....