Tag Archives: Schoolgirls

Schoolgirls

I shot off a post a few weeks ago while in the middle of Schoolgirls by Peggy Orenstein, a book I chose because I so enjoyed Cinderella Ate My Daughter and was curious about the author’s take on life as a junior high girl.

Some of the stories presented were so foreign to me, I didn’t know what to think; the first half of the book, detailing life at a suburban middle school somewhat like my own, was filled with girls so afraid of getting something wrong in class that they never spoke or volunteered answers.  The same girls were pinched, grabbed, and harassed in hallways while school officials simply said that “boys will be boys.”

Then I realized the book was written in 1994.  I was in junior high in 2000 and in a small, Midwestern town.  Maybe we’ve come a long way since then?  Maybe my itty bitty, small town experience was just a different planet compared to the coasties?  I’m not sure which is the case (I’m hoping the former and that schools can really pat themselves on the back for making gender equality better in the classroom), but either way, the book simply didn’t resonate with me.  I felt sorry for the girls, women now of about 30, and the various body image, familial, academic, and social problems they were facing…but I just couldn’t seem to invest myself in the book.

So, I guess I’m walking away from it saying “meh”.  I also think I’m walking away from reading about issues related to public school for a while: the Professor and I decided years ago, before we were even married, that we would be homeschooling our kids.  Now, while Pookie is still in diapers, is the time to be thinking about, researching about, and planning for that chapter in our lives…not arming myself for a fight that isn’t mine.

A Gripe

I raved earlier about Cinderella Ate My Daughter, a book about the girlie-girl-ness of being, well, a little girl today and all the implications that may or may not have.  I enjoyed the book, it made me think, and it changed the way I look at certain aspects of princess play, Barbies, etc.

So I was really excited to pick up Orenstein’s previous tome, Schoolgirls, taking the same sort of approach to girls in middle school.  Though it was published in 1994, the girls Orenstein writes about could very well be your current neighbors: they struggle with eating disorders, sexual harassment, the constant urge to look desirable while being told that they’ll be considered sl**s if they actually feel desire.  Their tales are gripping and eye-opening, but I’m struggling with Orenstein’s main thesis.

Her premise is that girls are taught to be docile, “sweet”, to play the rules; meanwhile, boys are taught those things with words but their outbursts are tolerated and even coddled or pushed aside as “simply boys being boys.”  The author comes to the conclusion that we should be pushing girls to be more aggressive and outspoken.

As a Christian, I feel that Orenstein–and perhaps a lot of other feminists and women’s issue writers–has pinned down the wrong problem.  I think we need to teach our young men to be real men.

I worked in a public school before Pookie was born.  I spent full hours searching the halls and grounds for sixth grade boys skipping out on math–hours when I should have been tutoring kids in multiplying fractions. Why is this tolerated?

Boys were loud and obnoxious in class, but the repercussions were never much.  Why is this tolerated?

A boy in the lunchroom had smeared ketchup (accidentally) all over a bench.  Other kids told me and pointed it out; the boy was embarrassed and refused to clean it up.  Instead of lecturing, I appealed to his masculinity–but the real kind, the gentlemanly, chivalrous kind: “I guess somebody’s just going to have to be the hero and clean this up.”  He blinked while my words soaked in, wiped up the ketchup, and tossed away the dirtied napkins with a big grin.  It became my go-to tactic, to ask boys to be heroes.

Sorry, this post is disjointed and not entirely well-written…I’m just trying to work through my thoughts on the issue of boys and girls and discipline and what’s truly the matter with how they act, because I’m certain it has less to do with a need for female dominance than feminists want us to think.

Care to chime in on the subject?  I’d love to hear other experiences or opinions!