#MeToo and Relational Aggression
Attention-seeking, reckless, and personally vicious: teenage girls have ever been so. But now our society eggs them on rather than restraining them.
When, at age 15, I fell in with what my (wise) mother considered “the wrong crowd of girls,” my friends and I vented our restive energies by smashing Hallowe’en pumpkins, making a spectacle of ourselves at The Bay’s perfume counter by pretending to be “retarded,” and ostentatiously whispering giggled slurs against fellow citizens unfortunate enough to sit near us on the bus as we marauded around town.
Individually, we were decent-enough girls—or at least not actual juvenile delinquents—but in a group we were possessed by a malicious spirit.
Living in the era before #MeToo, “rape culture,” and the victimhood cult, our depredations received the exasperated rebukes by bewildered parents and long-suffering teachers that they fully deserved. Nobody but us thought we merited anything but reprimands.
All that has changed. Now, teenage girls who act out and create misery for others—especially if the others are boys and young men—are celebrated for their courage or praised as valiant survivors. Parents and authority figures excuse and glorify their immoral actions. Little if any concern is expressed for their male victims.
A recent news story shows how difficult it can be to call foul on girls’ relational aggression. A 15-year-old nasty in Cape Elizabeth, Maine who initially received a three-day school suspension for initiating a bullying campaign against a boy at her school has been championed by the ACLU and had her suspension stayed by a judge. Aela Mansmann posted notes in two girls’ washrooms claiming, “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.”
Though she didn’t name the rapist, it seems that nearly everyone in the school knew whom she was targeting: a boy who soon found himself the focus of a whisper campaign brutal enough that he became reluctant to go to school at all. I don’t blame him: there is no worse accusation than to be called a rapist, especially since we all know that girls “never lie” about such things.
When the notes were reported and the girl’s identity discovered, she and two co-conspirators received a three-day suspension for bullying. I’m not in favor of school anti-bullying policies in general, believing that it’s better for students to learn to work things out among themselves, but if there is going to be an anti-bullying policy, this seems a fairly clear-cut case. The girl’s self-defense that she “never intended to single out anyone as a rapist, but was rather highlighting the issue of sexual assault” is an obvious lie. This girl and her friends must have intended for one particular young man to be targeted by whispers, taunts, ostracism, and possibly physical attack. Otherwise, why mention a single “known” rapist?
The school has now been rebuked for its action against the girl, with the American Civil Liberties Union championing her as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, though how making a false accusation to terrorize a male student helps any rape victims is beyond me. A judge claimed the malicious notes were perfectly justifiable, and said the suspension was likely an act of gender discrimination and a free speech issue. The boy’s understandable fear—since accused rapists are often beaten or even killed at women’s instigation—is entirely ignored by the judge. Even the school principal who made the right choice about disciplining this girl and her two friends had to fudge the issue, saying the girls had “meant well.”
The girl is, of course, more than unrepentant, claiming that her victim is the one who should be investigated as a potential rapist, alleging that his coming forward to protest her targeting of him was a kind of self-incrimination! Young men, take note of her name and STAY AWAY. But this is not surprising. Steeped in a culture where anonymous and unsupported allegations like the Shitty Media Men List are considered brave acts of feminist resistance, Aela Mansmann can be forgiven for expecting that she would be hailed as a heroine. And that’s exactly what she has been.