“Why are girls getting into fistfights?”

I’m a feminist.  Feminists are male as well as female.  Feminism means:  I want  equal rights for women but not just equality — progress.

For there is a type of equality that doesn’t mean progress.  We see it almost every day in the news:  So many females try to settle disputes the same as many males do — by punching.

This week here in Pittsburgh, a white woman who has taught in a high school for 20 years was knocked cold by a black mother and her teenage daughter.  The daughter had returned home from school that day, telling her mother that the teacher touched her — on the elbow.  The mother and teen stormed to the school and attacked the teacher.  Of course, somebody took a cell-phone photo.  The teacher was shown lying on the floor unconscious.

Just about every week in the news, there’s a cell-phone video of girls ganging up on a girl at school or in McDonald’s or at a mall — and beating her mercilessly.  The savagery of the attacks is beastly.  The punching and slapping is ceaseless, even when the victim is on the floor.  Punching and kicking continues.  This savagery tells me there is a desperation in the attack — as though this is the only solution, so it has to stick.

There’s always a crowd of other students surrounding the scene, recording it on cell phones, indicating that the ambush was planned and was known to others.  No reason for the attack is ever given in the story, but a good guess is:  They’re fighting over a boy.

Here’s the first lesson these girls could learn:  A friend of mine from seminary told a story in a sermon that when she was in high school, she was asked out on a date — by Bob; and later that day in the hallway, taking books out of her locker, she was talking to a girlfriend who had the locker next to her and who was all excited to share the news — SHE was asked out on a date — by Bob!  The two girls felt awful.  But they resolved right then & there:  They would not let a boy break up their friendship (let alone be the reason for assaulting one another and getting arrested).

Perhaps that kind of resolve, grounded in self-respect, not allowing oneself to be played for a dupe, would cut down the incidents of assault.

Last night, there was yet another news story — approaching absurdity:  Two stars of women’s pro basketball were arrested at their home for assaulting one another.  The one is 6-foot-8, the other is 6-foot-3.  Both are 24 years old.  They’re engaged to each other.

Back when they announced their engagement on social media nine months ago, they were gushing with excitement and expressions of love.  What happened?  How did these two millionaires get to the point of slugging and strangling one another?

I’m afraid as much as we talk about change for girls and women — breaking into sports, in the medical profession, in business — the hard reality is that many young females act the same old way as in ages past:  They copy their parents.  If the adults in their lives settle arguments with punching, the offspring likely follow suit.

One of the most prominent feminists of all wrote in an autobiography about the first time her husband punched her.  Betty Friedan wrote, “The first time he hit me, he cried.”

Instant regret.

But also instant had been the impulse to punch.  Where did that come from?

I remember talking with a high school teacher in Pittsburgh who had the experience of teaching both in a private secondary school and a public school.  She said it wasn’t even close.  In the public school, in a one-hour class, she would spend 45 minutes managing behavior.

It makes me wonder:  What good really is teaching students all kinds of subjects when the reality is, they don’t even have the basics of how to conduct themselves?  Why not skip teaching them one subject or another, and instead, use the time teach a course called something like “Living.”

How to settle an argument without punching, how to settle a disagreement with not just yelling back & forth but learning to listen well and respond thoughtfully, how to handle disappointment without taking it out on somebody…

It may be too late to teach the adults in their lives.  But the young ones themselves are still within reach.

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