A couple weeks ago, I witnessed something disturbing--children at play. Only it wasn't the fact that children were playing that bothered me, it was what they were doing and, equally important, what the supervising adult was doing (and not doing).
Two boys chased two girls at the playground on my street (all were about 4-5 years old). The girls were running and screaming while the boys continued to pursue. At a glance, it almost seemed playful, but upon further review, it became quite clear that the girls were not having fun. Their faces lit up with panic and, at times, rage. Clearly, the girls did not want to participate, yet the boys kept chasing. Once caught, the girls were squeezed tightly while fiercely struggling and screaming right into the boys' faces. An adult (who I assume to be a childcare worker, as she had a few more little ones with her) made no attempt to intervene. She periodically glanced over at the kids, but never once checked in or said anything.
At one point, the boys cornered the girls on the fence and one girl wiggled away, causing one of the boys to trip and fall. He screamed, clutching his foot. Only at that point did the adult come over. "She broke my ankle!" the boy cried, as the woman approached. She turned to the girl and said, "tell Noah you're sorry." The little girl looked down at her shoes and said, "I already said I was sorry." My blood was boiling. First of all, that little puke was faking, which was made all the more obvious as he ran off toward the swing set right after, but that wasn't my main concern.
You see, I've been that little girl--the one who had to be polite while the little boy acted out his aggression. The one who screamed until my throat hurt only to learn that nobody listened. Nobody took me seriously. That was a loooooong time ago, yet not much has changed.
Maybe that's why I was so shaken up by what I witnessed that day on the playground. Maybe it all came back...the two brothers on my street chasing me around at the park without their clothes on and holding me down, then shaming me at school the next day as if I did something wrong...the boy who pushed me so hard off the swings that I swallowed dirt and snapped my neck back and, when I pushed him back and he cried, his mother told me that I was a "nasty girl" who was not well behaved...the boy in grade one who punched me in the face because he "liked me." That's the excuse his father gave.
On the bus, after departing from the playground, my blood continued to rapidly boil, so I scribbled down some notes about a blog post that I might publish. I intended on posting something immediately, as I was so fired up but, for some reason, I wanted to allow myself time to simmer down. Time to reflect. I'm not sure whether I needed it, or whether I thought that you, the reader, needed it. That I might write something a bit too heated. Funny, I've never worried about that before.
In any case, I'm glad I waited, because about a week later I came across something important while scrolling through my Facebook feed. My friend Danielle had shared a link to a blog called The Belle Jar. The post, Being a Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence, really struck me--it was something I could relate to. I thanked her for sharing, and then she offered to share something else--a story of her own.
I am so thrilled to be able to feature her writing--to have another voice on this platform for a change. Please read her contribution bellow.
Thanks for sharing, Danielle!
I am five. I push a girl off of her bike because an older girl in my townhouse complex
tells me to. We watch as she hits the ground, scrapes her knee.
Her parents watch too.
From the kitchen, her father runs out to us. He grabs me by my shoulders and shakes me.
He yells at me. I warble like a bobble-head.
With one arm, he lifts me up in the air. With his other arm, he starts to hit me.
He hits me until he leaves handprints on my back and butt.
He hits me until I piss myself.
I am five years old.
I am very afraid.
I walk home sobbing. My mother listens to my story as she wipes snot from my face and
puts baby powder on the handprints he left on my body.
She tells me not to tell my father.
She is also afraid.
~Danielle Nancy Alaska
I'm finally doing it--pulling my insides out and splattering them around for all to see. Here we go!