I have spent the last four years, closely observing the modern teenage girl. Not in a creepy, stalker, hang around school playground type of way.
OK, I did occasionally hang around school playgrounds, but it was my job and I was paid to do it.
Also, before I get complaints about why I’m not addressing the behaviour of boys, I just want to admit, I don’t know enough about boys, mainly because I worked in a Girl’s House.
Living in a boarding school allows you a lot of time to really get to know the psyche of these strange and sometimes baffling beings. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I just want to address what I see as a worrying development in basic manners.
Somewhere along the way (and personally, I blame the Spice Girls) two things have happened.
Firstly, somehow, being breathtakingly rude is perfectly fine as long as it’s said to someone’s face.
Being a Bitch has somehow become a legitimate behaviour model. Indeed, modern girls like to say something mean and unnecessary then proclaim, loudly and proudly, how much of a bitch they are, followed by, ‘That’s just how I am’ – as if there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it and it’s a kind of involuntary action or automatic response. So now being a bitch is a good thing.
It goes hand in hand with being a ‘strong independent woman’ presumably…
Conversely, at the slightest hint of reciprocal bitchiness, they somehow take immediate offence that anyone could ever utter something so mean and unnecessary. Again proclaiming loudly, ‘She’s such a bitch.’
Suddenly being a bitch is a bad thing again.
Confused? You should try keeping up with an explanation of why W deserved to be slut-shamed on Facebook (Yep, that’s an actual thing now), because she borrowed X’s shoes to go out with the object of Y’s affections and messed them up and now Z can’t wear them.
Secondly, young women have decided that being astonishingly rude is somehow OK as long as they end with, ‘I’m just being honest’.
Don’t get me wrong, honesty is a great thing. But seriously, do they have to be so mean? Haven’t they heard of politeness? Has no-one taught them the concept of an acceptable white lie? The idea that if it would cause upset, the polite thing is to keep it to yourself?
Since when did honesty rank above nice on the acceptable behaviour scale?
I always considered myself the direct sort, but sometimes these modern girls take even straight-talking me aback. Sure, you can think,
“her eyebrows look like two caterpillars fighting”
but there’s no need to utter it out loud!
On the one hand, the feminist in me loves the fact that they are so uninhibited and feel empowered enough to call someone a c*nt (see, I can’t even write it :))
But is it ever necessary to do so?
– especially now that Thatcher’s dead, but I digress…
On the other hand, it’s all just so needless.
In the old days, we all knew who the girls with loose morals were, no-one felt the need to say it out loud, and especially not to their face. Nowadays, a few clicks on Facebook allows you to upload a picture with the word, WHORE underneath it. Ensuring that an entire School community and even future employers, can clearly identify them.
Where did this come from?
I don’t want to lay blame at a specific door, but I will, cos that’s just how I am. I say it straight up!
Reality shows are very dangerous, because they present stereotypes and behaviour that young people believe to be real. It’s there in the description, reality shows. However, instead of reflecting the reality of life, they have created an alternative reality, which is slowly becoming the norm. Young women don’t know that this is mostly staged, because conflict and aggression are good for ratings. No-one wants to watch nice people getting on with each other. It’s much more exciting to watch what happens when Sephora confronts Jacinda, because she’s been talking about her behind her back.
The American shows are seductive, because all the girls are impossibly gorgeous and the boys are so hot. They live in glamorous houses and have exciting lives. It’s easy to imagine that if you act like them maybe you can live like them. We had such shows when I was younger, Dallas and Dynasty come to mind, but they were about grown-ups, not people my age at the time and set in a world so far removed from my own, it was like a different planet. Now, these shows are in school settings and revolve around teenagers doing accessible teenage things.
OK maybe murdering your best friend and covering it up isn’t exactly an accessible teenage thing, but you know what I meant 🙂
All of these things have shaped the way modern girls think.
So, at the risk of coming across like a slightly common version of Debretts, I would like to offer my own attempt to shape the way girls think.
My top five ways to be a better person.
1. You don’t have to be a bitch to succeed in life.
- In fact being nice can often get you to where you want much quicker.
2. Try a little empathy.
- Imagine how you would feel if someone said the same thing to you.
3. Don’t be so quick to get up in someone’s grill (youthspeak, I’m so cool!)
- Conflict might be good to watch on TV, but who wants to live with constant conflict? It’s so stressful.
4. Listen more, talk less
5. Think before you speak
- Before you fly off the handle responding to what you think (or are told) someone has said, just think about it first, then consider points 1-4 above.
To all of you who know me well and are sitting there thinking of the hypocrisy of me telling people to be nice, just remember the most important saying that a teacher can use:
Do as I say, not as I do