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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slut List Makes Students Popular




When someone calls a high school girl a "ho" or a "slut" or a "bitch," what does it actually mean these days? I am often rankled by these media-driven labels, now often associated with prideful power and sexual prowess. The negativity of such frequent prejorative usage overwhelms me. Whether a lingistic reflection of environment, an acceptance of colloquial usage, or an accompaniment of comedic language, the label shouts out "Intimidation!" and "Sexual Slur!" to me. Young women deserve no such harassment, and young men bristle when their significant other is labeled with such an offensive term. We are certainly living in strange times with regard to innocence.

Girl-on-girl bullying or hazing is old news by now, for anyone: popular girls organize a perfectly-coiffed and designer-clothed gang; fringe girl is targeted; bullies use their meanness and power to further marginalize fringe girl and reassert their status. Such plots are seen in television fiction, in reality shows, in movies, and in real life.

In an unacceptable example of hazing, Millburn High School seniors in New Jersey blow whistles in girls’ faces and push them into lockers, leaving them afraid to come back to school the next day. As if this behavior isn't bad enough, read further about Millburn's hazing craze. This nasty tradition may be the most damaging or the most desired form of hazing for young women.




Tina Kelley (New York Times, "When the Cool Get Hazed," September 26 2009) reports, "News of a 'slut list' at a top-ranked New Jersey high school last week highlighted two disturbing points: the increasingly explicit and sexual nature of the taunts, magnified by the Internet. And, in another twist, the perception that allegations of promiscuity — however fictional — are a badge of honor, a way into the cool group, and not a cause for shame."

This represents a 180-degree reversal of what a 'slut list' might have meant when the parents of these girls were growing up.

The list and other hazing went on for more than 10 years at Milburn High School in New Jersey. A dozen or more names were written on a piece of notebook paper, with crass descriptions, and copies are passed around — hundreds this year, some say. As shocking as the hazing itself is the lack of responsibility by school officials for allowing it to go on, only lightly checked, over that time. The repercussions are just coming to light.

Even more surprising to many is the prestige that seemed to come to those on the list — even though it accused the anointed girls of sleeping around, lap dancing and lusting after their own brothers.

The list made unsettling links between a girl’s power and popularity and what she allegedly would do with a boy. Or even seven of them.This so-called sign of sexual prowess seemingly raised the status of girls on the forbidden list among their peers. It was "girls' only" machismo.

Kelly continues, "And yet students, recent graduates and even the principal (who, with other administrators, was sent for sensitivity training last week) said a spot on the 'slut list,' which spread on Facebook, has been the way popular and athletic ninth-grade girls have been tapped by their older counterparts to possibly take their place."

One recent graduate commented on the hyperlocal news Web site covering Millburn, “Being on the list means you are rich, you wear expensive clothing, and probably fall under the general umbrella of attractiveness. Essentially, the slut list is the Goldman Sachs daughters list, a distorted assertion of wealth and power within a highly pressured upper middle class environment.”

A reporter for the Web site told Good Morning America she obtained this year's slut list and on it were the names of 21 freshmen out of a class of more than 300. Each entry had vulgar descriptions of the 13- or 14-year-old girls.

This was the way popular and athletic ninth-grade girls had been tapped by their older counterparts to possibly take their place. This year it was created at an alcohol-fueled party and it was worse than ever, one current senior told Good Morning America. (Kate Snow and Kelly Hagan, ABC News, September 23 2009)






With powerful tools like cellphone cameras and the Internet at their disposal, means of carrying out the schemes were close at hand. Rosalind Wiseman, an expert on adolescent female behavior, said hazing and the more graphic sexual stuff are so new, “It’s like a generation passed in the past five years.” She mentioned cases of college girls who hazed younger ones by compelling them to have sex with or give oral sex to certain boys on campus.

The girls on the slut list at Millburn High were as young as 14. Problems can arise among girls in grade school as well. “They’re being conditioned, taught, parented and expected in the schools to be older, more sexualized, snippy and adolescent,” Ms. Wiseman said.

And, believe it or not, this behavior is the kind of childhood bullying so popular that it inspired Mattel to add a new American Girl doll this year — Chrissa, who moves to a new school and is immediately targeted by three girls in her class. Although, this seems pretty tame in relation to the slut list behavior.

Debra Fox, a board member, said she believes it's not important for the board to say they have a zero tolerance for hazing. They also need to act like it, she said. She said school officials should punish all the seniors because that would force out the girls who are at fault. (millburn.patch.com/articles, September 22 2009)




 
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