Note: This is strictly from my experience. I know that people I was in gr. 6-8 with will probably have a different view of events but it was my view of it that shaped my decent into and out of depression.
Grade 8 was when my life fell apart. In a notebook I called my “Death Book” I had written the date of when I first cut (sometime in November of 2002) and called it “The Day I Died” (overdramatic much?).
I had switched elementary schools (which go from kindergarten to grade 8 in Durham Region) because I new school (we’ll call SS) was built closer to home and away from the busy main road that I previously had to cross. This meant that I left my best friends and had to make friends with new kids. Even though I knew about 90% of these kids because they went to JD (first school) with me but they weren’t my friends.
I made friends but we were an unstable group of young ladies. Each week we would be “bestest friends” with a different girl in the group. We constantly talked behind each others backs and sometimes weren’t nice to each other in person. (Sidenote: one of these girls has now been my best friend for about 12 years)
By the time we all got to grade 8 (we entered in grade 6) a hierarchy had been established. You had the popular crowd, the middle crowd and the losers. I was in the middle crowd but appear to be on the lower end, closer to the losers. How did this look? It meant that I had friends and was invited to hang out but would be ignored, excluded and made fun of.
I have memories of sitting on a couch in my friends basement watching all of our guy friends talk with her, completely ignoring me. These guys also ranked us girls in the order that they would date us. My name never appeared until they had to rank their top 10 and by that point they were running out of girls. I was called ugly, flat chested, stiff (not putting out sexually) and told no one would ever want to date me.
This was my 3rd year of experiencing this and I was finished. I had to do something to make going to this school easier. I cut. Everyone reacted so poorly that I stopped. A few months later a new girl came (we’ll call her F). She became popular but she was strange. She cut herself. I told F that I had cut myself once. She said she didn’t believe me and dared me to cut. So I did. And we both got caught.
Something weird happened at SS after F and I got caught. About 90% of grade 8 girls began cutting.
Cutting became cool. We would sit in our bedrooms (sometimes together) and carve designs, lyrics and words into our skin.
Then cutting became competitive. It became about how could go deeper, who could complete a word, who could cut more, who could handle the pain.
Then cutting became about revenge. Friends would cut themselves to show how much it hurt (whoa…..I just got super triggered….ok I need to power through this now) to see someone you care about hurt themselves. They hoped we would stop because we saw the pain we put them through (this is why I tell people that if they cut themselves to prove a point I will never care, and yes people have tried).
All the girls would hide out in the washroom on the second floor. We would fight, cry and cut in there. Teachers at first let us go to the washroom in larger groups for support but after awhile few few of us were allowed to go during class. We were watched closely by our teachers (the odd time I’ve gone back to SS I stay away from the washroom).
And as suddenly as this cutting obsession began with the grade 8 girls at SS, it stopped. Except for me. I couldn’t stop. I had found what I had been looking for, something to take the pain away.
So that is how it all began. It’s a fucked up beginning but at least it has a happier ending 8 months self harm free!
All my sisters and I have gone to the same schools for the most part. It has been devastating for me to hear that my baby sister is experiencing the same sexist comments and lack of action that I experienced when I was her age, 13.
I decided to ask my friend Jeff Perera for some help in providing me information about the White Ribbon Campaign so I can pass it along to some important people in charge of Whitby schools. I’m sending my email to the Whitby Trustee, Whitby Superintendent of Education, Safe Schools, and Substance Abuse, Violence Prevention Coordinator.
I’ve sent my letter to my sister to get her to look at it. I don’t want to send it until she has given me the okay!
Here are bits of the email.
Gym is one of the hardest times, as my sister has described it to me. She reports that the boys prefer to not have girls on their team and will avoid including them unless they have essentially proved themselves (ie: on school sport’s teams). The boys continue to comment on how playing against girls will be “easy” and my sister has had her male classmates tell her that because she is a girl it is ok that she is not good at sports. The teachers do nothing to stop these comments or encourage fair playing.
My girl friends and I dreaded gym and were ignored and ridiculed by our male classmates to the point of verbal outbursts and tears. Again, teachers did nothing except get angry, not at the unfair treatment, but at the outbursts which would occur as a result.
While at [high school] I would eventually drop out of Gr.12 co-ed gym from the sexist comments myself and the other girls had to endure…The bulk of this harassment was from a young man who I had attended [elementary school] with. He had said the same things at 13 years old that he was now saying at 17.
I was told repeatedly that girls could not play sports; some of us were made fun of for our appearance and one girl even for her sexual orientation.
My sister has also told me that teachers and staff single out the young girls in regards to their clothing. She has witnessed a fellow female classmate be yelled at by a teacher and threatened with a detention when her shirt rose up a bit when she stood as a result from sitting at her desk. Another staff member said to all the girls, with the boys present, that they should “cover up” despite the young boys wearing their pants below their waists and displaying their underwear.
…the message that one gender should “cover up” over the other sends a message to both girls and boys about what girls should be wearing which has recently been spoken about by local feminist groups (ie: SlutWalk).
I’m hoping the new interactive White Ribbon workshop for young people, especially boys, is something the school board will seriously consider!
A friend of mine, Jeff, is apart of the White Ribbon Campaign which is organized by men who want to end violence against women. The White Ribbon Campaign aims to redefine masculinity and tell boys and men that violence does not make a man!
Recently, Jeff has been speaking at local schools and doing activities with the kids. This post explains some of those experiences!