Paillard: Let's give teen girls a fighting chance

The reason 15-year-old Amanda Todd laid her soul bare in a heart wrenching nine-minute You Tube video only a few weeks before committing suicide was so that others could use it as a learning tool, her mother told the Vancouver Sun this week.

So we all owe it to Amanda to study her excruciating ordeal and learn all the possible ways to reverse a child's progress into bullying. The provincial government had the right approach in launching education programs to address bullying last June.

It's not enough to say "stop the bullying." It's time to define and deconstruct the twisted justification people use for the hatred Amanda endured, just as we do with hatred based on race and sexual preference.

What should we make of Amanda's sexuality being the pretext for her bullies' rage?

Since teenagers' actions are often intensified versions of society's lessons, we need to look at the messages in their surroundings.

Maybe it's a result of the mixed message in being told over and over that a girl's sexiness is her most important quality than turning around and mercilessly judging her as a slut for behaving sexually.

According to her video, Amanda was barely pubescent when she was talked into flashing her breasts online. Her torture began when that predator spread her nude photo throughout the cyber-social network, which in turn elicited vicious attacks. Her isolation sent her spiralling and may well have led to what is widely called (including by Amanda herself) her "big mistake" - she "hooked up" with a boy and he had a girlfriend.

She took all the blame despite being pursued extensively by the boy. And her peer group also blamed her entirely letting the boy off scot-free as they attacked her and left her lying in a ditch.

So why was she brutalized while those who lured her in were left alone? And why was she so ripe for predators in the first place?

The answer leads me to the dreaded F word - feminism.

Since the 1960s, feminist have fought against the same double standards Amanda suffered, yet it has become trendy among young women today to despise that F word.

Somewhere along the way a backlash against the women's liberation movement made its way into our collective psyche and painted all talk of women's rights with the same brush.

The result is that vast numbers of girls now have the lose-lose choice of playing along through indignities or suffering harsh punishments for standing up for themselves. Clearly it's time to revisit feminist notions.

In a tragic twist, Amanda died on Oct. 10, the day before the first international Day of the Girl. The Day of the Girl is meant to bring awareness to the parts of the world where girls are treated much, much worse than in Canada.

But it's also a good time to look into our own backyard and see where we can improve life for girls.

The form of abuse Amanda suffered was unique to girls and is the product of a nasty streak of contempt for women in parts of our society. Given half a chance, girls and boys will learn that they're being manipulated into hating and they'll do what they do best - rebel.

spaillard@kamloopsnews.ca

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