Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Girls Fight, We Watch

As Marco noted below, I was slated to speak on MSNBC this afternoon and got bumped. So instead, I'm posting some of my thoughts about the YouTube video of two middle-school girls fighting in a school locker room here and will just pretend that I said them on tv. (Sorry Mom, false alarm!)

As an astute observer noted in response to a previous girl fight also posted on YouTube, meanness and occasional violence among teenage girls is nothing new. The voyeurism around it is. American culture is obsessed with the girlfight—-think about the popular obsession with female mud-wrestling. Images of grown women fighting are often sexualized, staged, and designed to scintillate. Like porn. The girls are getting younger. And the fights are getting real.

But what’s really new (again, with homage to said astute observer) is the speed with which actual bad behavior is becoming entertainment. All it takes is a click of a phone. Notice that the girl who shot the clip with the camera on her cell phone made no attempt to break the fight or run to get adult help. Maybe she thought she was watching reality tv. Whatever the case, she was a spectator. Just like the thousands of spectators who then viewed the clip on YouTube. And the tv viewers (like me) who stared in awe as FOX News rolled the clip over and over again this morning on the air.

The YouTube clip is part of a trend. There are entire sites now, like and, virtual repositories of girls behaving badly. I'm terrified at the way this has become entertainment. The violence in the video is scary. And so is the Cleveland school shooting for which I got bumped.

(An early plug for my friend Jessie Klein's excellent book on school shootings, coming from Rutgers UP. The book, The Gender Police, focuses on boys. But Jessie has a chapter on girl fighting, too. Thank you, Jessie, for prepping me today. This post's for you.)


Patti Binder said...

Like the author in the newsday article, I too remember being issued a fight notice by a good friend when I was in middle school. I was petrified. Lots of people standing around watching, a big scene. I know we threw punches but I don't really remember how long it went on. What I do remember is that lots of people did stand around and watch, nobody went for adult help then either. Maybe we didn't look like we were really going to hurt each other, I don't know.
My point is that a) I am really glad there's no video of me fighting someone in middle school on the internet now and b) I agree that the big fuss here is the way people get into it, not that girls fight.
I hope you get a chance to comment on television, Deb!

Deborah Siegel said...

Thanks, Patti. Can't wait to see you on there too! And scary re the memory of a fight notice--and a fight. That would terrify me. I'm a wimp. I'd run.

Patti Binder said...

Hey Deb! Wellllll.... about the running. There was another time in middle school when I was riding my bike home and got cornered by some neighborhood kids-- one of the tough girls wanted to throw down for some reason and I was seriously scared. Just when it looked like it was about to turn physical some kid on a skateboard rode down the street and their heads turned and I peeled off in my bike and pedaled home...

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