Talk about the rubber hitting the road! You may have noticed a curious silence from me this weekend – allow me to tell you the reason why.
So, Friday afternoon, PinkyPinkyPie, who is 11, was walking home from school with her little brother LittleDude and a few other kids from the neighborhood, as per usual. The school is on the dividing line between two neighborhoods, one to the East and one to the West and kids generally set off in one direction or the other. On Friday, two boys from the East neighborhood decided to follow the kids going West.
Pinky and her group didn’t think much of it, but when Pinky left her other friends at the street corner, the two boys Dickwad1 and Dickwad2 started talking to LittleDude, who is seven years old!! He’s in Grade One!
They offered him crack.
What the fuck?
These boys are in the fifth grade, although not in the same class as Pinky. She knows their names, but not where they live.
“What’s crack?”, asked LittleDude. How would he know?
Pinky intervened immediately and told LittleDude that crack was a kind of drug and that he should not talk to or trust either of the Dickwads. She held LittleDude’s hand and they started towards our house.
That’s when Dickwad1 yelled “we’re gonna break into your house and rape you in your sleep!”, with Dickwad2 chortling his agreement.
Well, those boys picked the wrong kid to fuck with. They clearly have no idea who Pinky’s mother is.
I’m telling you this story because I want to discuss MY reaction, and not Pinky’s. It’s a fine line between exploiting your children (oh hello, Shona Sibary), and referring to them as a useful illustration of an important issue. Suffice to say, Pinky and LittleDude burst through the front door and told me what had happened immediately.
My first call was to the school principal. My second call was to the police. My third call was to Eddie the Barber. I’ll go through each of these calls separately.
The School principal is a nice enough man, and I’m sure his job is neither easy nor pleasant all the time. Who’s is? One of the more difficult things he has to do is integrate children from different social backgrounds into the regular milieu of the school. As I’ve mentioned before, children from troubled or very poor families are integrated into regular neighborhoods in our town, rather than housed in some sort of council or ghetto.
Often, but not always, these children are part of distinct racial minority that gets rather a lot of bad press, some of it deserved, and some not so much. This group is plagued with problems of substance abuse, lots of single motherhood, physical abuse and neglect of children and sadly, a lot of sexual violence against children.
And yes, the two little dickwads were part of this racial minority. In my conversation with the Principal, I suggested that he immediately investigate the school’s liability in a situation like this one. And I assured him that I would pursue that liability to the ends of the fucking earth if it came to that, which didn’t surprise him all that much. He kind of knows me.
I let him know that he needed to have the boys names, addresses, dates of birth, all relevant information at hand as the police would be in touch with him soon. Our conversation was curt, to say the least. He wanted me to just let the school handle the situation.
Not fucking likely.
My second call was to the police, who took the threats very seriously, and once I identified the kids as being part of a particularly troubled social group, they moved my case to top priority and dispatched officers to take statements from the kids. I also asked them to obtain social services records to see if the boys had ever been in foster care, had ever had contact with the police before, had ever been the victims of physical or sexual violence themselves. I also wanted to know if any close family members had been convicted or charged with drug offences. How do we understand offering LittleDude crack? Is that for real? The police assured me those were the first things they would do.
Okay, so police and school principal are on it. I should just leave it at that, no?
Not a chance. My third call was to Eddie the Barber. Eddie has been cutting hair in this town for 52 years, and in all those years, he’s met a few people. If Eddie doesn’t know you, he knows your cousin. And Eddie has long railed against the town’s housing policy of integrating poor and troubled families for precisely the reason I was describing. He doesn’t think it’s fair to expose children from more affluent, stable families to children who come from wildly different experiences, because children have no way to process that information or defend themselves against other children who have had a much rougher go of things.
I can see both sides of the argument, but my principal concern was to do a threat evaluation. Are these boys talking out their asses, or is there a real reason to be concerned?
Within 30 minutes, Eddie knew the Detective assigned to my case, he had the boys records from Social Services, he had alerted the town council and called a few lawyers to check on the school’s liability: it’s pretty high. The lawyers also had some suggestions as to what I could ask for in terms of containing any future threats or situations against my daughter.
Cost of legal advice: zero. Unless you count all the haircuts Mr. JB has gotten from Eddie over the past seven years. God, I love small towns.
It turns out that the boys have no previous contact with either social services or law enforcement and have never even been in trouble at school. There is no history of drugs or any criminal behavior in the immediate family. The boy’s parents were completely appalled at their son’s behavior and were totally co-operative with the police. Two uniformed officers went to the boy’s homes and scared the shit out of them.
They have received suspensions from school, and they have to write letters of apology to my daughter (which she does not want and said she refuses to read, and I’m fine with that. I’ll read them.). Their parents have told them they are not to be in the West neighborhood period, and the school crossing guards have been alerted and will watch for the boys trying to cross the street.
But to me, this is still not over. No way. I want a meeting with the parents and the boys and the school principal, but it will have to wait until Mr.JB calms down a bit. He didn’t think any of my phone calls were necessary. Mr. JB, JudgyAsshole and BigMike all responded the exact same way: little boys who talk like men need to run into a few men and learn a thing or two about owning your words. They seriously wanted to find the boys and beat the shit out of them.
They still do.
I’m pretty sure they won’t, but god help those kids if they show up in this neighborhood and any one of the guys see them. Of course, once the police cars were in our driveway, the whole neighborhood wanted to know what was up, and I’d say those boys better steer far clear of this street. It’s not just Mr.JB they have to worry about.
Now here is where the whole situation gets a bit tricky. I’m angry beyond belief that two boys from seemingly normal families would dare to say such a thing to anyone, not just my daughter. It turns out they HAVE made similar threats before, but none of the other girls told their parents. They just shrugged it off.
That’s unbelievably sad.
I want to meet with the parents and the boys and the school to have one conversation in particular: WHY WOULD YOU SAY SUCH A THING?
“We’re going to break into your house and rape you in your sleep?”
I think it has to do with bravado, with seeming cool and strong and powerful, and while I want to put the fear of god into those boys about ever saying such a thing again, I do NOT want to shame them for wanting to feel powerful and strong. What those boys need is a strategy for how to achieve those feelings without needing to resort to violence and fear and threats.
I think they’re negotiating what it means to be a man, and they have received some incredibly powerful, brutally negative portrayals of masculinity from the media. I would like to meet their fathers and have a frank discussion about how these boys are interpreting what manliness means. And you want to talk about rape culture? It seems that the ubiquitous depiction of men as rapists has sunk deep into our culture indeed.
Twelve year old boys are already imagining themselves rapists. Feminism blames patriarchy for that, but it isn’t patriarchy that claims all men are potential rapists and should be treated that way, is it? Zerlina Maxwell says we should teach men not to rape, which presupposes they just might accidentally rape someone without this important training. I suppose we should train them all not to rob convenience stores while we’re at it?
How much of this is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Treat all men as rapists, and make sure boys internalize that image, and guess what you get?
Twelve year old boys threatening to rape their classmates.
How fucking lovely.
And now that I have some personal experience with the matter, it absolutely boggles my mind that feminists rail against teaching girls to protect themselves. Under no circumstances did Pinky do ANYTHING to deserve those boys threatening her in a very frightening way. But those boys exist. They live in our city. They go to HER school. They are out there, and while these ones appear to be harmless, some of them won’t be.
Between the school and our house, Pinky has many, many people who know what happened, and to whom she can turn. She knows now that she should never walk home alone. She needs to be with friends. Mr. JB and I have installed a private texting app on all our phones and she is learning to keep us up to date on her whereabouts. We’re not going to severely restrict her movements to keep her safe, but we are training her to recognize that bad people are out there, as well as many more good, and that there are things she can do to enhance her own security and safety.
The boys are under a school suspension and they have been ordered to never speak to Pinky for any reason. They are not to go near her, and if they do, THEY will be the ones to have their movements restricted. If they violate the school’s mini-restraining order, they will be forced to remain in the office after school until an adult comes to escort them home. I’ll bet that will make mom and dad really happy.
This is still very raw for Pinky, but ultimately I want her to see that the boys were acting like assholes, based on images about men and manhood that they see depicted in the media and culture all around them. I expect her to gain some compassion for them over time, but never risk her safety by deciding they might be harmless to be around.
They might not be, and she has some responsibility to ensure her own well-being by never trusting those two boys in particular, and by always letting us know where she is. Pinky is a rather cautious person by nature, so I don’t think that will be a problem.
It makes me absolutely sick to think that twelve year old boys have internalized such awful images of masculinity. What kind of media are they being exposed to? How are they being parented? I want to meet the parents and take my own evaluation, do my own threat assessment. When I spoke to the police officers after they had visited the boys at home with their parents, they felt the boys had little comprehension of what they were saying, were remorseful and embarrassed and that the parents were humiliated and angry. Okay, fair enough. They should be. But until I have made my own assessment, I will be walking the kids to and from school.
Ultimately, Pinky is OUR responsibility. As her parents, Mr. JB and I are ultimately accountable for her safety and well-being. We can teach her that she did not, and never will, deserve to be threatened with rape or any other kind of assault, while still teaching her some street smarts.
That’s not victim-blaming. It’s victim-preventing.
We won’t be having that meeting with the parents just yet, as it will take very little to provoke Mr. JB into actions he will regret. At the end of the day, he doesn’t care how those boys have been socialized or what kind of damaging stereotypes they have ingested from popular culture. They threatened his baby. And he would rather kill them than allow any harm to come to his daughter.
I don’t actually think it would hurt those boys to see a little righteous wrath from Pinky’s father.
You can be strong. You can be powerful. You can be angry. You can even be violent. But only when you are doing those things to protect the people you love. You can be all those things in service to others.
Those boys couldn’t find a better man to emulate than Mr. JB. At the moment, they will have to observe him from the distance. Up close, they might find that threatening to hurt a man’s daughter can have some painful consequences.
Lots of love,