I just love it when some educated, articulate media figure (usually a man, occasionally a woman) works themselves into a lather about the “shocking” –horrifying, troubling, astonishing or incredible – “fact” that young women are increasingly violent.
“The latest figures for the number of women arrested for violent behaviour are shocking. Put simply, there has been a 100 per cent increase since 2002-03, from 42,200 to a whopping 87,200,” Janet Street-Porter writes solemnly in the Independent.
Street-Porter – a fairly terrifying woman herself, but one I can’t help liking for her When I’m old I shall wear purple dedication to bright hair and bad fashion – is usually a brave commentator, but she swings and misses with her lazy analysis of the what lies behind stories such as the one she recounts of a group of schoolgirls attacking police officers in Croydon.
She gets as far as using the phrase “working-class” then veers away from what must be the point of any honest reflection on these “shocking” statistics. The issue isn’t gender, it’s class. There, I said it. Now can we all stop pretending the endless hand-wringing about out of control youth is about anything other than class? The clue is Croydon in her anecdote. We’re talking about chavs, proles, Reebok-classic wearing, gold-hoop-earring-sporting, cider-swilling, getting knocked up behind the proverbial bike sheds slags. (Even the title is a classic piece of misdirection. These are not “our” little girls.)
These young women, the ones without opportunity and education, “are demanding the same kind of ‘respect’ as their male counterparts.” And why not? If lower-class males have few prospects and little hope females have even less. Women earn significantly less than men in every profession and the wage gap widens the further down the social ladder you go. Though to be honest, that’s probably not a huge issue for a lot of these girls. Negotiating sexuality, poverty and peer-pressure doesn’t leave a lot of time to worry about equal opportunities.
It’s not much of a stretch to assume the young women behaving in these “shocking” ways have probably seen their fair of shocking too. At best, poverty and struggle; at worst violence, sexual abuse and being unfairly burdened with care (younger siblings, feckless parents or their own children, born too soon).
Why the fuck shouldn’t they lash out? Why should poor girls and women melt submissively into the background? Uneducated doesn’t equal stupid. You don’t have to fully understand the rules of social hierarchy to feel visceral rage at being relegated to the bottom of the heap through no fault of your own. No shit they’re going to attack cops, schoolteachers and social workers: they represent the system. They are the enemy in a very real war.
The solution isn’t to blame other working-class women (Street-Porter singles out Jordan, aka Katie Price, as a poor example. I agree, incidentally, but that is resoundingly beside the point). The solution is, as Marx & Engels suggested, nothing less than revolution. “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains” – and the burden of being used to flog Sunday broadsheets.