On Wednesday 19th August, 2015, BBC Woman’s Hour offered emergency support to beleaguered British girls. The theme of the feature, advertised on their web page was,
‘Teaching girls and young women to stand up for themselves – Natasha Devon, the founder of Self-Esteem Team, and confidence coach, Annette Du Bois, reveal some of the practical ways to teach young women to stand their ground and speak up for themselves.’
The target of their talk was boys, those young demons who refuse to be just like girls. Natasha and Annette set about suggesting ways that girls might stand up to the ruthless ploys and outrageous abuse dished out by bantering, teasing boys and suggested of course that boys should be reeducated to reduce their use of banter, in fact to stop it altogether. (Annette did rather shaft her own argument by declaring that girls should turn to pestering boys and say, ‘I am disinterested.’ Collapse of her party and derision from listening R4 audience.)
This talk came out the day before a survey carried out by the University of York, found that English girls were second lowest for happiness with their body confidence, self-confidence and appearance, just above South Korea, and behind more traditional countries including Colombia,Turkey, Spain and Poland.
The report examined the experiences of 53,000 children and found that girls, like the ones shown in many US teen films, are now being extensively bullied on account of their appearance. They are judged too fat, too thin, too this or that by their peers and in consequence evil messages appear on their computer screens. In consequence girls in England are second lowest for in body confidence, self-confidence and appearance.
On the basis of this, I would suggest that it is not bad boy’s banter which is to blame, but other girls. It could never be said on Woman’s Hour but the problem is a general lack of humour and sense of irony among both girls and women.
Instead of stopping banter it would surely be better to give girls instruction in it and riposte,and try, although it might be hard going, to encourage wit among females. Generally boys make jokes at the expense of each other while girls go in for prolonged, unfunny bitching and mobbing. This carries on in later life. When I was a student the best kitchens and the best houses were occupied by men while the women bitched and seethed away. In offices the best lunches are had with men, their conversation often sparkles, you laugh, with women the talk is often deadly dull.
Many associate humour and appreciation of irony with intelligence and it is therefore lamentable that girls and women lag so far behind. It’s as if we got to Jane Austen and stopped. Jokes and banter are of course about risk, the possibility of losing face and dignity, they are competitive and bold, requiring reciprocal energy and skill. Most girls can’t do it and ‘self-esteem teams’ like the women calling for an end to Prime Minister’s Question Time, can only try to reduce male talent in order to bring about equality. Meanwhile, those boring, mean girls are on the march. But I’d prefer to be on the receiving end of boy’s banter any day.