I'm feeling really sad and contemplative today. I read yet another account of a young woman who committed suicide as a way to escape bullying and slut-shaming.
On October 24th, Felicia Garcia, a 15-year-old Staten Island teenager, ended her life when she jumped in front of a subway train. Garcia had been bullied and slut-shamed by four football players whom she allegedly had sex with at party the weekend prior. Afterwards, the boys began teasing and physically harassing Garcia at school.
What is wrong with the world?
A couple of weeks ago, we heard the story of Amanda Todd, who after being bullied and slut-shamed relentlessly for years by an older man committed suicide. Todd was also 15-years-old.
My heart aches for you, teenage girls. I can only imagine what it's like to go to school nowadays when Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are in full effect--when you're existing, changing, growing up for all to see at all times.
I am positive that my middle school and high school years would have been much more painful had social networking been involved. And not to blame social networking for everything--it can be used in some really great, creative ways--but, for some individuals it provides safety to bully--and that's a damn shame.
With the news of these many suicides, I keep thinking of the Bikini Kill lyric, "Who is it that told me all girls who write must suicide?" I keep asking myself, who is it that told these girls that they need to apologize for breathing, for living, for expressing themselves? When all these girls were trying to do was exist, and get through some of the hardest years in one's adolescent life, they were ridiculed. They were silenced. They were shamed.
I think about these young women ending their just-blooming lives, and I feel so upset by it all. Teenage girls are so amazing and have the capacity to do powerful things in this world. This is, inevitably, why they are pushed towards suicide--because others are scared of their power. It's not just teenage boys who fear them; it's most men. Teenage girls who choose to exist and truly live in their lives freely upset society-at-large.
As a culture, we need to support teenage girls 100% more. We need to eradicate the slut-shaming, the bullying, the bashing, etc. We should want the young women in our culture to survive and thrive. And honestly, at this point in time, I would venture to guess that teenage girls don't feel like many of us actually want them around.
Teenage girls: you are absolutely lovely--even when you feel like shit and think nobody likes you--someone out there does. Know this: you are deserving of kindness, love, and the freedom to express yourself in any way (so long as it doesn't hurt yourself or anyone else). You do NOT need to apologize for breathing--for living--for existing. Your middle school and high school days have an expiration date. In the meantime, be who you are, or who you feel you are (if you haven't yet figured that out) to the umpteenth degree. I know it can be really scary and difficult to do this, but trust me, it's so worth it. If there is anything I "regret" about my time in middle school/high school, it's that I was too caught up with trying to fit in and be deemed "cool" by the popular kids. I wish I would have embraced my differences more--it would have, ironically, made my life a hell of a lot easier in some ways. It may be painful if you don't have any friends, but this will change eventually. Until then, utilize your family (if you have a good support system there), or make friends through activities outside of your school.
If you need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. You could also call RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at: 800-656-4673--they have an online messaging system, if you would prefer not to talk to someone on the phone (http://hotline.rainn.org). I also invite any of my teen readers to email me for support here: lachristagreco [at] gmail [dot] com
Know that you hold so much power in your life--even though it may not always feel like it. And at the risk of sounding extremely corny, each one of you is like a star, sticking to the night's sky--when someone tries to pull you down to steal your light, know that this can never really be taken from you.