bedtime stories for girls by genevieve atkins

This reflection is generously provided by Genevieve Atkins for our penultimate dinner and a show for 2018.

When I was making friends at uni, a piece of gossip was floating around. I watched this
gossip and who was engaging in it, and to my surprise my new friend, a down to earth, no nonsense woman, delighted in this gossip.

When I said she didn’t seem like the gossiping type she replied, “I went to an all-girls school. This is my bread and butter.”

I’d also gone to an all-girls school.

So had a bunch of my new friends.

And the floodgates opened.

I heard gossip from schools I never went to. About people I’d never met but was very willing to judge. About dances and sleepovers, lesbians and abortions, bullying and betrayal.

From public to private schools, religious and non-religious, we all had these stories.
And nothing ever fixed it. They couldn’t force us to like ourselves and couldn’t force us to
like each other.

We had everything; videos on anorexia, classes on mental health (always delivered too late), personal development days, guest speakers. There was a day when every person in my year 12 class had to enter a circle of her peers and they had to say things they liked about themselves, and the circle had to respond with things they liked about the girl in the circle. Some apologised for past actions, others promised they’d start eating again, some left the room in tears.

We had trust falls and excursions, the schools tried it all, but it always came back and
seeped into everything. I think that those stories, stories I still share today, aren’t just gossip. We are asking to be witnessed. Witness the fucked-up environment in which we were raised, the story of how we became women.

Look at what these girls did, how it could have been me, how it was me.

We were fucked, our friends were fucked, our classmates and our school was fucked.
Everything was fucked.

Obviously, this isn’t true of all female friendships. As I’ve grown I’ve experienced how
wonderful and supportive female friendships can be, I love my girl gang.

But this piece isn’t about that, this piece is about the dirty, dark and toxic shit. A special
brand of torture I, and many others, endured for 6 years.

This is bedtime stories for girls.

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