Saturday, January 16, 2016

Amanda Keller

I like Amanda Keller.

I’ve seen her around school for a while now, and I think she’s in some of my classes, but somehow our social circles have never really intersected. I plan on changing that after how she handled Trent Wallace.

Trent is one of t
he sexiest guys in Gendale High, but every time he talks to me, there’s this weird greasy feeling that starts to spread inside me like an oil leak. Most of the girls fall for him like toothpicks in a stiff breeze, but something about his superficial attitude really rubs me the wrong way. I don’t know why he went after Amanda – maybe he wanted a challenge, and she is pretty in her own way.

I saw them talking from a distance and couldn’t help but roll my eyes; she looked like she was falling just as hard for him as the rest of those airheads. Then I saw him lean in closer – maybe she wanted to whisper something to him, I don’t know – and the next thing I see, he’s balled up on the floor in pain from a knee to the crotch. And standing proud above him was Amanda Keller, adding a rainbow of well-worded insults to the injury to his crown jewels. The crowd that gathered around them soon blocked my view, but as I walked closer, words like ‘Chauvinistic boar!’ and ‘Slimy misogynist!’ rang clear throughout the hallways, supplemented with whoops of encouragement from the throng of students.

Trent will probably not want to talk to her ever again. And I can’t wait to get started!

***

I love Amanda Keller!

She and I have become lunch buddies now, and I feel so empowered and self-confident just being around her! She’s an engaging, charismatic person who’s made me realize just how much social degradation we girls suffer at the hands of the guys in the school. It’s like they think they have some kind of privilege that is gifted to them just because they have a dick. Trent may be the worst of the bunch, but he’s not the only one. I’ve realized how much I’ve numbed myself to the ‘male gaze’ when I shouldn’t be just accepting it as normal. It’s amazing how much Amanda has opened my eyes to, or given me good reason to be angry about.
She’s trying out for a role on the editing team of Gendale’s student newspaper – they have a weekly publication that’s not too shabby. It looks like she’ll clinch it, and I’m all for it – she writes some pretty good stuff herself, and I think being on the editing team will give her the chance to spread more awareness of the misogyny that’s become embedded in our school culture like so many splinters of wood under the skin.

As for myself, I’m auditioning to take part in the next school play – it’s one of the biggest theatrical productions of the year, and for this one the students come up with almost everything from the script to the props. It would be so cool to be a part of creating it and bringing it to life!

***

I admire Amanda Keller.

For her first major move as an editor for the newspaper, Amanda published an article highlighting how antics like Trent Wallace’s are a symptom of the disease of misogyny that all the guys in school suffer from. The backlash spiralled into madness faster than a plane with its engines on fire. The tsunami of death threats, rape threats and complaints against Amanda completely obliterated all the other trending topics on social media. 

Here’s the thing though: with all that hate and rage being spewed at her, Amanda is still brave enough to come to school and get through the day like normal. She has enough people on her side of course – people like me who are so glad that someone’s finally bringing the school’s dirty laundry into the spotlight like this. But still, there’s no knowing how the bullies against her will strike – imagine having to hesitate every time you open your locker because someone might have put something in it? Or to keep watching over your shoulder when outside class?

Even some of the guys in school are on her side – and one of them is Darren Milhouse. He’s one of those quiet types who mostly keeps to himself, and is kind of cute in a weird way. I met him through the school play – we’re both currently on the small committee working on the script. He has some great ideas, and at the same time he doesn’t try to push them into places where they don’t fit. It’s so refreshing to work with a guy like him – scratch that, it’s refreshing to just BE around him.

***

I doubt Amanda Keller.

It’s been a few weeks since her first article, but the rift between the people who support her and those who are against her has only grown wider. It’s gotten to a point where people are labelled as either supporting her or against her – and the spectrum in-between those two camps has been marginalised into a foggy oblivion.
I still support the cause of the girls in school having equal respect and freedom of choice as the guys, and at first I thought that’s what Amanda wanted too – but now I’m not so sure. For example, she’s started picking on some of the girls in school as well lately, saying that the kinds of outfits they’re wearing are demeaning to women as a whole because they’re too revealing – or too conservative. Shouldn’t they be free to decide what they want to wear? Isn’t that part of the point – that girls should be able to wear or do whatever they want without being judged? But I’m afraid to say anything about it because she’s the figurehead of the fight against misogyny, and I’m still a soldier in that army, even if I don’t completely agree with its commander.

The play is coming along splendidly, although Darren and I are starting to drift apart. I think he’s having a hard time dealing with all the hostility he receives from most of Team Amanda simply because he’s a guy – even though he’s also against misogyny. Once, when he was with me and some of the girls, he tried to talk about how most of Amanda’s articles aren’t actually all that well-written, even if her points are solid. The girls attacked him like a swarm of vicious bees whose hive has just been set ablaze – I don’t think he’s recovered from their stings even now. He’s square in the middle of that spectrum between the two camps, and that’s causing him to avoid the conflict and everyone involved in it altogether – including myself.

***

I hate Amanda Keller!

She wrote a scathing review against our play after seeing it on opening night, and now half the school is having second thoughts about even seeing it! If our play was bad, I wouldn’t be as upset, but it was one of the better plays the school has put together in at least the last five years! All the blood, sweat and tears that went into bringing it to life, and all she can do is fling mud at it for completely superfluous reasons! Rrrrrgh!

Her problem with it was that the girls in the play were either too scantily dressed, or in weaker positions when compared to their male counterparts. But she completely ignored the fact that the girls were some of the strongest characters in the play, and they were able to achieve so much despite the restraints the society in our play put on them! The subtlety of our script in terms of how it handled gender equality was as apparent to her as a fleck of dust inside that ridiculous handbag of hers. And she only sparingly complimented things like the amazing set design and lighting, as if that kind of thing doesn’t really matter compared to whether the girls in the play meet her approval or not.

I’ve also realized just how much more harm than good she has done in the grand scheme of things. Thanks to her, most people see the fight against misogyny as a girls-only club with their goal being some kind of twisted revenge against all the guys for the years of dominance they’ve enjoyed – which may actually be what Amanda Keller has in mind. I wouldn’t know – I thought I knew where she was coming from, but now, given how much her articles have become provocative more than well-informed, I think she might even thrive on making the divide even larger just to stay relevant rather than bridging it in an attempt to achieve a peaceful consensus.

***

I’m over Amanda Keller.

The realization hit me hardest when I saw the latest article she had written in the school newspaper – some fluff about how cheerleaders should be abolished because they’re a demeaning role for girls – and I didn’t feel angry or bitter, just mildly annoyed. We haven’t spoken to each other since the play, and I occasionally get dirty looks from some of her more ardent supporters even now, but it doesn’t bother me that much.

Amanda Keller’s vision of what a victory against misogyny would be feels far too militant, even bordering on misandry, to me – not to mention it would have her own biased ideas about how girls should be and behave stamped all over it – and I don’t want to have anything more to do with it. I can still have my beliefs without having to take part in the battle between her army and her enemies, and I’m perfectly content with that.

Darren and I are drifting closer together now, which is a relief – and all it took was a couple of lunches together to recover from all the drama with the play. I think one of the things that draws us together is how we both see feminism as a team effort – that to realize the dream of equal respect and freedom of choice, both guys and girls need to put aside their biases, and appreciate that even though we may be different in some ways, that doesn’t mean we should have different levels of privilege. We shouldn’t expect to receive equal treatment if we’re hesitant to give it in return. Maybe I’m naïve about this, but this is how I see the fight against misogyny ending – not with explosions, but with an olive branch.

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