A very wise and dear friend recently said, “It’s hard to be a girl in this world.” You’d think by now, marching into 2016 with Hillary Clinton running for president, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg leaning in and Malala Yousafzai winning a Nobel prize after taking a bullet in the head, that we women would have gained some ground.

Then why is it still fucking 1941? That was the year Virginia Woolf loaded her pockets with rocks and walked into the water to escape this life. She is among many: Sylvia Plath, Edie Sedgwick, Modigliani’s lover Jeanne Hebuterne, who all for one reason or another succumbed to life’s endless tsunamis.

I get it. I spoke those very words recently when dining with one of my female friends. Much to her horror, I said, “I get it. I get why Virginia Woolf walked into the waves, into the drowning pool.”

It’s not that I have any plans to go under. I just understand why she did it. Because it’s hard to be a girl in this world – even now.

That became all too real this past year when I watched my teenage daughter get taken down by a 10th grade social media shit storm. All because she, a 16-year-old girl, kissed a junior boy while dating a sophomore boy.

The level of bullying that ensued was something out of the Middle Ages – complete with a public lynching and flogging. The social media scourge was shocking and soulless.

While it was a group of boys, good-Catholic-boys-gone-bad, who initially branded my daughter with a bloody scarlet letter, it was a feeding frenzy on all sides. One female friend-turned-piranha said: “If she wasn’t such a slut, she wouldn’t be in this spot.”

My daughter’s so-called sin was the subject of group texts, snapchats, tweets, you name it. And as if that wasn’t enough to teach her a lesson, the pack of male hyenas hacked into the Catholic school’s computer system, destroying all the content on my child’s iPad – a felony according to state law.

Even more disturbing, the ringleader of the hacking – a high school football player – was suspended for only ONE day. If my daughter wouldn’t name names (in fear of making it even worse) and call out every bashing, she was on her own.

While she remained stoic for weeks under the social media attack and friend freeze-out, she finally caved, no longer able to pretend as if she was teflon.

Many months later, I visited the Guggenheim in New York City and as I rounded my first curve, there was an installation by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan of Pinocchio face down in the water. I immediately started crying and couldn’t stop. I was stunned by how people were just milling about, laughing and talking while Geppetto’s son lay lifeless in a pool of water.

I stood motionless. I wasn’t laughing.

The memories flooded back of the grueling year my daughter had undergone after dating one boy, kissing another, then undergoing a social-media-slut-shaming that went on for months. I never expected my joyous, joie de vivre, full-of-life child to land face down in the water without almost any life left in her.

Unlike the Guggenheim Pinocchio, floating still and silent, my child is very much alive today, thanks to a lot of frantic splashing by those who love her most. My hope: that this tsunami will make her stronger against future currents, future undertows, future swells. Because it really is hard to be a girl in this world.

Written by: Nancy Dixon (pseudonym)


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