“Don’t be afraid, I’m only a little kitty cat,” said twelve year old Morgan Geyser as she stabbed her friend, Bella, over and over, damaging several vital organs. Morgan and her friend Anissa (who was present for the attack) led the desperately wounded Bella deeper into the Wisconsin woods and left her there to die. Lisa Miller, reporting on the stabbings over a year after (they occurred on May 30, 2014 – Miller’s article came out last Tuesday) in New York Magazine Online, describes Morgan and Anissa’s post-stabbing activities as such: “[T]hey wandered around Waukesha [WI] for a couple of hours, crying and singing and wilting in the heat, until they were picked up by police as they sat in the grass near an entrance to the interstate.”
“Crying,” and “singing,” and “wilting in the heat.” Morgan and Anissa had finished their task. As far as they knew, Bella was dead, lying peacefully under a tree in the woods near Big Bend Road. Slender Man was appeased.
Unbeknownst to them, Bella survived the attack, and Morgan and Anissa now languish in jail, under almost continuous psychological watch.
Now the whole Slender Man-as-internet-phenomenon-thing has been done to death, so you can get your Creepypasta and Slender Man fix somewhere else. I won’t try to make sense of it here, because it’s an internet meme and those are about as annoying and resilient as members of the Ordo Blattodea. Lisa Miller’s piece also does a great job of wading through all the internet weirdness for you, so make sure you read the article cited above. But, if you don’t got time fo’ that, all that needs to be said is that Slender Man is a fictional child-killing supernatural being/internet meme that is extremely popular among fans of internet horror, and is, it seems, also a hit among the stabby seventh-grade girl demographic.
Why is this story so unsettling to us? A year after any tragedy and we Americans have already forgotten it. Sure, we might read a quick headline to see if they’ve fried the poor schmuck yet, but, for the most part, we’re checked out by week two. So what’s so interesting about yet another act of violence against the innocent by the deranged and misguided?
As one of my co-workers said to me soon after the story broke last year, “Little girls aren’t supposed to do things like that. Little boys, sure, but little girls? They don’t do things like that.”
Only a few short months after the Slender Man stabbings in Wisconsin, another stabbing occurred in Battle Creek, Michigan, though it received nowhere near the amount of media coverage that the Wisconsin attack got.
Two stabbings by little girls in one year? Again, girls “don’t do things like that.”
Well, apparently they do. In another case, Sarah Goldstein from the New York Daily News reports that a 14 year old Chicago girl stabbed her 11 year old half-sister to death because, “because she felt unappreciated.” No mention of mental illness or motive beyond the trite explanation that the attacker felt like her sister wasn’t taking notice of her hard work. Where’s the commentary? Where’s the indictment of society? No – we’re left shaking our heads, bemoaning the fact that girls are oh-so-irrational – so much so that they are torn from society’s fabric. “Girls shouldn’t (or don’t) act this way!” “What an inexplicable event!” Inexplicable, maybe. But not uncommon.
But what is it about the thought of young girls committing violent crimes that sends us into a tizzy? Sure, in our minds, “little girls don’t stab people.” They play with dolls, dream about boys, and paint each others’ nails, right? Something must be desperately, desperately wrong with these girls for them to take up a steak-knife and brutalize their friend – all for the sake of an internet meme. It seems, from my investigations, that motive is pretty difficult to nail down when it comes to girl-committed crimes. When a motive is suggested, it tends to be either wildly sensational, like in the case of the Slender Man stabbings, or glib – “She felt undervalued” – as if said with an accompanying tut-tutting head-shake.
This seems to pose a fairly vivid contrast to that of violent crimes committed by boys. Boys, it seems, commit crimes that echo the current issues of the day. Whether it is untreated conditions, like ADHD or Aspergers, or high sugar-intake, or violent video-games. Racism, misogyny, and Satanism also come into play from time to time. Girls, on the other hand, wound or kill each other during lapses with reality, or over seemingly petty arguments. One is reminded of the 19th century preoccupation with female hysteria – a “condition” that “stemmed” from a range of issues, from sexual frustration to the basic fact that women are simply mentally vulnerable, ‘cuz uteruses. This perceived issue of female hysteria allowed a generation of quack doctors to dream up various and sundry ways for them to get handsy with women who were most likely suffering from actual conditions, such as low blood-pressure or heart murmurs. The whole thing was a farce which went on far too long, with even the American Psychiatric Association giving scientific advances, ahem, the finger until 1952, when it finally decided to stop using the term. Just like hysteria was a dismissive shorthand for wacky women-problems, female violent crime is easily waved away as anomalous or the result of naive, easily impressionable young women. Both, ultimately, place the blame of either the symptoms, or the crimes, on the unbalanced nature of the female mind. Young men, however, are the supposed litmus test of society’s ailments. It cannot be that a young man kills because he was simply confused, sick, or limited by the irrationality of youth – his actions must be primarily the result of lax gun-control, or a hatred for other races, or, that nebulous boogey-man, bullying.
In short, young female violence is the result of impressionable, innocent girls being torn from societal norms. Young male violence is a direct result of society. Violent girls are outliers, pitiable waifs of innocence lost. Violent boys are born-and-bred killers, society being their barking drill-sergeant, flogging them on. Both illustrate the death of childhood.
Your Supposed Childhood Was Bullshit
Do you remember your childhood? If you do, you are probably supposed to remember the wonderful times – catching butterflies, playing games with friends, swimming at the swimming-pool?
You’re a dirty, rotten liar. Think again. Right – that time you were catching butterflies? Yeah, you pulled the wings off of them and laughed while they wobbled around, flapping their stumps. Those fun games with friends? Usually they involved the torture or exclusion of someone younger than you, or were excuses for you to explore your budding sexuality. Swimming in the swimming pool on a hot summer day? Are you kidding me? You shameless voided your bowels in the shallow-end, and the other little girls and boys blissfully frolicked in your filth. You knew it was wrong, but you did it anyway.
If you weren’t the one hurting others as a kid, you were probably being hurt by someone else. Either way – your childhood was full of cruelty and psychopathic behavior that changed you forever. My fellow wardog Yath00m and I have talked about this on many an occasion, commenting mostly on the fact that if we were to meet our childhood selves in some sort of catastrophic collapse of the Time/Space Continuum, we would take no time to quickly punch our younger selves in their smarmy, self-important faces.
But this is childhood. If it weren’t for the ugly stuff, the agonizingly shameful stuff, we’d learn nothing. Those things we did were certainly related to what we learned from others, but are also our fault. We, as children, knew, deep down, that tearing the wings off a butterfly was wrong, but we did it anyway. We are to blame for our behavior even as a child, even when we “didn’t know better.” We knew better. We did, we did, we did.
Slender Man Unbound
So, when our media tries to claim that a young girl taking a knife and perforating her friend in the name of an internet meme was simply because she was impressionable and the victim of our culture, they are, for all intents and purposes, refusing to acknowledge the danger of childhood. Similarly, when the media labels a young murderer as the product of a societal ailment, it not only denies the reality and fragility of childhood, but demotes that young man from person to symptom.
These young people should be treated as people, even when they act like monsters (just like our parents did with us). Our parents, when we stole, attempted to murder our siblings, and acted like sociopaths in public, had every right to club us in our sleep, bury us in the back-yard, and start again – but they didn’t. They held out hope that we were worth saving, worth teaching the consequences for actions, worth forgiving. Perhaps it’s time we do the same for these young murderers, instead of looking at them as soiled doves and symptoms. Our refusal to treat our children as people, as real, flawed, human people, has ruined the notion of childhood. It has made children unable to see that what they do effects others, to be responsible for their actions, to own up for their mistakes. All they are told to do is live in an imaginary world in which everything is a game, their futures are predestined, and reality (that is, working for a living, interacting with others, and being content) sucks.
Let Slender Man go, it’s not his fault. This horror we feel? It’s us – singing, crying, wilting in the heat. We are the real Slender Man. Childhood didn’t just die. We killed it.
Your friend and hug-companion,
Clearly Mad is yet another of the Feral Yawp’s ol’ wardogs. What he does with his time is his own business – or, at least, it would be, if he weren’t in indentured servitude to the Man. He loves dogs, beer, pretty dark-haired women, and breakfast food – and usually in that order. He’s known Bellewether, M.B., and Yath00m longer than he’d care to admit, and more intimately than he’d care to describe. His hobbies include this blog, reading books, and dreaming about a Greater America – which is what he’ll call his own private kingdom that he plans to form after paying off his loans and going completely off the grid (except for the occasional Twitter update).