On the Belle Jar, you can read about a girl’s personal history. It’s not a happy story. I was thinking that if I wrote a similar boy’s personal history, I could trot out a few tales — we all had scattered difficulties and conflicts while growing up — but the chilling thing is how normalized and how pettily girls’ problems are dismissed. When I faced bullies, I was told by friends and families to fight back, to deal with the problem, and my fears were taken seriously. When the girl in the story faces similar problems, the message is always to take it meekly, to not complain, to accept that boys will be boys. To live quietly in a world filled with threats, and to not try to change it.
This isn’t an old story. It’s still the dominant paradigm.