Helen Moorhouse: Why this video of schoolgirls fighting is alarming on many different levels
SO much for sugar and spice and all things nice. Girls -- all pink and glittery and kind and gentle. Well not any more, it seems.
The alarming and repugnant footage which went viral on the internet of two Cork schoolgirls fighting for the amusement of a baying mob seems to prove that nowadays camera phones, a stinking attitude to life and an alarming lack of self-respect are, in 2012, what little girls are made of.
Schoolyard fights have happened since time began. Nothing extraordinary about a spot of honour-preserving fisticuffs behind the bike shed. Parents expect their sons to return home at one point or another with a torn shirt and a bruised ego.
It's a rite of passage.
No parent, however, envisions the day when it's their teenage daughter nursing a black eye. Or worse. Their teenage daughter rucking on the ground with someone else's teenage daughter like two stray terriers in the most undignified and disgusting manner.
Or even more disturbing, their teenage daughter filmed and subsequently watched by tens of thousands of online gawpers as she reveals to the world, in a frenzy of hair-pulling and punches, how little dignity she possesses. Or even slightly more sinister, their teenage daughter being the one doing the filming.
Viewing the footage is challenging on so many levels. It's stomach-churning to watch the grappling of the combatants. It's distressing to hear the crowd of both sexes egging them on -- 'get her in the face' is a particularly lovely sentiment.
It's also disturbing to take a quick glance at the views of online commentators, some of whom conclude that there's no harm done as neither of the girls involved were seriously hurt.
Let it be clear that there is plenty of harm in this -- there are no redeeming factors to any element of what happened in Douglas Park between two girls who are barely beyond puberty, and the mob who watched.
Call it old-fashioned, prudish, sexist -- but there is something disturbing about girls catfighting uncontrollably in such an inelegant manner and also about anyone finding it acceptable in any way.
As a woman, I am ashamed and embarrassed. Girls, we have more class, more skills to deal with conflict than resorting to scrapping like rats in a gutter.
We are better than this. And if it was, in fact, over a boy then I despair because even the most two-bit girlie magazines, websites and advice columns will preach that no boy is worth fighting over, in this case literally.
More importantly, nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is worth losing your reputation over in this manner.
As a parent of daughters, this is worrying and sad. They have been insulted and let down. Every sleepless night, every nappy changed, every morsel of food prepared, every birthday and Christmas present -- every cuddle, kiss and vow to keep them safe thrown back in their faces.
To the participants, the onlookers, to anyone who watched and found it funny or entertaining or clever or brave or an indication of some sort of girl power, it's not.
Call it a squabble, call it Fight Club -- this goes so far beyond being not big and not clever. It's damaging, it's depraved, it's low, it's vulgar, it's animalistic and it's intolerable.
As Maurice Chevalier sang, 'thank heaven for little girls'.
Well if they're anything like this lot, and if this lot are representative of their generation then there's absolutely nothing to be thankful for, and plenty to be concerned about.