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March 30, 1998 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Breakup Girl Goes Ballistic ... Part Two:
What Happened in Arkansas
Is a Breakup Girl Issue

In the tradition of "A Very Special Blossom," Breakup Girl is about to take on a very serious issue. There are six empty seats in an Arkansas schoolroom -- and there are glaring gaps in our attempts to explain how these children came to be absent. News coverage of the schoolyard murders in Arkansas has been omnipresent, but incomplete. Everyone is missing one big boat: one filled with screaming -- and in this case, dying -- Fans of Leonardo.

The press and the public have been quick to cry, "Kids these days!" and "Crime in schools!" and "Where are the parents?" and"Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is violent!" All of which are topics our society needs to talk about.

But as far as she can tell, Breakup Girl is the only one crying,
Why are all the dead kids girls?"

We know that 13-year-old Mitchell's classmates say he had vowed to kill all the people who had broken up with him. We also know that he is a good shot. Put two and two together, and you've got 5 -- 4 dead girls plus 1 teacher who gave her life to shield another.

In other recent incidents of "school violence," 16-year-old Luke Woodham of Pearl, Miss., stands charged with shooting his ex-girlfriend and another girl after stabbing his mother. Khoa Truc Dang, 21, walked into a Norwalk, CA high school and shot his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend and then himself.

Yes, we need to make sure schools are safe (and yes, we need to keep guns out of reach).
Location, location, location -- ?
In this case, location is not everything.

Since these girls were killed at school, we are quick to slap on the label of "school violence" -- which, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, is actually not on the rise. But had these girls been murdered at home, their deaths might look more like what they really are: early-onset violence against women -- which, according to a recent University of Michigan study, is skyrocketing.

These boys did not set out to raise hell at school; they set out to kill girls.

However, the gender issues at play here have been taken about as seriously as a mild case of cooties.

Breakup Girl is not doing subtle spin here. This is not nuance. These are the facts, thank you; they are as plain as the black-and-white photos of Natalie, Paige Ann, Stephanie, and Britthney.

Where dating violence is concerned, Breakup Girl is not "a guy in a diner" -- a technical term for someone who, given a captive audience, holds forth on a topic he or she knows little about. BG's commitment to ending dating violence represents the dark, unfunny side of her dedication to healthy relationships and good romantic behavior; when not wearing her humor hat, she has researched and written about the issue in depth. (Remember, BG's civilian identity is girl reporter.) Case in point: Her September 1996 cover story on dating violence for Parade Magazine caused the volume of calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline to double. So, (a) BG has done her homework, and (b) this issue is for real.

Obviously, I don't know what kind of active relationship, if any, our anti-hero had with his targets. But I do know that whatever was going on in his head lies on the same continuum as "Dear Breakup Girl, my boyfriend accuses me of having affairs with other people, grills me about my activities (while he can do anything he wants, including see his ex-girlfriend), insults me about my appearance, calls me in the middle of the night to check on me, tells me all of my friends are stupid and unworthy of hanging out with me, has temper tantrums where he throws things at me and rips up my photographs, etc." (If you think I'm making this up, see below.)

Breakup Girl has never pulled any knee-jerk Blame the Boy, and this rant is no exception; the facts do enough finger-pointing on their own. We all -- boys and girls, bitter and naive, Buffy and Angel -- are confused about how to behave in relationships, about what "love" means, about who we are when we're alone. And the most vulnerable people get their answers from the least reliable, yet most readily available, sources. Somewhere, somehow -- Could it be at home? Could it be at Hooters? Could it be at the movies, when Schwarzenegger shoots a woman, says 'Consider this a divorce,' and everyone falls over laughing? -- certain boys have gotten the idea that Being the Man is how relationships work, and certain girls have gotten the idea that they should shut up and put up.

So this week, Breakup Girl has neither her good ol' sense of humor, nor all the answers. She just wants to make sure someone, somewhere is raising a hand and asking these questions.

And as a matter of fact, someone -- bless her heart -- is. Keep reading. And thanks for listening.

This column is dedicated to Natalie Brooks, Paige Ann Herring, Stephanie Johnson, Britthney Varner, and Shannon Wright.



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