Welcome to a week of thoughts. Women and girls are the unhappiest they’ve been in 14 years. Between the ages of seven to 21, only 17% feel ‘very happy’, while in 2009, 40% did.
“They’ve been let down,” said Angela Salt, chief executive of British charity ‘girlguiding’.
I was 11 in 2009. Facebook had leapt the confines of American universities to reach British secondary schools, but it was yet to gain a flavour– as all social media was. There was yet to be anything particularly malignant about incessant socialising. We had phones by then– little metal bricks for music, then later, ones with internet and qwerty keyboards, so we were beginning to grow our private lives, ones of consequence, the kind worth worrying about.
The sharpest drop in happiness has been among the seven to 10-year olds. Today it’s 28%, in 2009, it was ‘well over half’. I was a year out from adding to the statistic, but it didn’t speak for many of us. 2023’s young women and girls are feeling the pressure of unquenchable ideals, and the black hole of scrolling for hours, uncovering everything they both want and do not want to know. But there was an animalistic air about the time before the internet age, a viciousness that was an earmark of an under-monitored era. Life was gory. People were bestial and unkindness was palpable. Things happened to people, and word of mouth sapped the severity. And for us women and girls, predators were feral, and harassment was rife; self-expression was policed, and black girls were ‘bisons’. We would find ourselves in deep trouble, and no one was ever really saved. We were a generation of woman and girl that were better at swallowing grit. Happiness had a different meaning.
2023 is an accumulation of the last five years, that’s how the survey has it. There are issues that have been around and aren’t ever going away; hyper-surveillance, oversaturation, a pandemic of male wolves in sheeps clothing, a more intelligent calibre of criminal, dynamic, better-oiled femicide, all headed by the feeling of being trapped. There’s little room for evolution, this is now and forever. For that, I can envision the life of my daughter, and her daughter, quite easily. When I was a girl, not yet a woman, there was nothing more painful than the present; it ensured a better tomorrow, if I ever did raise my head to consider one. Today, ‘better’ is increasingly otherworldly.
There aren’t really the words for the next thought of the week, but I should include it anyway. When I typed in the buzzwords for this topic, that is: ‘black woman strangled…’, I got a few search prompts on google. Of all the black women who have been strangled, most of them are no longer with us. In four of the five results, charges haven’t been brought against their killers. One was charged with manslaughter over murder. In the case of the black woman who was choked and then arrested in Peckham hair and cosmetics last week, an investigation has been opened into the refund policy that ‘enabled’ the incident. There’s little more I can add, but I should say that I never could’ve imagined mobilisation around the pits of hell– that is, Asian-owned afro-hair shops, but I could’ve predicted it. I don’t know if I can say anymore, I’m running my errands next week, and I’ve gotten too good at swallowing grit.