I was horrified at the images of the teenage girl engaged in a sexual act at Slane last weekend. I don’t have to go into the detail about the act itself, but it an era where nothing much has the ability to shock, these images did.
The photos, taken on a mobile phone, were posted online the day after the Eminem gig and within hours the story had gone viral, the photo was seen around the world and some of the scummier elements of our little society had a field day.
There are countless issues around these images. There is the issue of under age drinking, the power of social media, the difference mobile phones have made to the world, the issue of complete and utter sexism and the terrifying matter of how fragile this girl’s current state now is.
Almost as soon as ‘Slane Girl’ as she was hashtagged, made the internet, so too did the term legend, when applied to the boys. The girl was mocked, insulted, laughed at and held up as a figure of shame.
The first thing which struck me about what happened in the content of the images taken near a queue for the toilets at the Westmeath venue, was that this was a teenage girl with self esteem issues. We don’t know exactly what happened or how the situation came about but smack bang in the middle of the most formative years of her life, this poor girl did something that she will struggle to ever get over. She has no place to go for comfort now. The images have been everywhere and her parents have been described as ‘distraught.’
Social networking in this case isn’t solely to blame. Twitter and Facebook are only vehicles for the type of depraved human beings who think it acceptable to post and publicise these type of photos and make jokes about the people involved. These online presences are nasty alter egos of morally bankrupt individuals who can think of nothing better to do with their time.
The backlash against the girl at the centre of the controversy higlights a virtual world which is every bit as mysoginist as the actual one.
And, in a throwback to hundreds of years ago, the female in the drama is the one held up in shame. No one would argue the fact that this teenager did something incredibly stupid but no one will have been more affected by it than she herself and we can guarantee that plenty of worse goings on were happening off camera at the same time. I hope the teenage girl in question emerges at some point, wiser and able to move on with her life, but it will take a long time.
What the rest of us need to accept is that Twitter and the online world in general are fed by the general population, the people who live alongside us. Sadly, it suggests the current generation of teenagers are set to grow into a poulation which continues to see women as objects and second class citizens.