So self-harm too, it seems, is a women’s issue. Along with anorexia, bulimia and every other self-destructive behaviour going. A University of Manchester study published this week in the British Medical Journal found that self-harm among girls is soaring. While the rate of self-harm among boys has stayed roughly the same, among 13- to 16-year-old girls it has increased by 68% in the last three years. Self-harm is three times more common for 10- to 19-year-old girls than boys. This is a significant finding, particularly given that self-harmers are 17 times more likely to die from suicide, and 34 times more likely to die from drug or alcohol poisoning.
While boys (and no, not all boys, but far more than girls) are better at externalising their pain – throwing chairs, setting fire to things, hitting each other, and all those deflective actions that girls would be far better off employing than cutting their own arms – girls turn their anger in on themselves, expressing their pain in quiet, desperate ways.
The old feminist saying goes: “If we get raped it’s our fault, and if we get bashed we must have provoked it, and if we raise our voices we’re nagging bitches.” For women and girls, this is the rub. We can never win, and that leaves us feeling powerless.