Saturday, April 15, 2006

East Beasts

I left high school ten years ago, a fact that makes me very happy (a columnist in our university paper once pointed out that no matter how bad your life gets you can always reassure yourself 'it could be worse, I could be still in High School' and in my early twenties I would cheer myself up reasonably regularly with that thought). But I went to school in Wellington, so I still see girls in the blue of my old school uniform reasonably regularly (in New Zealand public schools can have uniforms and can also be single sex, my high school was single sex and it had a blue uniform).

Wellington East is the poor girls school in Wellington, or at least it was when I went there, there's been some general gentrification since then. But I started school in 1991, the year of benefit cuts and ending of the Awards, and there was a lot of poverty. People knew it as well, shopkeepers and so on, if you went
to a shop in a Blue Uniform they'd keep an extra eye on you.

I'm writing this because I was talking about high school with a guy who had recently left Rongotai (the male version of Wellington East). When I mentioned that I'd gone to Wellington East he started a chant I'd forgotten about (if I ever knew about it in the first place, paying attention to the world around me wasn't my forte in high school):

East Beasts
Thunder Thighs
Eating all the Georgie Pies
Ten years later I found it funny. But it reminded me that this is what boys, particularly those at all-boys schools, chanted at East Girls. In a way I'm impressed at how much they managed to pack into 9 words, at how many different degrading sexist and racist attitudes can be conveyed in so little time.

If you say East Beast with the right sneer it makes clear that the person you're talking to is both repulsive and beneath you, and also too sexually available.

The rest of the chant carries the repulsive theme, but makes it clear that this repulsion is about race and class. Fatness is a sign of poverty in New Zealand (as it is in most developed countries), it's also much more common amongst Maori and Pacific Islanders (who also tend to be poor). George Pies was a New Zealand fast-food chain, which was notable for being cheaper than McDonalds (it closed down a number of years ago).

That's not all, the person who chanted to me, told me that they used to chant it at McEvedy.

McEvedy Sheild is an athletics cup that the four regional all boys schools compete for. It's an all day event, and all the boys from all the schools go along to cheer on the men who complete. It was a big deal in the secondary school calendar, even at a girls school, you'd see the boys whooping around with painted faces. We were under dire warnings not to wag to go watch, although each year some girls did (which is depressing enough, if you're going to skip school please do something more interesting that watch your boyfriend run around a track).

I don't know if the person who told me that that boys from all 4 schools would do this chant in unison was exaggerating, I hope he was. But the thought of 3,000 boys chanting "East Beast, Thunder Thighs, who ate all the Georgie Pies" creeps me out. The idea that they would watch sport (that bastion of masculinity), compete with each other, but then bond over degrading women makes perfect sense in this society we live in.


  1. You're right, that's terrible.

    Hello. I found you through Angry for a Reason. Good to see another blogger from the underside of the globe. :)

  2. Hmm. I went to East too. I don't think I ever heard the song, though. I was more the gentle arty type and I didn't really encounter any hassles from kids at other schools. But that might have been different if I hadn't been white or thin or stereotypically "girly"-looking. It's awful how misogyny works even against teenage schoolgirls.

  3. I don't remember hearing the chant when I was at school either. But it must have been around, because Georgie Pie closed shortly after I finished high school.

    I'm not sure about the arty type though. I was involved in school productions, and the boys from other schools who were involved in that tended to be the arty types. They'd create their own little sub-culture because Wellington College's main culture wasn't really about being in plays.

    One of those guys painted a 'B' in front of the Wellington East sign. Showing that just because you're outside typical ideas of masculinity that's no reason not to shit all over women.

  4. Really? One of the school production guys did that? Wow, I had no idea. I was in the orchestra for school shows every year I was there, and I had this ridiculous idea that those guys were somehow less sexist and less filled with that obnoxious male sense of entitlement than the Coll status quo.

  5. This sort of thing is exactly the reason why, if I had a son, I would never send him to a boys school. I did't go to school in New Zealand but I did go to a girls school and we put up with exactly the same sort of crap from the brother school. It still makes me really angry to recall the amount of sexual harassment and the raw aggression towards girls in the environment.

  6. Yeah, but on the other hand, I'd definitely send a daughter of mine to a girls' school. I'd even send her to East, which I didn't find as painful and tortuous as most people tend to find high school.

  7. Sofiya what years were you at East? Do you remember Richard Chapman. He's starring in beer commercials now (which is oddly appropriate for this conversation).

  8. Oh lord, artsy men/boys can be the most obnoxiously "macho," I've found. You know, proof that just because they're all creative and stuff, "I'M NOT GAY!!!"

  9. I was there '92-'95. I think I vaguely knew him, but I was a bit of a shrinking violet socially, so I can't say I remember any salient features about him. I seldom watch television, so I didn't know about the beer commercials.

    As an academic in the humanities, I don't think I'd say a majority of arty men are extra-obnoxious. I can understand the wavelength of arty men more easily than I can understand who are engineers or pilots, for example, but misogyny can lurk in any profession... sadly....

  10. Oh my experience of all boys school was that it was a stew pot for misogyny and hatred of girls, propagated by the beloved sporting talented majority, who found great humour in talking about rape, molestation, bitches and sluts, and would look down upon anyone with a contrary view. Then there are the proportion of boys absolutely terrified of girls because they don't fit the mould of bad boy sports jocks that always seem to get the attention of girls. A good place to separate dominant and subservient males, but not intelligently sensitive and confident ones.

  11. I went to Wellington College, and can vouch for the fact that that was more or less the only thing that all 4 schools would chant together at McEvedy...

    Fuck, I still can't believe I lasted so long at that school. Pure evil.

  12. Do the teachers really do nothing while this is being chanted Asher?

    That is seriously disturbing.

    (Are there any other verses apart from the hips/fish & Chips verse).

  13. Asher - I totally understand what you mean. I have friends who went to Wellington College over 10 years ago who are still resentful about the way the place is run. (Similarly, friends who went to Auckland Grammar.) It just doesn't provide the emotional support that vulnerable teenagers need. This morning I asked my brother (who went to Wellington College in the 90s) about the chant, and he said yeah, it happened, and the teachers did nothing about it. They thought it was just "a bit of fun" and harmless. He hated that school.

  14. Hello, Suse here :)

    I remember the chant well.
    It went:

    "East beasts, thunger thighs.
    Too many chips from Georgie Pie."

    Which is even more impressive in the sense that it fits in 10 words...

    I only ever remember East girls saying it though...I mean, repeating it, I guess from boys they knew.

    The thing that scared me most about McEvidy Shield was that girls would wag school in order to go watch, when they knew that there would be 4 all-male schools there...that's thousands and thousands of teenage boys - and a small sprinkling of girls. I wasn't really that on-to-it as a teenager and I didnt really have much of an understanding of feminism at all, but I knew it wasn't a safe environment to be in...

    Z. tells me that he hated going to the McEvidy Shield, but because he went to Wellington College he was made to go (!!!) and that once he saw all four schools perform the haka in unison, and he actually saw teachers fleeing for their lives, as he puts it...

    Needless to say, he hated Wellington College and I do too, because it fucked up young boys' education and only helped in creating arrogant, macho fuckwits. And I have serious doubts as to whether it's any better today...

    I will NEVER teach in an all-boys school.

  15. The teachers never did anything against it, and it was at least in part encouraged (as a tool to "build school pride").

    "only helped in creating arrogant, macho fuckwits. And I have serious doubts as to whether it's any better today..."

    I 100% agree with this comment - in order to succeed at Coll, you had to become an arrogant macho fuckwit. If you weren't willing to do that, you either became a total loner or you left (I chose the latter option).