NYTimes Is Shocked By The Cliquey Goings-On Of Prep School Girls


Tatum Bass was the girl who had everything; she was popular, successful, and by most accounts, well-liked. But something ruined Tatum’s experience at Miss Porter’s School; a secret society she claims, known as the Oprichniki.

I would have written this post about 2 hours ago, but it has taken that long for my eyes to stop rolling enough for me to focus on the screen and at least attempt to break this madness down for you guys. Pop culture is filled with tales of super bitchy prep school girls; Gossip Girl is one example, and of course Rory Gilmore’s time at Chilton Academy on Gilmore Girls counts as another. The public seems to be fascinated by the goings-on of the rich, elite, high-society women that are often documented in such articles and shows, and today the NYTimes hops on the bandwagon (in the Style section, of course) with it’s expose of a maybe-but-who-knows secret society of bitches at Miss Porter’s and the havoc they wreaked on Tatum Bass’ life.

In public school, we’d call this “bullying,” and these girls “cliquey bitches.” But not at Miss Porter’s! It’s glamorous, mysterious, and high class, because the bullies aren’t “cliquey bitches”, you see, they’re a “secret society” that’s named after a 16th century Russian torture organization. So they’re smart, well read, and ruining lives. How “tantalizing,” the Times notes. Yes! Because a young woman having to file a lawsuit against a school that apparently did nothing after she was repeatedly threatened, bullied, and harassed is just so juicy and fun, when there’s rich girls with SECRETS involved!

The school and Tatum’s fellow students are denying the harassment; Oprichniki has reportedly been disbanded for years, and according to one of it’s founders, never had the sinister motives that Bass implies., but was rather a means to “instill excitement about the secret date of the cherished ring ceremony.”

Whether or not Bass’ claims are true, the fact that the Times seems to cover the story with a breathless, gossipy angle only furthers the ridiculous obsession the public seems to have with prep school girls; the secret societies, the ring ceremonies, the traditions, etc. While some of these things are undoubtedly meaningful to the women who experience them, the fact that the obvious issue: harassment and bullying, is buried under a layer of “OMG awesome secret societies!” is a troubling one and seems to back Bass’ claim that the school never took her complaints seriously. And if the schools and the press that cover them are so wrapped up in the mythology of the whole thing, the realities might slip through the pretty, well-maintained cracks.

At A Prep School, The Gloves Are Off [NYTimes]

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