Philobiblon: Why so mean?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Why so mean?

Fitting in neatly with the book I discussed yesterday about the "school slut" is another, a recent academic remainder purchase, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, by Rachel Simmons.

It argues that arising out of the strong pressures on girls to be "good" and "nice" is a resultant inevitable nastiness, in the form of bullying as a means to express anger. This takes the form not of physical or even direct verbal aggression, but the use of "sly", "mean" tactics - being nice to someone for one day then cold-shouldering them without explanation, spreading rumours (eg about sexual behaviour, as per yesterday's book) about someone behind their back.

What makes this so particularly damaging is that the victim of the bullying feels that she must have done something wrong, there must be something wrong with her, to attract this sort of behaviour from her "friends".

A sixth-grader is quoted: "Most teachers think, 'Oh well, she's not hurting you. Don't worry about it.' But really they are hurting you. They're hurting your feelings." (p. 47)

The book argues: "We need to freeze those fleeting moments and name them so that girls are no longer besieged by doubts about what's happening, so that they no longer believe it's their fault when it does." p. 37.

Definitely a book teachers, and probably parents of girls, should read - not that it offers many helpful suggestions about what that can be done about it. But it might at least help adults to understand why the problem is so serious for the victims.

I largely avoided this problem by dropping out from all contact with my peers from about grade four onwards, but as an "outsider" over the years I was sometimes the person the bullied victim came to as a "safe haven". At my private all-girls' high school the interaction was frequently vicious.

(a tag, if I've understood the explanation properly!)


Blogger quiet pond said...

Oh I agree. Boys get to avoid this trap and let it all out because they're allowed to go around thumping each other. Mind you, it is more acceptable now for girls to behave like boys so I wonder if things are changing.

2/03/2005 08:02:00 am  

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