June 17, 2014
“The Playground Gets even Tougher” and Book “Odd Girl Out”
“Mean-girl behavior,” New York Times writer Pamela Paul notes, “typically referred to by professionals as relational or social aggression and by terrified parents as bullying, has existed for as long as there have been ponytails to pull and notes to pass (today’s insults are texted instead)” (Paul, 2010). Rachel Simmons, bestselling author of Odd girl out: The hidden culture of aggression in girls adds “in my travels over the last ten years, there is one comment that I hear almost everywhere: girl bullying is not only meaner; it’s younger (Simmons, 2002).
Paul wants to put a spotlight on what Simmons is calling the “hidden culture of aggression in girls.” Apparently, the fact that girls can be mean is a secret. I however, don’t know how anyone could possible think that. Therefore, maybe the question is not: Are girls mean? Anyone over 5 years of age knows that—it’s like a Geico Auto Insurance commercial (15 minutes can save you 15% on car insurance). Paul is more likely aiming to point out HOW MEAN girls can be—and the answerer is seems to be—‘waaaaay meaaaaaan’—a lot meaner than boys.
But bullying as a whole has been with us for as long a memory serves. So one of the questions is what has changed as a whole in the bullying arena? Is there more bullying all around? Most importantly, is bullying starting out at younger ages? Paul writes:
According to a new Harris survey of 1,144 parents nationwide, 67 percent of parents of 3- to 7-year-olds worry that their children will be bullied; parents of preschoolers and grade-school-age children are significantly more likely to worry than parents of teenagers. Such fears may be justified. (Paul, 2010)
According to many of the people or studies Paul (2010) examined for her article, bullying is not only getting younger it is more pervasive. Paul explains:
One recent survey of 273 third graders in Massachusetts found that 47 percent have been bullied at least once; 52 percent reported being called mean names, being made fun of or teased in a hurtful way; and 51 percent reported being left out of things on purpose, excluded from their group of friends or completely ignored at least once in the past couple of months (Paul, 2010).
Bullying is at an all-time high it would appear from the news media; so-much-so that even the federal government is stepping in to address the problem. Paul points out that “In Washington, at a “Bullying Prevention Summit” in August, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced stepped-up efforts in elementary schools, noting, ‘Bullying starts young — and we need to reach students when they are young with the message that bullying is not O.K’” (Paul, 2010).
The change in girls, however, seems to be under the microscope more so than boys. Girl’s aggression is growing and starting at earlier ages is the common consent. The culprit, according to some researches is Hannah Montana and similar television shows that reward aggression in young girls. This example of acceptable aggressive behavior then serves as a model for society to follow and duplicate. Paul sites a research study in the area:
Nicole Martins, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, has conducted a study linking aggressive behavior to shows with stars she deemed socially aggressive, like “Hannah Montana” and “The Simple Life.” “There was no effect on aggression on boys, but in girls, there was an increase among those who watched socially aggressive female models on TV…” (Paul, 2010)
One research study may not be the last authority in the area of aggressive behavior that is new for young girls but it may add to the conversation that something needs to happen now to address the problem before it gets out of control. Simmons (2002) has traveled for ten years after writing your bestselling book on girl bullying habits and thinks something must be done. Simmons