Girls Just Wanna Be Mean
Girls Who Bully
"They made it seem like something good, like an invitation
or something," she says. "They were smiling. I opened it and it was
written in all different colors of inks and handwriting, saying we don't want
to be your friend, don't look at us, don't call us, don't come near us.
Everyone put it a different way -- they all wrote it."
It still hurts like fire to remember the incident. "Sticks
and stones can hurt for a lifetime," nods Phyllis Chesler, MD, a retired
professor of psychology at City University in New York and author of Woman's
Inhumanity to Woman.
Time was, the word bully applied to boys who stole lunch money
from their weaker classmates. But increasingly, researchers are finding that
girls are becoming frighteningly adept at "relational aggression." This
is the term professionals use to describe the Byzantine ways girls use gossip,
innuendo, social leverage, and court intrigue as ruthless as the Medici for
entertainment and social advantage. The kids call it "outcasting."
According to a report titled "Hostile Hallways" issued
by the American Association of University Women, 76% of students have
experienced non-physical harassment and 58% have experienced the physical
variety. This treatment can even push students to suicide in extreme cases.
There has been at least one case in Canada. On the reverse side, in a study in
Scandinavia, 60% of those classified as bullies went on to collect at least one
(Pierced) Earmarks of a Bully
Are female bullies disadvantaged losers trying to boost their
self-esteem? Quite the contrary, according to Rosalind Wiseman, author of
Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip,
Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence and founder of The Empower
Program, a 13-year-old organization to help boys and girls defend themselves.
"Often it's girls with high self-esteem who are mean to others,"
"It's the cute, popular girls who do this," Kelsey
agrees. "They do it because they can, not because they need to."
Chesler says it may be that the outcast girl is different in
some way, maybe even because she was elected to class office or made
cheerleader. "She won't have time to emotionally groom the others, so she's
out." Not being able to afford the "in" designers or shoes can
tarnish a girl. "There are so many rules in school, unwritten rules, anyone
is bound to break some. It's easy to make a mistake," Wiseman says.
"If a girl is being bullied and no one is speaking to her,
she may ask a friend, 'Are you mad?' and the friend will say no, though clearly
something is wrong," says Wiseman.
How did Kelsey finally make it through school? "I sort of
walked in between," she says. "I was friends with the geeks, skaters,
gangsters, stoners, jocks, and those background people. You know -- the ones
you see in class but don't know."
Hey, mom and dad, did you know all this was going on? And
school is just starting!