My first girl conflict was in Pre-K. A girl told me I had ugly shoes. I cried and was told that if I wanted to avoid being upset, I should just hang out with the boys.
Sadly, that didn’t work.
The bullying I observed, or experienced, only got worse. Elementary school included the introduction of social exclusion at recess, which left some scarring body image reflections – am I really that much bigger than my peers? Does my hair really make me look like Medusa? – that to some extent, still stick with me. Middle school included three-way phone calls and competition over who would “go out” with the coolest boy (Note to Spencer: yeah you’re a nice guy, but going through the bullying to “date” you for two days was so not worth it). High school included every bullying you can imagine: cliques, blogging about who does/doesn’t deserve swim captain, the name association that develops based on your sexual experience (and thus your social status), and friend repercussions for making healthy or unhealthy pressured decisions.
So by the time I graduated from high school and went to college, a school that’s so large that it seems impossible to feel included or excluded, I thought it was the end. No more bullying. But alas, I was truly immersed in the social media generation. Facebook and Twitter provided the perfect outlet for some of my peers, who opted for a passive aggressive approach to talk about other girls. Not only would the bully vent her feelings, but she’d do it in a public sphere, one where her victim and the rest of the internet world would be able to see.
It’s absolutely nauseating that we do this to each other. But we can also transform this girl-aggressive behavior for the next generation.
I love the fact that the Girls Inc. Work It Out programs address a wide range of bullying, which is age appropriate and up-to-date. We’re even launching a new addition to our Work It Out program, which addresses these new avenues for bullying and how to handle bullying when it surrounds you literally everywhere you go. (Read Jen’s post on Cyberbullying to learn more about the issue.) We can only address this issue if we’re honest about our own aggressive behavior and model positive female relationships for a younger generation.