Kewl Kidz and Queen Bees Friday, November 17, 2006 Sara Robinson
The image of the mainstream media as a gaggle of adolescent Kewl Kidz giggling and sneering in high school hallways has been in circulation as a stock lefty blogger meme for a few years now. But I don't know that anyone's really stopped and taken a look at the deeper implications of that analogy -- or the possible solutions it might point to, especially what we know these days about "relational aggression," which is what this precise form of bullying is called when it happens in schools.
Bullying between boys has been a concern of vice principals as long as there have been schoolyards to fight in and windows to break. But it's only been the past 15 years or so that thoughtful psychologists and child development experts, mostly women, have taken a look at the very different ways girls bully each other. Where boy bullying is hard to ignore, given how often it leads to physical aggression and outright violence, girl bullying is far more subtle and therefore easier to shrug off. Yet the effects on girls are no less devastating; and the wounds cut so deep that many women will be emotionally and socially disabled by them for the rest of their lives.
The Parenting Perspectives website provides a concise description of this devastating style of coercion and abuse:
Acts of relational aggression are common among girls in American schools. These acts can include rumor spreading, secret-divulging, alliance-building, backstabbing, ignoring, excluding from social groups and activities, verbally insulting, and using hostile body language (i.e., eye-rolling and smirking). Other behaviors include making fun of someone's clothes or appearance and bumping into someone on purpose. Many of these behaviors are quite common in girls' friendships, but when they occur repeatedly to one particular victim, they constitute bullying.
Increasingly common is another form of harassment termed “cyber bullying”—using e-mail and websites to harm someone. Cyber bullies use personal websites and instant messaging to spread rumors about classmates over the Internet. Cyber bullies might also use classmates or “friend's” PIN numbers and pass codes to send embarrassing e-mails. Sometimes it is easier to engage in cyberbullying than more direct acts because the bully never faces the victim. This form of harassment is also very fast--an instant message posted at night may spread through an entire school before the first class period….
Relational aggression tends to be most intense and apparent among girls in fifth through eighth grade. This type of behavior often continues, although perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree, in high school.…