Friday, February 28, 2014

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls - Rachel Simmons

Title: Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls
Author: Rachel Simmons
Publisher: Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin), 2011 (Paperback)
Length: 377 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: February 27, 2014
Finished: February 28, 2014

From the back cover:

When Odd Girl Out was first published, it became an instant bestseller, igniting a long-overdue conversation about the hidden culture of female bullying. Today the dirty looks, taunting notes, and social exclusion that plague girls' friendships have gained new momentum in cyberspace.

In this updated edition, educator and bullying expert Rachel Simmons gives girls, parents, and educators proven and innovative strategies for navigating social dynamics online, as well as brand new classroom initiatives and step-by-step parental suggestions for dealing with conventional bullying. With up-to-the-minute research and real-life stories, Odd Girl Out continues to be the definitive resource on the most pressing social issues facing girls today.

This is another of my "issues of raising a girl" books that I picked up recently, the first book done by the author that wrote The Curse of the Good Girl that I read last week. After reading both books, I now realize I should have read this one first, since a lot of he material in the second book is integrated here, and when put in perspective with bullying, it actually makes a lot more sense. This book was originally published in 2002 before technology was a major issue in bullying, so this is a revised edition to include updated information and research.

There is a particular type of girl bullying that the author describes in her book. It isn't a case of girls picking on other girls who are weak and different that they barely know. The cases here are ones about girls on relatively equal footing in terms of social standing that are already friends, and where one either moves up or down in popularity and the other is thus affected. The book claims that since our culture doesn't allow girls to express anger in overt ways like boys, they clam up and their anger and frustration erupts through covert tactics like manipulation and rumour-spreading. The book actually likens some of these 'friendships' to toxic relationships and warns that girls that cannot walk away from them risk setting themselves up for being used and abused in future relationships. She goes into great detail on cliques and the idea that a group will choose a scapegoat to ostracize mainly to divert the negative attention from themselves but it's a vicious cycle because the group then focuses in on another in order to reassure themselves.

The examples the author uses from personal interviews are familiar to me as a teacher hearing stories from students (my experience as a child comes from the first type I mentioned above). I acknowledge that girl bullying and aggression exists. But to me these examples seem a little on the extreme side and are actually more about emotional blackmail. Both parties in the examples contributed to the situation in one way or another, and it seems as if simply walking away and having nothing to do with the other party would help things (aside from cyber-bullying, that throws a wrench in things). The author does list strategies for teachers, parents, and girls themselves for coping with these situations; many of which I do believe work from seeing them in action in schools. The author also has chapters on cyber-bullying and sexting, which complicate matters all the more, and cautions parents to strictly monitor and restrict social media usage during the key bullying ages (10-14).

An excellent book for parents and teachers to read, especially if they know someone affected by this particular type of girl bullying. If the criteria I listed does not fit your daughter's type of bullying, you might wish to seek out another book, I recommend Bullied by Carrie Goldman.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the image used together with the green and yellow colour scheme, it's very pleasing to the eye.

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