by Tracee Sioux
I found some alarming statistics in my local paper about physically violent fighting in the local high schools.
There were five physically violent fights in one high school so far this year. Ten girls were involved. No boys.
At another high school there have been seven fights and five of them involved girls.
The trend seems to be escalating from last year’s statistics where 81 fights in the 2006-2007 school year involved 32 girls at one high school. At another school last year 21 fights involved 28 girls. At still another local high school, one of the better ones in town, girls accounted for 7 of 7 fights.
Authorities at the school report that physical violence among girls is generally the result of gossip and even teacher intervention does little to deescalate the violence.
Principals and teachers describe boys as posturing and easy to redirect and girls as more vicious and more likely to follow through with threats of violence.
While this trend is alarming, and I think further research will indicate a national trend, it isn’t really all that surprising.
Mean girl behavior is getting out of control in preschool and going completely unchecked as I wrote in Girl Drama. Parents are sending four- and five-year-olds to school as if it’s a Kindergarten Fashion Show and turning their tots into fashion divas as I wrote about in Second Generation Mean Girl.
Common responses in preschool and Kindergarten by teachers, in my experience, has been to minimize the behavior, yeah, girls do that.
What continues to surprise me, though it may only illustrate my naivete, is that girls’ parents are defending mean girl behavior as opposed to punishing or stopping it.
Take the national news story (not an urban legend as I had hoped) about the two girls who took a photograph of their supposed friend in the shower at a slumber party and spread it all over their high school via cell phone.
This is disturbing in and of itself.
The girls were suspended and kicked off the cheer leading squad.
The mean girls’ parents, however, hired a lawyer to ensure their daughters would suffer no consequences.
The girls were put back on the cheerleading team. The father of one of the mean girls was on Dr. Phil saying the victimized girl and her parents were making too big a deal over a little prank. The other parent of the mean girl has a website defending his “brave” daughter’s behavior.
Neither parents disciplined their mean girl daughters. Neither felt it was even an assault worthy of a good old fashioned grounding.
Have girls become so sexualized in our culture that to be angry that the whole school has a nude photo of you is being a poor sport? That to take the nude photo is a simple childish prank?
What message are we giving to our girls?
To me, this action is the equivalent to pornography of a child and should be punished accordingly.
This case is important for all parents of girls. If our daughters are not the mean girls, they may become victims of mean girls.
This is not an isolated incident, it’s just one that has gotten national attention.
One teenage girl I know shared that a boy had shown her a cell phone recording of another girl having intercourse with his friend. She didn’t understand my shock and outrage. It didn’t occur to any of the girls involved to go to the police or other authority figure. It didn’t even occur to the girls that they had a right not to be sexually victimized in this way.
This kind of thing is likely to become more and more prevalent as no one, not the police or the school or the parents, seem to dare to take action to nip it in the bud punitively.
Isn’t it our responsibility to teach our girls the difference between right and wrong? Isn’t it our responsibility, as parents and educators, to enforce consequences for mean girl behavior?
If we fail to take action and provide consequences to mean girl behavior aren’t we teaching them that it’s an acceptable and excusable way to behave?
Is it any wonder that gossip wars have begun to escalate into physical violence?
Is it too complex for parents to understand that insulating our children from consequences is not what’s best for them?