spectating participant

October 22, 2002

Book Review: Odd Girl Out

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:21 pm

Non-fiction book by Rachel Simmons

Rachel Simmons has tackled the unspoken aggression in girls. Labeled alternative aggression, Simmons displays case after case of the ways girls use exclusion, threats of losing friendship, and undetected aggression.

Any woman that has experienced this hidden aggression will find this book to be a vivid reminder of everything that has ever been do to or done by girls growing up. Simmons focuses on how girls maintain damaging relationships, use group support when in conflict, silently attack other girls with body language, and float below the parent-teacher radar.

For parents and educators unfamiliar with this type of aggression, Odd Girl Out gives specific examples of cruelty and the devastating effects it can have.

The only downside to the book is the extensive examples included. As a adult woman who has experience these alternative aggressions first hand, I didn’t need the page after page description of other girls problems. But for anyone trying to understand or first realizing this is a problem, Rachel Simmons provides a wealth of information to dive into.

Some key points that jumped out at me were:

Alternative aggression is just as damaging as physical violence. In some cases, it may even be worse. There were multiple cases of girls developing serous mental and anxiety problems as a direct result of the cruelty they were facing from other girls. Additionally, our culture has often defined the difficulties girls face as “just a phase” or “social skills” that girls have to deal with. However, Simmons and other researchers are finding this is not the case, alternative aggression is a serious topic.

Parents and teachers need to be aware and carefully watch for these specific types of aggression. It is often consider a silent fight or quiet battle because girls are good at playing the “good girl” in front of teachers and parents, yet still giving mean looks, whispering about a girl to their friends, spreading rumors, and writing mean notes. There is rarely any physical or definitive evidence that something is happening.

One reason there is this type of aggression in girls is because they are given conflicting messages about how they are supposed to act. In a society that tells girls that they can be anyone they want to be, they are still faced with the views that they should be quiet and well mannered. This conflict of expectations makes t difficult for them to discover ways to resolve conflicts and deal with anger.

Some things parents, teachers, and girls can do to deal with alternative aggression:

Parents need to:
- actively listen
- ask about your daughters day everyday.
- get the facts about any problems
- help plan out strategies for dealing with aggression
- switch school (if possible, it has shown to help several cases)
- or enter into a new after-school activity
- talk with teacher, guidance counselors, and school officials
- do this after doing everything else you can to solve the problem, not as a first solution
- let your daughter know that you are aware of the way girls can be mean
- sympathize and don’t downgrade the situation

Teachers need to:
- keep aware of possible aggression in the classroom
- explain aggression and what types are not acceptable (include alternative aggression)
- check out The Ophelia Project
- check out The Empower Program

Girls neet to:
- have open/honest talks with their friends about how to deal with anger
- get help, talk to someone
- get rid of the friend (this is harder than it sounds)
- find a new activity
- know that it will end

This book goes into the social and economic differences of aggression in girls. It also discusses way to deal with aggression as it is happening. The list above is a vague generalization; please pick up the book to get a better understanding of the best way to deal with this problem.

I suggest any educator or parent of young girls pick up this book and read through it. The hidden aggression in girls is a powerful force in a girl’s childhood and has long-term effects on life. It is about time that someone decided to tackle this issue and raise awareness about it.