Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Boys Drool and Eat Bugs, Yes...

...but apparently girls are capable of performing psychological headgames so complex in nature that they leave their victim lying prone in front of her locker wondering if life—or even fourth period—is worth the trouble of having to walk by the bitches that are forever rolling their eyes at her for no reason.

Or something like that.

I went to a lecture last night by Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. I'd read the first 30 or so pages of the book in preparation, but I still wasn't sure what to expect. When I got past the minor (and at some points truly bloody major) irritation of having a grown woman shriek in Middle-Schoolese (this involved multiple uses of the words "dude," "like," "so," "whatever," "word," etc., all performed in Upspeak which, as you may know, is the tendency to speak every sentence as a question regardless of whether or not you're asking one. It's kind of like this? And I'm so happy? That it wasn't prevalent? When I was younger?) as she drove her points home with anecdotes of her field work amongst girls, this is what I heard:

(1) the pressure we put on girls to "be nice" no matter what is what leads to their obsession with perfection

(2) part of this obsession with perfection manifests in the inability to resolve conflicts via verbal communication

(3) lacking the ability to voice their emotions, they turn to those non-verbal gestures ("aggression") we all know and love: eye-rolling, back-turning, pointing, whispering, and the mysterious ability to make everyone hate the victim without really knowing why

(4) a girl's world is all about her relationships, so when this ganging up bullshit happens to her, everything gets all effed up

(5) this behavior often goes unchecked because girls know how to perform these stealthy feats of aggression without teachers noticing

(6) if girls enter young adulthood without having learned the lifeskills necessary to resolve conficts sans rolling their eyes and emitting small, disgusted sighs, they will never be CEOs

Or something like that.

Sitting there in the audience, I began to shrink lower and lower in my seat. All the heinous crimes I committed against other girls (and vice versa) beginning in fifth grade or so flitted through my little brain. And I awoke this morning thinking that maybe it would have been easier, after all, to deal with the relative simplicity of boys punching each other in the face.


barbara jane said...

ack, isn't it sad that it's not just little girls who do this, ms. ver, but grown women too!

but not you and me, huh? we have to co-edit the noli-fili journal. oh, dear.

ver said...

Yes, old nasty habits die hard. Thank God you and I have transcended such conflict to become the editors of a universally lauded journal..oh, wait. Getting ahead of myself...

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

What's tough for me is knowing/seeing my daughter on the brink. The eyerolls, the inability to communicate and handle her emotions, the whole ball of wax. And I can't figure out how to help her...because I haven't learned how to do it myself. Pure torture.

But I'm glad to know someone's out there looking at this, talking about it. Thanks for the book recommendation!

barbara jane said...

hm, so what do you do to prevent this from happening? i mean, i grew up in a family of all girls who did resort to physical violence and shouting matches with each other, which folks must've thought uncivilized. but it makes me and my sisters (there's 4 of us) pretty blunt and up front with each other.

also, what do you do with grown women who do this? i don't think i ever learned that and these days i typically retreat from suck eye-rolling head-game behavior.

barbara jane said...

ack! typo! "such" eye-rolling behavior....

ver said...

Okay, so my first instinct was to dismiss all this stuff as pure rite-of-passage business, but now it makes me angry to think of how much time all these machinations takes away from productive activity!

Bec, Simmons talked about working hard to help girls express their emotions and that using "I" statements can help with this. For instance, when they're upset, have them work on saying, "I feel _____ when you do ____." And stress that resolving conflict is often messy (since girls generally like things tied up neatly in a pretty box). Interesting research she cited: when boys have a disagreement while playing a game, they often turn to the rules; when girls have a disagreement, they end the game. Before I butcher any more of her ideas, I should stop! Do get the book; I think it'll help you. The number of young girls in the audience that night was astounding, and the questions they asked were soooo sad. Oh!--Another thing Simmons said is that the girls who fare better are the ones who have several sets of friends because if they get stomped on, they can turn elsewhere.

Miz BJ, sounds to me like you and your sisters have it all worked out! And I think this must have helped you when you were coming up. As for the grown women who continue this behavior...I loathe them. But I think that confronting them with a simple question (without the, you know, sarcasm) about what's bothering them can be so disarming that it can actually produce a decent exchange. Isn't it funny that Filipinas have contributed their own specific piece of body language to this?--The Nostril Flare!!