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Lesleymac recommended this book to me, and when I saw it at Half Price Books while selling off some of my collection, I picked it up.

Rachel Simmons decided to write Odd Girl Out because she couldn't find much, if any, published research on the ways in which girls torture each other while growing up (and let's face it, some never stop). So she decided to do some research, talk to current and former victims of female bullying, called "relational aggression," meaning shunning, ostracism, rumor-mongering, exclusion, whisper campaigns, "accidental" bumpings...

I read a lot of books on horrible stuff. I read books on rape, rape survival, Female Genital Mutilation, child abuse, animal abuse, human atrocities, serial killers... I have never read anything as triggering as this book. There have been times, while reading it, I started to have problems reading the words, and realized that I was shaking so hard that it was literally impossible to read the words. It made me cry on more than one occasion. Some of the stories in this book could have been mine, word for word.

I'm going to warn you that if you were a victim of orchestrated girl bullying in your youth, this book is going to make you cry, and quite possibly have nightmares. It will also point out to you all the ways in which you are NOT over it. The ways in which the means you developed to survive in your teens are still your coping mechanisms now. Particularly telling for me was realizing that while I have no problem confronting men or women I don't know well, that I will still swallow things that bother me if the people who do them are good friends, because I don't want to be a bitch, or make them mad, or make them not like me.

So, as gut wrenching a read as this is, I highly recommend it to help you get a handle on your current behavior, or for no other reason than to know you weren't alone.

And if you have girl children, I can't recommend this enough. Although right now I'm reading the chapter on how parents feel when their daughters are the victims of girl bullying, and it's kind of pissing me off. Partially because I see my mother's reactions to it. Because parents are still saying shit like "Ignore them and they'll stop" or "You need to develop a thicker skin." Because I'm seeing the teachers and administrators are still blaming the victim, telling them that this wouldn't happening to them if they'd try harder to fit in, had better social skills, whatever... When, if you read this book, you see that the lack of social skills is rarely the impetus for the most cruel behavior. The parents who are more concerned with what the neighbors will think if they put their kid in therapy, than the damage being done to their child.

But, I'm not done with the parent/teacher chapter yet, so it could redeem itself. If nothing else, read it as an example of what not to do if your kid is bullied.

I've said before, your child may not want you to intercede on her behalf, but the most powerful, saving thing you can do for your daughters is to believe them. One of the strains running through this book is that the victims of relational aggression are often not believed because the bullies are "just not that kind of girl." For the love of all that is holy, if your daughter is being bullied and thinks highly enough of your relationship that she tells you, BELIEVE HER! Even if you do or can do nothing else. Believe her.

Don't tell her to toughen up, don't tell her to ignore it. Tell her you believe her, and that you will step in if that's what she wants. At the very least, tell her teachers to keep an eye on the situation. Girls are really good at acting under the radar, because our society acculturates them to that. Teachers need to know to look for the subtle things if they're ever going to see them.

Again, I highly recommend this book. If you're in the Seattle area, the U-dicrict Half Price Books has several copies.


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October 2012

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