Polimicks

Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Book Recommendation: Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons

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.

This entry originally posted at http://polimicks.dreamwidth.org/

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27 comments on “Book Recommendation: Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons

  1. garpu
    May 26, 2010

    My mom’s response to my being bullied was to tell me to quit doing whatever I was doing to make them bully me. She, of course, has no recollection of saying this now.
    I should pick it up. I don’t know if I have the headspace to read it now, though.

    Like

    • polimicks
      May 26, 2010

      I would wait, if I were you.

      Like

      • garpu
        May 26, 2010

        Yeeah. Probably not good train reading? 😉

        Like

      • polimicks
        May 26, 2010

        No, probably not.

        Like

      • garpu
        May 26, 2010

        I need to pick your brain about mailing begonias, so long as mine already have Stockholm Syndrome.

        Like

      • polimicks
        May 26, 2010

        I have never mailed plants. You might call Molbak’s and ask them for advice.

        Like

    • maida_mac
      May 26, 2010

      Mine kept telling me to at least “try to act normal”. Bleh.

      Like

      • polimicks
        May 26, 2010

        Yeah, I got that one fairly frequently. Usually on the first day of the new school.

        Like

      • maida_mac
        May 26, 2010

        Literally almost every day of my life from 1st grade on until I finally started bowing to it in 9th grade. Jeebus.
        There is a reason why my kids got told that 1) I believe them, 2) I will fight if that’s what they want, and 3) don’t let this stop them being themselves, because they would regret that a lot more when they get older.

        Like

      • polimicks
        May 26, 2010

        Good for you!

        Like

      • garpu
        May 26, 2010

        I know what that’s like… In my mom’s defense, she was always a social butterfly and just couldn’t relate to having a geek for a daughter.

        Like

      • polimicks
        May 26, 2010

        heh, my mom was a cheerleader, and got the black-clad, bad poetry writing suicidal weirdo for a daughter.

        Like

      • garpu
        May 26, 2010

        Heh. Things were a bit better in high school, when I found some other like-minded freaks. Then her bleat was, “Well why can’t you find normal friends?”

        Like

      • polimicks
        May 26, 2010

        Never happy, are they?

        Like

      • garpu
        May 26, 2010

        Newp. Although I still keep in contact with some of those freaks. All hail facebook!

        Like

      • polimicks
        May 26, 2010

        Hooray for social networking.

        Like

  2. jeliza
    May 26, 2010

    It’s been really hard, and also interesting in a certain way, to try and be a really good parent to a little girl who is being bullied without transferring all my ideas from when *I* was a girl being bullied. (we have very different bullies, and very different personalities.) Because I remember being told to toughen up and just outlive them, and I pretty much did; I’m guessing my amazing powers of emotional detachment were honed, though not created, by this, and I really don’t want that for O. So we are trying to ride that line of honoring her experience and supporting her and also trying to teach her how to be a less attractive target and how to stand up for herself (i.e. martial arts, counseling). It very much feels like living in the land of no right answers.

    Like

    • polimicks
      May 26, 2010

      Yeah, I can see that. I think the important thing is to believe her. Because I know that not being believed was one of the most crazy-making things about it.

      Like

    • polimicks
      May 27, 2010

      You want to borrow the book when I’m done with it.
      The parent section does get better. The solutions chapter is… eh… but how do you address something like this. She does emphasize what I keep emphasizing, believe your child and don’t minimize what she’s feeling. Also, feel free to share your own experiences of having been bullied.

      Like

  3. lesleymac
    May 26, 2010

    I wish I had warned you that it could be triggering. Personally, I am super dissociative about the bullying I experienced. It’s like it happened to some other girl, because if I attempt to engage it on a personal emotional level, I fall apart. It didn’t trigger me, because there is a huge concrete wall around my past.
    As I read, I was looking forward, reading it as a teacher: “How can I stop this horrible, hidden thing from happening right in front of me?”

    Like

    • polimicks
      May 26, 2010

      I’ve been slowly picking my wall apart in therapy, so I was probably more vulnerable to it.

      Like

  4. moonwalker
    May 26, 2010

    I got told in Jr. High, “Just ignore them, they’re jealous of you” but it didn’t work. I won’t go into what they did to me, but it went on for 2 years. Finally, I started making friends with the lesser girls in the bully pack by helping them with homework, so then when the main bully girl turned on me, they would tell her to leave off me, I was OK.
    So this enraged Main Bully Girl, who then went after me in an empty home ec room (I had left something there, and she followed me.) She came at me and I grabbed a knife out of a drawer and held it up. She stopped and I started acting spastic and drooling out of the side of my mouth. She made this horrified face, said “You’re crazy!” and ran away. I put the knife back and was a little shaky, but that girl never came near me again.
    Mary MMM

    Like

    • polimicks
      May 26, 2010

      I just sort of rode on the crazy-coat tails of a friend who attacked a guy in Spanish at the culmination of his six months long rumor campaign against her.

      Like

  5. kashma
    May 26, 2010

    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.
    I too find out more and more how much my actions are influenced, even controlled to a certain extent, by coping mechanisms and tactics I developed from my youth, which included a good deal of bullying as well.
    And, given what you said, I’m going to be proactive and say that if I have ever said anything to you that you wanted to confront me about, but didn’t (which is likely, somehow, given how often I stick my foot in my mouth), please do let me know. Or barring that, accept my apology. Because part of my coping toolset is being a knowitall, arrogant asshole.

    Like

    • polimicks
      May 26, 2010

      Nope, not you. And as you are a guy, I probably wouldn’t have much trouble calling you on it.

      Like

      • kashma
        May 26, 2010

        Good. That’s really good to know.
        Mostly though, from someone who isn’t over it either, a nod of recognition and admiration.

        Like

      • polimicks
        May 26, 2010

        No problem.

        Like

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