Sugar, spice and not playing nice

Nov. 8, 2002, midnight | By Simona Danilovska | 18 years, 2 months ago

Malicious girl bullies bruise self-esteem with back-stabbing, name-calling and ridiculing

Junior Sally Haskell feels spit spray on her as her bully nears just inches from her face. The bully, standing in the middle of Blair Blvd soon after second period, is furiously accusing Haskell of giving her a bad reputation and lying. Haskell struggles to keep from crying as a crowd forms, but she breaks down as she turns away to go to class.

Eighty-one percent of female Blazers say they have been bullied by another female, according to an informal Silver Chips survey conducted Sept 8. Experts say aggression and emotional abuse has always been prevalent among young women, but it has only recently begun to receive the attention it deserves.

Rachel Simmons, the author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, has conducted hundreds of interviews with females, some of whom have experienced severe bullying. Girls with more extreme problems revealed that they developed eating disorders, transferred to different schools, used drugs or became depressed or suicidal and went through psychological counseling in their adult years.

Psychological warfare

As junior Kat Clark looks back on her eighth and ninth grade years, the only thing that stands out in her mind is a blurry image of constant verbal abuse, taunts and insults. She recalls feeling ostracized, which developed from being bullied. Clark says she was called "fatty" and "freak." "I felt unwanted, unappreciated and even unloved," she says.

Senior Amanda Thornton was also involved in a bullying relationship in her freshman year. She regrets the effort she put into building friendships with "the wrong group of people," which resulted in catastrophe. "They convinced me to turn against my best friend, and once I did, they turned against me," she says.
The group began spreading rumors, verbally harassing Thornton and sending her mean e-mails. She says the treatment continues to this day, only to a lesser extent. Thornton feels she's one of many whom this group has tormented. "They go through friends like I go through toilet paper," she says bluntly.

Krystin Siciak, the best friend Thornton rebuffed, had to transfer from Blair and is now a senior attending Northwestern High School. She says she was pretty much bullied off of Blair property. "They excluded me from parties, talked about me behind my back, violated my privacy by going through personal letters," lists Siciak, citing only a few of the problems she had.

In desperate need of comfort, support and even escape, Siciak called her mother one day, only to realize an even greater betrayal by her so-called friends. "They had written my mom a letter that went something like: 'We're sad to inform you that your daughter has been sleeping around, drinking, doing drugs,' just all these lies. It made me so heart-broken," says Siciak.

Invisible bruises

The effects of girl aggression can be as serious as depression or suicide or as simple as social difficulty. Guidance counselor Charlain Bailey concentrates on the less-severe results. "It can impact how you see yourself and how you make friends," she says.

Bullying amplified Clark's preexisting problems. Her occasional aggressive outbursts became more frequent, and her temper became harder to control. "There were times when I felt unworthy of life," Clark admits.

The problems that Siciak experienced as a result of bullying eventually reached such a severe level that she developed an eating disorder. "I got really depressed and simply stopped eating," Siciak explains. Siciak and her family thought that it was time to seek professional counseling, and she began going to weekly psychiatric sessions. "They threatened to put me in a hospital because of how bad it got," says Siciak.

Predator or prey?

Norma Cohen, a New York City social worker, points out that the prey often turns into a predator. "When people have suffered like that, it's very common for the abused to become the abuser," she says. In fact, 73 percent of the female Blazers who reported having been bullied admitted to bullying others as well.

Siciak suggests that girls act in such a hostile manner because of their insecurities. "When [my bully] came to high school, everyone talked about her. In order to make herself seem better, she ruined other people's lives by turning the tables and finding a new victim," says Siciak.

According to Cohen, girl aggression revolves around self-esteem issues. "Bullying is a bad case of low self-esteem," she says.

Cohen also notes that females tend to bully because of cultural influences. "Women are not supposed to show anger. Boys are much more free to do so," she says. Because of this mental distress, girls take pent-up anger out on each other. "Justifiable anger needs to be expressed, so girls look for an outlet—the wrong outlet for sure," Cohen adds.

Clark agrees with Cohen's theory. "Girls beat each other up mentally and psychologically instead of physically, like boys do," she says. Clark suggests a more healthful alternative to expressing feelings. "For God sakes, let girls take martial arts to channel their rage!" she exclaims.

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Simona Danilovska. Simona Danilovska is a junior at Blair high school and a page editor for Chips, (a.k.a. the best newspaper in the world.) She was born on March 8, which makes her proud to be a Pisces =). Her favorite activities consist of checking her horoscope … More »

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