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Teen Talk: Finding Kind - A Solution to Girl On Girl Crime
Teen Talk - Live
Chris is taking “Teen Talk” on the road. If you are a member of a parent group or responsible for finding engaging speakers for student or youth groups, please contact Chris at www.chrislincoln-speaker.com
The difference between the sexes during the teenage years is extraordinary. While there are commonalities with respect to authority figures, school, schoolwork, and other issues, it would be naive to not recognize these fundamental differences. Perhaps the biggest difference is how girls interact with each other.
This has been termed, very appropriately as “Girl World.” It has existed in some form or another since earliest times. It can be positive and create “Sisterhood” and the development of life-long friendships. More often, it is talked about as negative, leading to what one young lady calls “girl on girl crime.” The young lady in question is Lauren Parsekian, who along with a friend from Pepperdine University, Molly Stroud, has created the Kind Campaign.
I went to see a screening of their movie, findingkind, earlier this week. The movie documented Lauren and Molly traveling around the country with their campaign to address girl on girl crime. In a packed movie theater, on a normally quiet Tuesday night, the documentary was shown in Lauren’s hometown of Laguna Niguel, California.
Naturally, the ladies in question present this more eloquently, but my purpose here is to make readers aware and provide links to their website. It is a message that every girl in America should see. Even better would be the opportunity to participate in one the assemblies. Lauren and Molly hold assemblies in schools all across the country, and their irrepressible spirit is what makes such an emotional issue, bearable.
At the core of matters is the cruel behavior of girls to other girls. Commonly associated with the middle school years, it is clear that the seeds are sown early and the effects can last a lifetime. Spreading false rumors, friends turning on each other, and mean and persistent verbal and non-verbal bullying, are rampant, and destructive.
Most of my experiences with this phenomenon have been in dealing with issues in third and seventh grade. In third grade, the social development of girls includes a phenomenon of “owning” friends. “You can’t be friends with Sue if you want to be friends with me” is a typical example. Girls pair off and talk about the other groups. The pairs combine at times and split up at others, often very dramatically.
In seventh grade, a slightly more sophisticated version, collecting acolytes into a group or posse, plays out, causing havoc, and stealing hundreds of hours of academic time. Even more concerning, it causes incalculable harm to the psyche of innumerable girls.
(This and other phenomena are examined in the seminal work on these matters, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman.)
The Kind Campaign goes further than recognition and strategies, in that it has set itself the task of changing the culture. The already complex culture has now gone, literally, viral, with the proliferation of digital media now available. No longer can you seek refuge away from school or social events. The venom is piped directly into every part of their lives. Emails, twitter, Facebook, and youtube, become the four horsemen of a modern apocalypse for many girls, leading to rampant depression, and in several well-documented cases, suicide.
It is really no stretch of the imagination to say that many of our girls are living in a hell that not even Hieronymus Bosch could have imagined, let alone painted. And it does not neatly divide into perpetrators and victims. Most girls readily admit to having been victimized at some time or another. The surprise is how many of them have also been the perpetrator.
This particular witch’s brew is fueled by jealousy, insecurity, and a sizable helping of competition. No one is immune, and most women can relate to similar experiences from their middle school or high school years. The documentary suggests that if most women were honest, they would admit that it still plays a part in their lives, now. Most have regrets as well as sad tales of isolation and betrayal.
Lauren and Molly point out that one of the greatest roadblocks to resolution is that girls and women do not trust each other’s apologies. Sorry then just becomes another component in the warfare, and the cycle persists.
Owning your faults and finding an appropriate way to admit to, and apologize for, them, is part of their program. This key to unlocking the hurt is the most hopeful part of the rationale. It is fragile, but here the purity of the ladies mission, and their open hearts, plays a pivotal role. The interplay of their bubbly personalities and their obvious love and respect for each other, combine to drive doubt and negativity away.
There are many tears, reflecting deep hurts, some held for many years, which is cathartic. But, the reality is that right now, thousands of girls do not want to go to school tomorrow morning and hundreds may be contemplating suicide. They do not want to face the looks that can slash as deep as any knife, the negative or sarcastic comments on their clothing, looks, preferences, and the forced isolation. Neutral does not exist in Girl World. Sides are always chosen, but only temporarily, as all want to avoid the wrath of today’s alpha cat.
Movies such as “Mean Girls” were meant to help us laugh at the behaviors. I was horrified to discover that, for many girls, it became some sort of “how to” manual.
I believe I am a sensitive and empathic man, but in trying to deal with these issues in middle school, I was horribly out of my depth. I was alternately misled, played, and used, in multiple scenarios of the girl on girl crimes. I could not, for example, invest the amount of time, and level of emotion, that the girls were prepared to invest. All I could do was redirect, listen to the hurt, and try to keep the lid on the boiling pot, as best I could.
Parents are often frustrated that the school/principal/teacher is doing nothing. And therein lies a greater problem. Most will try, and invest time, effort, and emotion, into trying to find solutions. However, in trying to deal with it, we become players in the game, with the teacher (or well meaning parent) too often becoming yet another victim. These types of interactions can consume every moment of the day, and exhaust whatever personal reserves we have. No academic learning takes place, and we would, after all that, probably fail.
The answer lies in resetting the cultural norms, early if possible. I have seen teachers in the younger grades guide and model their wards with love and skill. With the culture of testing and academics, academics, and more academics, less time is given to this type of vital social development. Big mistake.
I hope Lauren and Molly get the opportunities to spread their message far and wide. I hope kindness becomes the new normal. I hope the girls build a strong sisterhood based on mutual respect and awareness of each other’s strengths and talents. I hope that inner beauty overcomes the inner beast. And, I hope that somehow, every girl who has lost hope, finds kindness.
Find out more at:
www.kindcampaign.com (The campaign)
www.findingkind.com (The documentary)