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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Girls will be girls...& bitches

I had hoped to come back with a hilariously funny, light hearted post. Some tale of mischief from one of the minions to get the blogging ball rolling again. While the antics of the kids have been up to their normal high standards ripe with blogging material, my fingers have still been frozen. I almost considered to just Let It Go, let it goooooo...

Then the nightmare of on again, off again friendships between girls resurfaced after twenty odd years. 

It started slowly enough. Rianan would come home from school disheartened & sad because her {best} friend had been mean to her that day. Within half an hour all would be forgotten when A* would come over after homework to play, or by the next morning at school when A would come running up to Rianan with a smile & a hug, before they went in to class together. 

However, it didn't take long before Rianan was bursting into tears the moment she saw me after school, because of what had happened between her & A, then including their mutual friends, during recess, lunch, & even class time, that day. At first this was just once or twice during the week, then it soon escalated to most days. The girls Rianan thought were her friends, suddenly weren't. The little secrets & whispers she had told them were now thrown back at her in taunts or giggled about viciously. Being constantly stared down & glared at during class. Completely ostracized during recess & lunch, with A making sure that none of their friends would play with Rianan, forming their own little anti Rianan posse. The boy who liked her was even dragged into it.


In the beginning I comforted Rianan & tried to gently guide her through this nasty side of being a nine year old girl. I have my own haunting memories full of girls whispering, turned backs & being vilified for the clothes I wore, the boy I liked, the music I listened to, the posters I had on my bedroom wall. I remembered all the times I was sick & had to have a day or two off school & being terrified that when I returned my friends would all now be my enemies for that week. Where lunchtimes were filled with sitting morosely on the oval under a tree by myself. When school work was completed well before the deadline...because I had no one to talk & giggle with & the boring assignment was a welcome distraction from the glares & taunting whispers.

It seems for many of us, it's an unwanted rite of passage during primary (& high) school. Girls will be girls. 

Until they become bitches.

As far as I'm concerned there is a line. A line that differentiates between shitty girl behaviour that we seem to accept, & outright targeted bullying. 

The line was crossed. We could no more stand back while Rianan tried to manage the behaviour mostly on her own. Both her teacher, who is aware of the events, along with Doug & I had been encouraging Rianan to stay away from A, to ignore her when she started being mean to her or about her. To play with other girls in the class who weren't tied in with their mutual friends group, or to play with her friends from previous years who were in other classes now. We advised her to now tell her teacher every time something happened during recess & lunch.

Things were still escalating & Rianan was now sick with anxiety every morning while getting ready for school. Instead of confidently walking off to class she was now clinging to my hand. I spoke with her teacher one morning, which didn't offer any further solutions beyond what we were already doing - avoidance, ignoring, playing with other girls who were not involved with A's circle of friends {& potential aggressors}. I approached A's mum again, who we had been in contact with occasionally during the girls 'off moments'. This lead nowhere.

The on again, off again, friendship was now constantly off. Occasionally, for an afternoon, A & Rianan would be friends again, but by the next morning Rianan never knew if this would still be the case when she stepped in to her class room. Through all this Rianan is not completely innocent, she has been nasty back. Which I am glad of, it shows she believes herself not deserving of such toxic behaviour. She has a backbone & isn't afraid to use it. But when she is at home, when she is in her safe environments, she falls apart. All the soft, sensitive sides of herself she has had to protect all day long with that strong back bone, become exposed. That strength that held her through the day disintegrates because she is safe at home, needing this time to regenerate for the next day. 

How far does it have to go before something more is done, before the adults make a stance & really step in. 

What makes me mad is the fact that in many bullying situations, it is up to the victim to manage the bullies behaviour & tactics. Even when these aren't working. As far as I'm concerned when teachers, bosses & parents as well, constantly give the advice to 'ignore them', to stay away from them, for the victim to change their areas of play, to change the people they are seeking out for company, to 'not listen' to what is being said to them or about them. It sends a message of condoning the behaviour of the bully. That the victim is not worth the respect they should be deserved, allowed, & have the other person pulled up on their actions against the victim. 

Telling a victim to 'toughen up', especially when they have already 'toughened up' & 'thickened their skin' over the last couple of months is a slap in the face. 

Why should a child have to toughen up when they have already been trying to deal with the bullying behaviour on a continual basis, without success. By now they have  'toughened up', if they weren't already resilient before.


Like a friend said to me recently, "instead of telling our** children to toughen up, why can't we tell them to soften down?"

Look, I understand the psychology behind a bullies behaviour, that they feel vulnerable & are often bullied or victims of a serious wrong doing against them, recent or past. I have compassion for them, I see that they are not the culmination of their behaviour but so much more than that. While this gives an insight into the reasons behind why they do what they do, it never allows them to permission to be an aggressor. It is not a get out of jail free card.

Girls will be girls & boys will be boys. There is always going to be friendships turning, rough play that gets out of hand. But when it becomes frequent, when there is a specific target, enough is enough. Don't let that line in the sand keep moving or getting blurred. 

And no, telling the victim of constant bullying (or the parent of the child) to toughen up, because as they grow up they are going to come across bullies in high school & the work place, is not sound advice. 


* A is representative, not part of the name.
** 'Our' is used here collectively, not personally. 


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