Is a "kind campaign" the answer to girl-on-girl bullying?

Posted at 4:21 PM Sep 18, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

Most of the girl-on-girl bullying I experienced happened to me in dance class when I was in the 5th and 6th grades. At school, my silly, geeky friends and I could stick together and insulate ourselves from the already fashion-conscious and sex-conscious "popular" girls. But I was the only silly, geeky girl in my dance class. Add that I certainly wasn't the most talented in the group and you have a pretty good recipe for bullying. Of course, they never outright assaulted me, but the rolled eyes at my non-Danskin, non-Nike/Adidas gear, the blatant non-invites to parties and the giggle-fueled questions about my taste in music--you see, I was committing a grave sin by preferring the work of Lennon and McCartney to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony--let me know that I would never be "in."

So I certainly identify on some level with the bullying victims in this upcoming documentary, the "Kind Campaign." What I'm not sure about is whether "kind" is the answer:



Encouraging girls to be nice and "kind" is already part of the language of girl-on-girl bullying, as anyone who's read Queen Bees and Wannabes can tell you. It's the role of "nice girl" that creates the meanest "mean girl," sugary sweet on the surface but the orchestrator of gross hatefulness when teachers and parents aren't looking. And I'm not sure this call to the land of "kind" on the Kind Campaign website does anything but bury the problem:

So often, we are faced with world scale problems that seem impossible to solve. What we fail to realize is that at the root of so many of our problems is a lack of human connection and respect for others. If we all learned to consistently practice kindness, there would not be these problems in the first place.
I would counter with this: perhaps if we stop telling girls to be nice, they won't bury their "bad" feelings and express them in stereotypically girl-specific bullying ways (rumor-spreading, gossip, etc.) More than being nice, I feel that girls should be encouraged to be honest about how things make them feel and told that it's okay not to be happy and smiley and accommodating all the time.

And hey, maybe we try something similar--or identical--with boys and try to get past imparting the rowdy boys/quiet girls gender roles starting in pre-K. From there, it seems like we might be able to create the empathy/compassion loop that would be necessary to stop or reduce bullying, because everyone can be empowered to share and express their feelings in a safe, productive way.

Comments

Mjx said:

I'd be interested to hear whether this campaign had any demonstrable impact. I was bullied badly at school, and by 'badly', I mean that, after undergoing a violent assault just a few years ago, one of the things that freaked me out the most afterward was the realization that it was not the worst thing to ever happen to me; five years of bullying in a small town school retained that honour.

I doubt that appealing to the feelings of bullies will work: I'm fairly certain that, for whatever reason, this is not truly possible. They enjoy being abusive and destructive, and it isn't always because it is a cry for help; some people are simply sadists. What might help would be discreet adult intervention, in the form of keeping an eye on things, and creating convincing distractions at the appropriate moments, allowing the bullied to discreetly disappear from the scene. When physical assaults are involved, it would be a refreshing change if the victim were not treated like the guilty party.

Or, one might just eliminate recess..?

Frances said:

Recess? This bullsh*t happens in adult life. I can't tell you how many stupid fights I got into with women who can't keep their gossipy mouths to themselves. One woman had such a vendetta against my sister that she repetedly put her phone number on craigslist casual encounters, and even put her address up there.

The problem is that this stupidity starts in elementary school, and continues on into highschool, and our society is one that congratulates the strong picking on the weak.

Ro said:

I was bullied in elementary school. It was so severe my parents pulled me out. I really do think there are people out there (yeah, even kids) who enjoy hurting others. I'm not totally convinced this kind of campaign will have any impact.

Ro said:

I was bullied pretty severely in elementary school. It was so bad my parents pulled me out. I really do believe that there are kids out there who enjoy hurting others so I'm not entirely sure a campaign like this will do anything.

Lshygirl5 said:

I doubt this will work either. I was bullied in elementary and middle school and the girls who bullied me were always the teacher's favorites, they seemed kind to everyone else. I also just dealt with older female bullies this past few weeks, I'm 21 and girls are still acting like this, I doubt it can be fixed by this campaign.

NameofRain IS RESPONSIBLE THIS said:

As a soon-to-be educator, I can't see this working either. I read "Queen Bees and Wannabes" as well, and that is aboslutely what goes on, especially in middle and high school. Girl bullying is hard to monitor and deal with in schools because it is so socially-based. You can't force one kid to be friends with another, and most accusations are hard to pin down because a lot of girl bullying is based around ostricization, as opposed to boy bullying, which is more active and physical. It's not going to do any good to try and force girls even deeper into gender-stereotyped behavior with little social gain, at least among their peers. Has anyone asked both bullying and bullied girls what THEY would like adults to do? I think that would be more effective than a "good girls are nice to each other" message that won't get at the root of the problem.

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