Jane's Reviews > Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons
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Jan 14, 2009

it was amazing
Read in March, 2007

I honestly think everyone should read this book – especially parents of girls. It’s about the ways in which girls deal with anger and aggression, as opposed to the ways in which boys do. The premise is that boys tend to be more direct in their aggression - physical confrontation - while in contrast, girls use an indirect approach known as relational aggression. Wikipedia's definition of relational aggression is a form of aggression where the group is used as a weapon to assault others and others' relationships. It uses lies, secrets, betrayals and a host of other two-faced tactics to destroy or damage the relationships and social standing of others in the group. [wikipedia article:] To be honest, reading this book has brought up a lot of memories. The following is the most vivid.

When I was little, I was an incredibly outgoing kid. I would talk to just about anybody, anywhere. I didn’t worry about making friends; it was just something that happened as I went along. I was very outspoken, too.

That all changed in the third grade. Even though I’m now 28 years old, my third grade year still ranks as one of the worst in my life. Third grade actually started off quite well. T. and H., girls who had been two of my best friends for several years, were in my class. There were also other girls in my class whom I easily befriended. One of these girls was K.

K was a year older than the rest of us; her mother had requested that she be held back, that she repeat the third grade, because she didn’t feel her daughter was mature enough to enter the fourth grade. If only her mother hadn’t made that decision, I probably would have turned out to be a very different person. At the beginning of the year, K became friends with H., T. and me. My birthday was in September, and that year I had my first ever birthday party. I invited six girls, and K. was one of them. We all had a great time.

One day in early October, during recess, as I was approaching T. and K., I heard them talking; they didn’t notice me behind them. K. was asking T. to play with her that day, and specifically asking her *not* to play with H., and T. agreed. I didn’t say anything to them; instead, I went and found H., and repeated the story to her. We concocted a plan to have T. and K. overhear H. asking me not to play with K. We put our plan into action, and that act of retribution was how one of the worst periods of my life began.

Immediately, K. began turning the rest of the class against us. She made up stories about us, told lies to other students about us, and once even told lies about me to my mother (who was a classroom volunteer). Instead of playing K’s game and trying to turn others against her, we simply defended ourselves; yet her campaign of hate was successful. Within a week, my third grade experience had gone from being great to being hell. Additionally, H. and I were enrolled in our school’s Gifted program. This meant that once a week she and I went to a special Gifted class, instead of to regular class with everyone else. For this, K. denounced us as nerds, and said that because we were “Gifted”, we thought we were better than everybody else. In addition to being nerds, she claimed that we were weird, strange, and not the sort of person one should be friends with. Suddenly no one in my class liked me and H. People whom I had liked now refused to talk to me – or if they did talk to me, it was only to call me names or to threaten me. Then, to make matters worse, I got glasses. I certainly need glasses – and I needed them back then – but nothing gives third graders ammunition like glasses. I was taunted relentlessly, and called Four Eyes more times than I could count. I had my glasses snatched off my face during recess. I had them held over my head, just out of reach (I have always been short).

I don’t know if my third grade teacher knew what was going on or not. One thing was certain: K. was one of my teacher’s favorites. K. had been in that class during her first time through third grade. As I mentioned above, she hadn’t failed the third grade; in fact, her grades had been quite decent. As such, she didn’t need to learn the third grade curriculum. Instead, the teacher drafted her to be somewhat of a teacher’s aide, a classroom watchman, and all about helper. Several times I was lectured by my teacher for various actions (both real and imaginary) reported to my teacher by K. The few attempts I made to convince the teacher that K was the one causing problems were met by disbelief and/or the advice of “Don’t be a tattle-tale.”

I had started the third grade outgoing, friendly, willing to strike up a conversation with anybody, and always willing to speak my mind. By the end of the year I was quiet, introverted, speaking only to my closest friends, and often only when spoken to.

I’m 30 now; the events that happened above occurred a long ago, and yet I still think about them periodically. I wonder what my life would have been like had K gone into the fourth grade that year. Or if H. and I hadn’t gone through our retaliatory charade. Or if my teacher had done something to stop K’s behavior. Would I have continued to be gregariously outgoing all through my school years? Would I have lived my life differently? Would I still have become the socially anxious oddball that I am now?
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04/04/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Stephanie page 272 Knowing how you feel will anchor you. If you know you are angry, or scared, you will be more in control and reflective about decisions.


message 2: by Chey (new) - added it

Chey Thank you for sharing your story. I know it must be hard to think about. I experienced some of this girl aggression, too - though nothing quite as bad as what you describe- and it has stuck with me many many years later. I've just started reading this book, and it's bringing up a lot of stuff. I have a 2nd grade daughter who has been the target of relational aggression since K. She is currently in a different classroom from the aggressor, but there is a chance they may be placed together again next year. I'm preparing a plan B to switch schools rather than put her back in a classroom with this girl. Hopefully it won't come to that. It's sad that teachers/administrators don't seem to be able to do much in this area.


message 3: by JP (new)

JP Thank you for your story. My daughter has just experienced something similar (although thankfully not as severe), and I'm going to have her read this.


message 4: by Adrienne (new) - added it

Adrienne I'm so sorry that you had this experience. I had one similar. One specific girl had it out for me for years, telling lies about me and making me an outcast. It was not helpful that her mom worked at the school, she was a talented singer, her dad was fire chief of the town, and her uncle was a cop. Those are powerful family members. Who would ever think she was a bully, right? I couldn't tell anyone because no one would believe me, and teachers who witnessed it just ignored it. When I was 12, she told everyone that I was a lesbian and had a crush on her, and even told people that I would check her out in the locker room. It was absurd and ridiculous, but people refused to talk to me. Finally, freshman year of high school, we had to sit by each other in a typing class. She was doing her usual girl-aggression BS that she always did. I was having a bad day, and finally, I just snapped. I told her in no uncertain terms with like 30 witnesses, including a teacher, that if she did not leave me alone, I was going to beat her up. I had to take the "boy" approach and be very direct, even backing my chair up a bit so I could get up. She was like "do you hear this? She's threatening me???" The teacher said "ok girls, simmer down." And I was like, "no I will not simmer down. I'm done, I'm making you [the girl] a promise. Leave me alone, I'm tired of being treated this way." People asked me after class if I meant it, and I said yeah, so I know that got back to her. Interestingly enough, it worked. She left me alone after that. After trying to be nice to her to make peace, and after ignoring her for all of middle school (because if I ignore her and don't react, she'll eventually get bored....ha!), it took the physical threat of getting beat up for her to stop. I couldn't believe it worked, and I didn't even have to throw a punch. (Thankfully. Her parents would've pressed charges so fast....). I guess there'd be no coming back after getting her arse kicked. Sadly, this bullying took place for years, and it affected me in lasting ways too. You're not alone, and I guess I'm not either. Kids are mean!


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