Thursday, March 13, 2008

Girls and Gossip

This topic came my interest firstly due to my own concern and interest in my daughter's life, and I looked for books on the topic of girls and their friends. Prior to finding this book, most of the subject matter I had read was only in magazine articles or in small references in books from the American Girl publishers. So when the book Odd Girl Out was recommended by a parent on the Stay at Home Parents forum that I frequent, I was intrigued.

Looking at the reviews at, I found that another book, Queen Bees & Wannabes, was more highly recommended as a practical guide. Based on the reviews, I checked out both from my local library.

And then when I read Queen Bees, I was simply flabbergasted.

See, I was not involved in those circles of girls who giggled and pointed, but I do vaguely remember that they existed. I shunned them early on as I had been taught that their gossipy ways were evil. And now I am very glad I was taught so.

Somehow, although I was raised in a fundamentalist conservative Christian home, I grew up strong and fiercely independent, rejecting those packs of girls the way a bobcat rejects and avoids a pack of wolves. I came to believe that girls who behaved in this pack manner were lesser creatures, weak and contemptible: giggly empty-headed baubles with no substance to offer the world.

So as my own daughter now goes through tweens and enters teenage-dom, I am bewildered to learn that most parents I have gotten a response from are ambivalent or nonchalant about gossipers and simply expect this behavior as normal.

No wonder I've seen people in chat rooms talk about other people when they aren't there. No wonder I've received (and summarily deleted and told not to ever send such content to me again) emails from people going into great depth about how so-and-so said this about her and she said this about them, and back and forth hearsay.

I am not interested in all that. If you are, you are not my friend.

I hover between contempt and pity for the simpering girls that fall prey to vicious looks from their peers. I am aghast at their parents' indifference, appalled that these girls aren't taught to be strong and to reject the Barbies who cover their hands and whisper and look and laugh.

At least contemporary culture is learning to reject this brutal pack behavior in children's literature and cartoons, and young adult media.

It's sub-human pack behavior - think of the terms 'henpecked' and the pack behavior of poultry. Although this term is defined as a beleaguered husband (Merriam Webster), the term does originate from observed behavior in domesticated chickens. Have you ever seen a flock of chickens turn on one of their own? A hen who becomes sickly becomes the target of the rest of the flock. They literally peck at the sick hen, pulling out its feathers, biting at it, until it leaves the group, or until its death if confined in a coop.

Girls who emulate this pecking destruction are not friends at all: they are pitiable lonely empty creatures, falling back on their basest pack instincts to protect themselves in the midst of their own emotional vulnerability and torment - their own fear of rejection by their parents and lack of love and affirmation at home.

C'mon people. Teach our children to rise above; if not we lose evolutionary ground.

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