Girls’ bullying can be almost secret

© Craig Dingle, iStockphoto

By Samantha Schmitt
Staff writer

Bullying is becoming more prevalent in conversations and within schools, the media and government.

David P. Farrington, professor of psychological criminology at Cambridge University, and other researchers seem to have come to a consensus that females mostly bully each other verbally and psychologically. While this may have always been true, the introduction of the Internet and the use of it by children of younger and younger ages seems to have increased the aggressiveness of the attacks.

Even with more harm being caused, it is still not always as easy to recognize bullying when it occurs among girls.

“Cyberbullying”, a 2007 report by Amanda Lenhart for the Pew Internet and American Life Project, says that girls are more likely than boys to gossip online, making them more subject to being the topic of online rumors.

In “Teenage Girls’ Perceptions of the Functions of Relationally Aggressive Behaviors”, Bridget Reynolds and Rena Repetti wrote that girls are also more likely to be relationally aggressive with other girls than boys are to be with each other. Relational aggression is a subtle and indirect tactic used to attack relationships between friends and hurting self-esteem. It can include rumors, denying friendships, ignoring or social exclusion from a group of friends.

In “Bullying: What are the Differences between Boys and Girls?” Tanya Beran, professor of school psychology, wrote in an article that the secretive nature of this bullying may mean the attacker does not get caught. The attacks are then likely to become longer and more severe.

This kind of bullying is hard for adults to detect because indirectness allows the bully to avoid face-to-face confrontation. Since it is usually hidden from adults, there is no physical behavior to see.

Bullying between girls often happens within a group of friends, making it extremely difficult to not just see it as a typical conflict between teenage girl friends.

Kirstie Kipfmiller, a Michigan State senior, experienced bullying from her friends in both elementary and high school.

“I was bullied in fifth grade for having buckteeth. I hated it. It would make me so upset; I just didn’t understand it, and it wasn’t something that I could change at the time. Now I have a great smile.

“More recently, in high school, particularly junior year, my class size was 36 kids. Some of my best friends and a majority of that class and upperclassmen turned on me. I’ve always been the girl that’s ‘one of the guys.’ Well, this came with repercussions.

“Since I hung out with guys all of the time, I think girls got jealous, maybe? Certain people would make up rumors about me getting with all of these guys, calling me a slut, making up rumors about how I messed around with so many guys at one time. This lasted forever. I would cry in school.

“My so-called ‘best friends’ would even ignore me or just do hurtful things. I got sick of it. I decided I was better than that and ended up switching schools my senior year. It was the best decision ever. No one thought I would actually do that. I remember sitting there, crying in math class, and people would be like, ‘Why don’t you just go to John Glenn?’ I would look at them and say, ‘Yeah, I will.’ And I did it. Stupid kids.

“To this day, I still hang out with mostly guys. Being friends with girls is too hard. There’s too much drama so I just stay away most of the time. I still get called a slut behind my back, but I grew up and realized that that stuff doesn’t matter. I’m better than that, and I know who I am.”

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