How Girls Hurt

By Kathleen Vail

Look at the pretty girl with the honey-blond hair, the one always in the middle of an adoring orbit of friends, the one with the seemingly endless supply of outfits from Abercrombie and Fitch. She has everything, all right, but popularity isn't always what it seems.

She and other adolescent girls live in a world where best friends can become enemies overnight, where one look from another girl can mean the difference between isolation and belonging. It's a world where no one tells you why you can no longer sit at the lunch table with your friends, where secrets are traded like currency.

"If your kid has a knot in her stomach every day, how will she pay attention in class?" said Anne Cass, principal of Riverdale High School, near Portland, Ore. "You know gossip is ugly. I've seen enough kids with their stomachs clenched, day after day, in pain."

Adolescent and preadolescent girls wield enormous power over their peers. Their weapons -- gossiping, name-calling, excluding -- may not give other girls black eyes or bloody lips, but they can be as harmful as physical intimidation, violence, and racial slurs. These frequently covert acts of aggression also affect your school climate and culture, as well as the girls' grades and sense of self-worth. 

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