TeenLit: Girls Against Girls Looks at the Causes and Prevention of “Mean Girls”
Shakespeare wrote about them; they’re in the Bible. F. Scott Fitzgerald had one memorably get her comeuppance in his short story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.” Lindsay Lohan starred as a victim of a few, so did Winona Ryder. They’re mean girls. Mean girls have been among us as long as there have been girls (did Eve fit the mold?)
Mean girls emotionally batter their victims, and sometimes succeed at driving them to suicide. In Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change, Bonnie Burton examines the cultural and biological contributors to what can best be described as teen bitches. All girls have the potential to be mean girls; why do some while others become their prey?
On the biological side of the equation, biological competitiveness, hormones and the brain claim some motives for meanness. Girls are acculturated to be mean through historic and situational competitiveness. Just as many girls judge their own worth by the guys in their lives, many girls see life as a never-ending beauty pageant in which they must be the winners. Sadly, most girls don’t have a clue about the effect this potent mixture of tradition and biology has on their behavior.
Burton amplifies on this theme in her first chapter, “Why We Hurt Each Other.” She then explains the methods girls use to hurt each other and what it’s like to be on the receiving end of mean behavior. In the final three chapters of Girls Against Girls, she explores ways to stop cruel behavior and encourages girls to unite. Burton also provides nine addresses for websites devoted to helping girls, whether they are mean, victims, or just interested.
Girls Against Girls is a serious treatment of a subject that keeps getting more headlines, written for teenage girls. It encourages girls to get help from others when they need it, confront others when appropriate, and not hurt themselves because they are being hurt.
Bottom Line: Would I buy Girls Against Girls? Yes, this is a book to which girls should have easy access.