Thursday, August 16, 2007

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons

This is another one of those books that I have had for years, but have just recently read! In fact, my good friend Andrea just taught this book as a Book and Discussion class and the great conversations that erupted from this topic really intrigued me to read it sooner rather than later.

As we all know, when males are aggressive, we typically see it plain as day -- they fight physically with their fists. With females, oftentimes, they do not resort to the physical aggression that is typically seen in males. However, that does not mean that girls are lacking on the aggressive front. It just means that they are just a little sneakier about it! If you are a girl, my guess is that you know exactly what I mean!

As a teenager that was growing up in a very small town, I experienced this type of aggression and bullying from both sides. Yes, I will be honest . . . I both was a victim and even a bully at times. And, I feel horrible about it! I remember one particular instance in which I was in third grade . . . I had written a note and secretly passed it to a friend of mine. It was about another kid in the class and had said mean things about his weight. He found it! I apologized, but I still feel horrible about that note today. I also remember the back-stabbing, the subtle and not-so-subtle jabs about me and my beliefs and values. Though I do believe that ALL of my experiences have helped to shape me into the person I am today, I sometimes still wish that I did not have to experience some of the "stuff" that I dealt with during my teen years.

As an adult, I have also witnessed the bullying and aggression first-hand of girls today. From the little ones in first and second grade to even adults older than I am now, this subtle aggression is still happening. And, I believe it goes beyond the teen years. I am so thankful for this book that puts it all out there. It is no longer a "silent crisis" today. This covert aggression is just as damaging (if not more so from an emotional or psychological perspective) than the overt aggression and it needs to be addressed heads on. This book and even just excerpts of it can serve as a great stepping stone to these conversations - whether you are an adult trying to heal or a parent wanting to address it with your child.

My recommendation: If you are a woman or a parent to a daughter, then you MUST read this book! It not only normalizes these covert actions -- the cold shoulder, the back-stabbing, the joking comments that have truth hidden within them -- but also gives the reader ways to address the problem.

The child rhyme of "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" may have been the mantra in past years, but the message is now stronger than ever that it is wrong! Names and words, and the lack there of, can and will hurt!


  1. This was a good book in my opinion, but not wonderful. I will start with what I liked about it. It was interesting, to a point, and was very thought provoking. I kept remembering times that, like you, I have been the bully, and the victim. It was interesting to dissect and give order to something that seem so confusing and senseless at the time. It still seem senseless that teenage girls must adhere to such strange rules, and be subject to such cruelty, but at least it is no longer confusing.

    It also scared me, for Alyssa's sake. I looked on at reviews and one reader said that "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence" was a great book, like this one, but had more practical and useful application for parents. I will most certainly be reading that one.

    Now moving on to what I didn't like, it could have been shorter. I don't mind long books, don't get me wrong, but it was redundant after a certain point. I felt like I couldn't read another anecdote about relational aggression towards the middle, it just was too much.
    Also the format did not flow very well for that reason, it was just anecdotal evidence after anecdotal evidence which left me wanting more practicality. Only 2 chapters were dedicated to approaching some of these problems, that is only 66 pages out of 270 pages. That mean 204 pages were dedicated to explaining something that had already been pretty well explained half way into the book.

    All in all good read. I am definitely going to read "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence" and let you know what I think. For now I am burnt out on teenage girl aggression however ;)

    Thanks for the great recommendation I am interested in hearing what you think in response to my opinion.

  2. I agree that it is scary to think about our daughters (if I had one!) going through this! I am glad that it is now in the open and is talked about, but with the nature of the aggression, I am curious to know if it can be stopped completely. Girls can be soooo sneaky! Maybe that is a real negative way of viewing things, but whatever the case, it will take time to get to non-aggressive acts. Change always takes time, particularly when it is so ground into female habit!

    I've heard about Queen Bees and Wannabes. I think that I will have to check that one out one of these days! I am very interested in hearing more practical advice for parents and educators. I agree that Odd Girl Out was a lot of evidence supporting her theory than the solution to the problem. Thanks for reminding me of this other book!


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