Review: Odd Girl Out, Revised and Updated by Rachel Simmons

Title: Odd Girl Out, Revised and Updated: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

Author: Rachel Simmons

Published: Mariner Books August 2011

Synopsis: When first published, Odd Girl Out awakened us to a hidden, hot-button subject: bullying among girls. It helped millions of girls, parents, counselors, and teachers deal with a devastating problem and elevated the nation’s consciousness. Now bullying expert Rachel Simmons updates her groundbreaking work for the newest generation of girls. </P> Rooted in the extensive expertise she has developed since Odd Girl Out was first published as well as up-to-date research, Simmons offers a new chapter on technology, including a focus on cyberbullying and what parents and teachers can do to deal with the problem, as well as advice to girls on how to avoid drama online. Working directly from her experiences with schools and families over the past decade, she also brings us new classroom initiatives and step-by-step suggestions for parents. With illuminating, timely additions, this definitive resource is now even more relevant, still shining a powerful spotlight on the most pressing social issues continuously facing our girls

Status: Read on August 06, 2011 — I own a copy  {ARC Courtesy Houghton Mifflin/NetGalley}

My Thoughts:

I read the first edition of Odd Girl Out about five years ago when my oldest daughter was in grade 4/5 and there were some real problems regarding bullying and power struggles amongst the girls in her year. While my daughter was not a direct target, nor a bully, it was a stressful time for her as two girls in particular aggressively manipulated the social hierarchy, girls switched alliances almost daily and the school seemed at a complete loss at how to deal with it. To help my daughter cope with the upheaval I read a number of books on the subject including Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls and Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, both of which I also would recommend to parents and educators of girls.
I chose to read this revised edition because my oldest daughter is now fifteen and as an avid (ie constant) user of Facebook, MSN and various online social communities. Additionally my youngest daughter is now eight and an awareness of online social communities is beginning to creep into her consciousness. As such I was particularly interested in Simmons inclusion of the dynamics of cyber-bullying and how I might be able to help my daughters navigate this social arena.
The strength of Odd Girl Out is that it illustrates the experience of female bullying in a personal manner, with girls sharing their circumstances in their own words. I, like most women, recognised many of the methods girls use to control their social world. With hindsight, the daily drama of school seem mostly petty and irrelevant but I do still remember the intensity of the emotion that surrounded playground machinations – the agony of being dumped by a best friend, the desire to be popular, and like most I have been both a victim and perpetrator (though largely an unwitting one)of the type of bullying and aggression Simmons examines. Odd Girl Out is a reminder of the seriousness with which girls interact with their peers.
The new chapter that addresses cyber bullying/drama is interesting and I think is full of useful information, especially for parents who are not familiar with technology. I am a net-savvy parent who uses social media and have discussed the issues with my daughter but I know she doesn’t see the consequences of a casual status update or online flirting the same way as I do, which is highlighted by the stories shared in this chapter. Later on in the book, Simmons discusses strategies for managing media in the lives of girls in practical ways, this chapter is particularly useful and as I am trying to walk the line between keeping an eye on my teenager’s online activities without invading her social privacy too much, I found it informative and encouraging.
The focus of Odd Girl Out tends to be on girls aged 11-13 and in particular those whose experiences are at the extremes of the issue but nevertheless I think it has relevance for those involved in any setting where girls aged 8 to 16 interact. Simmons grounds the research, giving the experiences of young girls, and the lasting effects, credibility and for a parent (or educator) I think it can provide a vocabulary for discussion and investigation.

Available to Purchase

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