I've never understood the theory that girls can't be friends. Yes, I dealt with my share of "mean girls" growing up - but my support against those mean girls was usually other girl friends. However, it's undeniable that girls and boys go about dealing with interpersonal problems differently, and as we watch high profile cases of girl bullying like Phoebe Prince's tragic suicide, it's important that we arm girls with the knowledge of how to protect themselves while also encouraging healthy friendships between girls, rather than eschewing female friendships all together.
That's exactly what Bonnie Burton does in Girls Against Girls - while examining all of the ways girls can tear each other down and why, she also maintains a focus on healthy female relationships. The answer is never "cut yourself off from all girls," it's find out what's really wrong, leave if necessary, and then go find other awesome girls to hang out with.
The first two chapters look at the "why" and "how" of mean girls, first looking at biological, social and cultural reasons girls may be mean to each other (brains may be wired to be mean, learned it from older women) and then the "Methods of our Meanness" (silent treatment, gossiping, boyfriend stealing, cyber bullying, etc). The last four chapters are all variations on what to do when you're the victim, from when to report bullying to school or legal authorities to how to encourage healthy female friendships.
Throughout the book are quotations from women, mostly artists and musicians, about how they dealt with girl bullies or the importance of their female friendships.
While I found all of the advice to be spot on theoretically, I did think there was one glaring hole in all of the advice about involving outside help: the requires whoever you're telling to believe that the bullying is a problem. Too many people think bullying is just part of growing up, and it takes something extreme like Phoebe Price's suicide to bring people to their senses (and if you've read the comments on any of the articles on Phoebe Price and the legal repercussions her tormentors are facing, you know that even after a tragedy people still think "kids will be kids"). What do you do if your parents or the principal don't believe there's a real problem?
One thing I was impressed with was the short chapter on feminism, giving a super brief timeline of the three waves of feminism, definitions of various types of feminisms (though fashionista feminism? That's one I've never really seen, and the only results Google gives me are related to Sex and the City), and stating why feminism is so important in the struggle against girl-on-girl bullying - because feminism is all bout women banding together. It's an extremely simplified feminist argument, but I'm always excited to see feminists discussions in YA lit!
Girls Against Girls should be a must read for girls who are struggling with bullies - and the parents and professionals who care about such girls.
Review copy received from publisher Zest Books
Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by Shelf Awareness