On one hand, an 11-year-old girl reacts to people gossiping about her by threatening to put a gun in their mouths and boasting about how jealous they are of her. On the other, two young women taunt each other and fight over a guy until one of them is dead.
What do the two have in common?
Both situations are about girls believing the same thing: When you are ridiculed or threatened, the acceptable way to express your anger is to annihilate the other person.
This makes a lot of people wring their hands over girls becoming increasingly violent. We don’t want to believe that girls are so willing to lash out at the individuals they perceive as challengers and tormentors. We refuse to understand that many girls left behind being nice a long time ago.
In many girls’ eyes, “nice” is equivalent to “weak”, and being nice makes you a target. For these girls, if you want to look strong, you fight back quickly and in any way you can. The easiest script that the girls in both these cases knew was the one they’ve been fed in our World Wrestling Entertainment culture: Violence works. But in order for violence to become these girls’ go-to-guide on how to handle conflict, the adults in their lives either reinforced this value system or are so weak and in denial that they are irrelevant.
For others, the girls become theater and entertainment: something to laugh about on You Tube, a sounding board for so-called ‘witty’ comments.
For everyone, we miss the most important issue of all. Girls have the right to be angry. It’s just that they, like many of us, rarely know how to express that anger with self-control or clarity.
So whether it’s these girls, a car accident you just got into, or a conflict at the play group or PTA with another parent, if we want things to get a little less crazy, we need to admit to ourselves that sometimes we all think retribution justifies degrading and/or dominating the other person.
We need to own our anger but not allow it to control us. And if you can’t do that, because you’re 11 or 17, or an adult that actually isn’t acting like one, then you have to have people around who know you and who can give you guidance, (even if it’s them telling you to sit down before you run off the rails). This will prevent us from hurting ourselves or others in the process, and hopefully over time, our girls will follow our lead.
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