There is a disturbing tendency among parents, educators, and even adolescents themselves to categorize any sort of issues between young women as “girl drama.” If a group of friends is having an argument: it’s girl drama. If a two friends have a falling out: it’s girl drama. If someone is getting picked on by the other girls in her class: it’s girl drama.
In that last example, however, the situation described isn’t “drama” of any sort. It’s bullying. When we describe it as “girl drama,” we are lumping it in with all of the other types of relationship issues that a group of friends may have, and dismissing the very real hurt and trauma that a victim of bullying may experience.
Consider an example of bullying that may arise in the life of a child that you love. Emily is an outgoing 12 year old who is friends with everyone in her class at school. One day, some of the more popular kids in her grade announce that another classmate, Beth, is “gross,” and no one should talk to her. Emily thinks that is mean, and decides that she will keep talking to Beth. The other girls all decide that because Emily broke the rule about talking to Beth, no one should talk to her, either. For more than a week, the girls exclude Emily from games at recess, spread rumors about her, and make mean comments when she walks past them. Emily is crushed, but when she tries to talk to her teacher about it, the teacher dismisses it as “girl drama.”
What is happening to Emily – and what happened to Beth – isn’t girl drama. It’s bullying. Understanding the difference between what might be considered girl drama — regular strife between friends — and bullying is key to helping kids who are victims of bullying. And it is also key to holding the kids who are doing the bullying accountable.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that typically occurs among school-aged children. It involves either a real or perceived power imbalance, and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time. It may include tactics such as:
Excluding someone from a group on purpose
Recruiting others to do the same
Attacking someone physically or verbally
Making mean or nasty comments
In Emily’s case, she was experiencing unwanted, aggressive behavior that was repeated over time. It was based on a power imbalance: all of the girls in the class against Emily and Beth. It involved a number of tactics, including exclusion, spreading rumors, and making nasty comments. It was a clear-cut case of bullying.
Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, and increased feelings of sadness and loneliness. They may also show decreased academic achievement, and have various health complaints.
Bullying has a very real impact on its victims — which is why it is so important to not simply dismiss instances of bullying as “girl drama.” Instead, as parents, educators and loved ones, we should focus on how we can help girls who are being bullied and on how to change the culture so that girls don’t see bullying as an acceptable behavior.
At Blackburn Center, we provide training and education programs for school-age children across Westmoreland County, including ones that focus on bullying and on building empathy. To learn more or to schedule a program, contact us via email or call our office at 724-837-9450. If your child has experienced bullying, we can help. Contact us anytime at 1-888-832-2272 or 724-836-1122 to speak to a trained crisis counselor today.