Stop teaching girls/women to play nice.

People often come to me to address topics that they want others to understand; to show another way when they cannot.  Being a contrary, my role is to do just that; open the door to another way.  Sometimes I only address the topic in casual conversation and other times I take it to Facebook or on special occasions to my blog; it all depends on the topic.  Today, because it has come up in conversation more than once, I am taking it to the
It's that time of year again; the one where everyone who is heading back to school, does so. Children and adults gather once again in classrooms with new and old friends.  Sometimes though it isn't all a bed of roses; being in a confined space and told you must all get along and like each other for the common good.  Holy moly, I think I would crack!

By now, you might catch a whiff of my sarcasm; maybe not, as the wind might not blow it your way.  I am not a fan of being in a classroom with 30 or so other people, sitting in a hard chair at a small desk, trying to not wiggle or lose focus on what I am supposed to learn.  I never did see how that setting was conducive to learning ones fullest of capabilities, but I digress from my main idea; bullying.

With the start of school comes the sorting out of friends, cliques and groups.  The summer group (the ones who hung around with each other all summer) must then navigate new or old groups.  What often happens in the beginning of the school year is the mingling and defection of summer group members into other groups.  The loss of the relationship, the shift of one or two group members to another, can lead to resentments and retaliation, especially if you are female. Yep, you read that right!

Men tend to (that is to say, it may be more prevalent yet not always the case) bully through physical force (overt), whereas women tend to bully (called relational aggression) through covert and sometimes direct means, often leaving behind the physical stuff.  In case you are wondering what relational aggression is; it's intentional harm that sets out to damage the relationships or social status of an individual through exclusion, withdrawing friendship or attention, manipulation, or damaging the victim's reputation by spreading rumours or gossip.  Its not pretty or nice at all, totally unbecoming of a girl/womyn in Society today!( I am being sarcastic here). And while we are on the subject of Society,  I must add, relational aggression and bullying are a form of oppression that we perpetuate so well.

From a very young age, girls learn that they must "be nice", "play nice", "don't hit", "don't get angry", and the list goes on and on (don't get me started with the list!).  So if we are taught from Society (often subconsciously) that we can't get angry, show any emotion other than "being nice", then what the hell is a girl to do if she is pissed off at someone?   She can't hit them, good gawd no!  Heaven forbid (I really don't believe in heaven but it sounds good), a girl/womyn hits someone, because its not "becoming of a nice girl" at all, to be angry or to hit. What do you think would happen if she did? Would Society collapse? Ha! I think not!

Well, she gets a label of "bad girl".  And no one wants to talk to or eventually marry (say it isn't so!) a bad girl.  It seems absurd right?  Yet, if we look deeper, it is a reality nonetheless.  So girls learn early not to hit and covertly start to erode the relationship she has with the victim, the one she is angry with but cannot directly say so. And there you have it, how relational aggression is formed, brought to you courtesy of  Society's oppressive double standards; the unrealistic dominant views of what men should be and what women should not.

Perhaps you think I am a wee bit off?  I wish I was. Wait, maybe I am? Hmmm. Either way, it is a truth.  We need to change shit. Yep, we do.  If a girl is angry at her friend, it should be okay that she is. We shouldn't rush to have her make up with her friend because "it's the nice thing to do" or because her friend "is soooooo sad". OMG!  I get angry with my sisters but I still love them.  I get angry with my friends; they are still my friends.  I may not talk to either group for a long while, heck I may even curse them out, but I get over it (or they do) and it's all fun and games until it happens again (and it will happen, trust me it will). 

I believe that if we start teaching girls (and boys) to express ALL their emotions (the not so nice ones) in a healthier way, it will reduce the need for relational aggression of another (mind you, there will always be the exceptions that will continue to bully as it is rooted in oppression).  Teaching conflict resolution skills, relationships (healthy and unhealthy ones) and emotions (the good, the bad and the ugly) are key principles in eliminating bullying, not only in the school setting, but in the office and at home.

I don't know of one workplace that I didn't experience relational aggression in some form or another. Girls grow up to be cowgirls (ooopppps, wait, that should be womyn) who learn to fine tune the craft of covert bullying (remember that's relational aggression at a deeper level).  By the time we get to the grown up stage, we have learned that in order to rise above another we must first step on them along the way.   Bullying/relational aggression is  tool of oppression; oppression's greatest trick is to oppress one so much that they oppress others. It's not a good tool; we need to let that shit go.

So what can you do to stop relational aggression/bullying?  Teach your children (or co-worker) it's okay to be angry, that they don't have to like someone or get along with everyone but they do need to be respectful of each other.  Teach them it's okay to agree to disagree, that each person's perspective is different and teaches us something.  Don't force your child to be friends with someone they no longer want to be; respect your child's reasons even if they are completely whacked to you because they aren't whacked to your child.  Understand that bullying/relational aggression is a persistent behaviour that happens repeatedly over time.  The one argument with a friend who then goes home upset isn't bullying/relational aggression; its defining boundaries and healthy relations.  Stop jumping to the conclusion that your child is being bullied because his/her friend doesn't want them at the house that day. The child is entitled to not want them there. Heck, if I told you to go home because I was pissed off at something you did, would you get your mom to come over to my house to make me play with you? I think not! So quit telling your daughters to play nice; its not working.

I hope that helps.  If not, I hope at least the blog was entertaining.  Mii wi

In good thoughts,



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