Do you teach adolescent girls? Do, or will, you parent adolescent girls? Do you have any adolescent girls in your life that you care for or about? Then you need to read Odd Girl Out, Revised and Updated: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.
Author Rachel Simmons has done an amazing job here in outlining just why the adolescent years can be so difficult for girls, particularly from grades 5-9 or so, the ways in which girls are socialized to be particular kinds of aggressive with each other, how parents and teachers unknowingly feed into the cycle, and concrete ways we can try to support our girls as they navigate these treacherous social and cultural waters. She talked to several hundred girls, in various locations and settings, and includes frank discussions of cyberbullying, as well as how race and class interact in these dynamics. She also weaves in her own memories of middle school and beyond, carefully including not just the times she felt bullied or excluded, but her own roles in these toxic scenarios, emphasizing throughout that every girl has the potential to be the “mean girl” as well as the “odd girl out,” and that we need to acknowledge just how complicated our daughters are. Simmons builds on classic texts like Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development and Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, but in my opinion, Simmons’ work is fresher, clearer, and more immediately useful to parents and teachers.
I expect Odd Girl Out to take its place with books like The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children as books on parenting that I’ll consult and rely on for the next few years to guide me as I try to parent as thoughtfully as I can. As a teacher, I’ll be recommending it to everyone I work with, and thinking about how to best inform my teaching with Simmons’ work.