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Author Rachel Simmons examines
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On The Bookshelf
`Odd Girl Out'
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ter t ai ment
ny woman who remembers
being singled out as a
scapegoat or ostra-
cized by the "popu-
lar" girls will identify with and
appreciate Odd Girl Out —
The Hidden Culture of
Aggression in Girls (Harcourt;
$25) by first-time author Rachel
Simmons explores the ways in which
girls express their hostility through
backbiting, exclusion and manipula-
tion instead of the direct physical
and verbal behavior that is more
common among boys.
"Within the hidden culture of
aggression, girls fight with body
language and relationships instead
of fists and knives," Simmons
writes. "In this world, friendship
is a weapon, and the sting of a
shout pales in comparison to a
day of someone's silence. There is
no gesture more devastating than
the back turning away."
Simmons' inspiration to write
this book came from her own
childhood memories of being vic-
timized by a friend-turned-bully
and her clique of followers. When
she began to research the topic,
Simmons discovered that most
women had similar experiences,
and that the after-effects were far-
reaching and long lasting.
Odd Girl Out is filled with stories
drawn from group and individual
interviews with girls between the ages
of 10 and 14 — and their parents —
. from a variety of cultural and econom-
ic backgrounds throughout the United
"My assumption was not that the
girls ought not to be mean, but that
they were; not 'that they should be
nice, but that they weren't. I was there
not to stop them, but because I want-
ed them to help other girls find a way
to deal with it," Simmons writes in
In addition, she includes the per-
spective of many adult women whose
early years were marked by the pain of
victimization at the hands of their
peers as well as the perpetrators of this
particular form of cruelty.
In the final chapters, "Parents and
Teachers" and "The Road Ahead,"
Simmons offers strategies for parents,
teachers and counselors to help
their daughters and students
counteract these insidious forms
of aggression. She provides sam-
ple conversations for parents to
have with their daughters, both
bullies and victims, and how to
intervene effectively, if necessary.
She recommends the adoption of
"anti-bullying" policies within schools,
including training for school employ-
ees and specific consequences for
THE HIDDEN CULTURE
OF AGGRESSION IN C'=t',..•
The purpose and importance of this
book is best summed up by Simmons
when she writes, "Nearly every woman
and girl has a story. It is time to break
Simmons began exploring the topic
of female bullying at Oxford
University in England, where she was
a Rhodes scholar. She lives in
Brooklyn, N.Y., and is a national
trainer for the Ophelia Project; a men-
toring and advocacy program for
teenage girls. [11
Rachel Simmons speaks 1 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the
Jewish Community Center in
Oak Park and 6:30 p.m. that
same night at the JCC in West