Katie: There was this fight in the lunchroom today, and the kids rolled under a table so none of the teachers could break it up.
Dad: That sounds hard to watch. Did the boys get suspended?
Katie: No, Dad; this was two girls.
Dad: Oh. Do girls fight much at your school?
It seems that more frequently today we’re hearing stories of girls— including privileged middle-class girls—getting into serious trouble with fighting. The latest uproar came in the form of a hazing incident that turned violent in Northbrook, Illinois, a solidly upper- middle-class Chicago suburb. It was difficult to miss the videotape of senior girls dumping buckets of noxious waste over the heads of junior girls as a welcome to their final year of high school. Several girls were seriously hurt when the seniors were egged on by boys watching the melee. It was a shocking video, and around the country parents, teachers, and others began to wonder, What is going on with our girls?
Media overplays problem
But parents can take a deep breath and keep the whole subject of fighting girls in perspective, says Meda Chesney-Lind, a criminologist and authority on girls and violence. “There’s no need for anybody to panic over girls’ violence,” she says. “It has always been there.” Basically, says Chesney-Lind, we’re more concerned with girls’ violence now because we’re more concerned about violence in general than we were 20 years ago, and girls are getting wrapped up in that. “Girls engage in much more physical violence than the stereotype permits, so it’s easy to periodically rediscover it,” she adds.
Chesney-Lind isn’t suggesting that parents simply accept a certain level of violence, or that we expect our girls to fight. Instead, we must plan for and teach our girls ways to deal with physical aggression. But as an overall societal concern, girls are still far less likely than boys to use their fists to “deal with” their problems.
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