Author Archives: aliviathompson

About aliviathompson

Working to raise awareness on female aggression and how to create a positive social environment, rather than a destructive one.

Next Steps- the Survey

I’m so excited to say that I’ve finally reached the next big step in my research project: transitioning from gathering basic information on the topic to measuring just how prominent the issue of social aggression is in our own community. Because this is the starting point to the actual ‘action-based’  portion of the research plan I initially created, I’m more curious than ever to know just where this feedback will take me next. As much as I enjoy reading and writing and reflecting on pieces I’ve read, my true passion consists of seeing a data pool and being able to come to my own conclusions in order to change the place around me for the better. After carefully crafting and selecting questions for my survey for weeks, I finally seem to have a (pretty) final draft that will be sent out to the student body in the next week or so, hopefully. Although I am slightly anxious to see where this goes, and the majority opinion of my peers, I know whatever data I end up with will be able to be put to good use. One of the goals of the survey was to measure the commonality of specific behaviors related to social aggression so that we will be able to target the most prominent issues at hand at our school. If all goes according to plan, I will be able to start my one-on-one conversations by the end of the month.

But in the meantime, here is a portion of the survey that I will be reflecting on and taking action with in the future:

 

Please rate the frequency of these socially aggressive behaviors based on your experience/observation at Westtown. (5 point scale of always, often, sometimes, rarely, and never.)

leaving someone out on purpose

telling someone that they are not wanted in a group

telling others to exclude a certain person from an activity or group

ignoring a person or walking away when a person attempts to join an activity or group

telling others that they don’t understand why they are friends with a particular person

telling others negative things about a particular person in order to hurt that person’s relationships or reputation

name calling

embarrassing another person in public or online

spreading rumors, known to be false, about a particular person

belittling another person due to their identity (gender, race, sexual orientation)

treating a younger person as inferior due to their age/grade level

Please respond to these questions through your own words:

What changes would you recommend at Westtown to create a more positive and inclusive culture?

What ideas do you have to help students better support each other?

Are there any examples of social aggression that you would like to share, including how it has affected you or others?

 

-Liv

We All Hate the Culture of Hate- Liv

We all hate the culture of hate in which we live. 

         We can all admit to the fact that at some point in our lives, if not now, we have treated another group as inferior, or automatically thought something laced with bias the second we saw a person who looked different than us. But, if someone asked you if you were a hateful person, would you say yes? As human beings, none of us are born hateful, but instead we are exposed to the culture around us that systematically implements ideas of hate, discrimination, and bias against certain groups of people. We all agree on the fact that a world without hate would be a better one, but the truth is, very little of us are able to admit to the fact that each and every one of us contributes to this culture of hate every day.

         Sally Kohn, an advocate for urging others to see the humanity and likeness across all types of people, recently did a TED Talk called What We Can Do About the Culture of Hate, to which I have linked down below. She begins her talk by sharing a deeply personal story about how she, herself, was a merciless bully when she was a young girl. It wasn’t until a feeling of hypocrisy overcame her when she began to research and teach others about the importance of kindness and acceptance that she realized the extent of her actions as a kid. This, to me, was extremely inspiring and moving; the ability to admit one’s own fault takes a huge amount of courage and self-awareness that many people lack.  However, she used that own first-hand experience as a bully to further inspire her to really distinguish what exactly causes people to hate.

         As she discusses in her talk, there is a very wide spectrum of the concept of ‘hate’. This may be the reason people have such trouble noticing their own feelings of hate towards others; it is so easy to dismiss our own negative feelings by comparing them to much worse instances of hate. Kohn asked her audience a question that really struck me: on one end of the spectrum is hate on a mass scale through horrific crimes like genocide, and on the other side, there are acts of prejudice so small that many might not even notice. However, aren’t the two still considered hate? Don’t they both stem from the same roots? Because no one even wants to entertain the fact of placing themselves on the same scale as the historical examples of the worst possible instances of hate, we, as a society, find ourselves in a trap. Kohn made a great point on this topic by saying that when we choose to convince ourselves that we do not hate, we automatically place ourselves above those who do. This itself is redundant; the act of feeling superior to other groups is one of the most fundamental actions of hate.

        Therefore, to extinguish racism, homophobia, sexism, or any other negative connotations fueled by hatred, we must do the thing that seems logically the most counterproductive in this situation: admit our faults and recognize the hate we feel towards others. It’s been repeatedly shown through research that hate towards others is amplified by unfamiliarity. So, in order to make a change, we should be focusing on listening to stories of others, rather than placing blame or looking for the differences between groups. It’s easier said than done, but as Sally Kohn said, we are all capable of letting go of those feelings if we just make the effort.

– Liv

Sally Kohn’s TED Talk:  What We Can Do About the Culture of Hate

https://www.ted.com/talks/sally_kohn_what_we_can_do_about_the_culture_of_hate#t-1054044

image source: Jacobs, Liz. “Sally Kohn Talks Leaving Fox News.” TED Blog, 30 Oct. 2014, blog.ted.com/sally-kohn-on-leaving-fox-news/.

Don’t Blame the Girls – Liv

One paragraph reads:

         “The girls themselves are conflicted about social media.  They possess a critical attitude towards it but often seem un-self-reflective in their own practices.  Girls, they acknowledge, post pictures of their assets because they get more “likes” that way.  And if the boys like you, the girls at school will, too.  However, many feel that the girls posting cleavage are insecure and doing it for attention.  Many feel uncomfortable because they feel like girls are in competition with each other to look the most attractive.  And yet most of these same girls admit that they participate in similar behavior because they want attention, too.  And they say they can’t give up social media because they would then “have no lives”–even though the lives they describe seem stressful and isolating.  These young teenage girls then grow into college students who mourn the hookup culture, feeling compelled to participate even though they say it makes them unhappy and they despair of ever finding a man who is truly interested in them and not their bodies.”

– Nancy Jo Sales, author of ‘American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

        The author of the blog post, which is a reflection of this book, then goes on to discuss how ‘one-sided’ the book seems- and I agree. The biggest issue with this post is the extreme generalizations going on here; the author simply refers to these people as ‘girls’ and ‘boys’, which does not specify even an age or any other specifics. This leads me to believe that this author is extremely biased towards the negativity of social media on all young boys and girls, believing that it is creating a generation of attention-seeking girls who will do just about anything to appeal to the masses. Also, notice the lack of attention on the male perspective. Just as the author discusses the hyper-sexualization of girls, she also easily dismisses young men as disrespectful and objectifying misogynists. What is this saying about our society? Even if the moral of the story is focused on the destructiveness of social media on young girls, why is the author portraying these girls as if they are unable to resist harmful new trends? We should not be focusing on the girls’ inability to resist but why they feel as though it is necessary for them to take part in destructive behavior such as sending explicit photos to other young boys. The author of the book later discusses how worrying this is for parents; they believe that any teenager with a cellphone will automatically use it to expose themselves or others. Even this statement suggests that angsty, curious, and rebellious teenagers are indeed the root of the problem here, when that is not the case. This type of language possibly even supports a culture of victim-blaming, body shaming, and oppression of female sexuality.

        On the other hand, a part of me does understand where the author is coming from. Any adult looking in on the world of social media and hearing horror stories of girls who expose themselves on the internet would assume that our generation of young women aren’t anything admirable. However, it is absolutely wrong of us to believe that statement comes solely from a young woman’s own inability to make good decisions. Our generation is dealing with a completely new aspect of society: constant connection. And although that comes with many benefits, it also allows young people very easy access to negative things such as expectations of beauty or ability to immediately make absolutely anything known to the world. But when adults and authors like Nancy Jo Sales make the decision to break down the girls instead of the horrendously toxic circumstances they are under, young girls themselves will continue to shame each other and believe that blaming one another is the path they should take. If that’s all they know, why wouldn’t they?

        Perhaps one of the first steps towards a better understanding is for adults assessing the topic to change their tone of voice- instead of criticizing an entire generation of girls and discrediting their abilities to make logical choices, ask, how can we help? Where are you coming from? How do you think your experience is different than mine, and how can I better understand? If, as a society, we can offer alternative interpretations of young female behavior instead of shaming or demeaning them, and if we further our research in this area to assure accurate causality, we will be uplifting an entire generation and defining appropriate next steps.

-Liv

quoted blog:

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/23261080/posts/15561

 

Progress and Next Steps – Liv

          At this point in my research project, I am content with how far I have come and more excited than ever for continuing it through the rest of the semester. Initially, when this project began, I was still unsure on the path I was going to take, considering the broadness of the topic of “female aggression”. All I was aware of was my strong curiosity of the topic and my desire to be able to reflect on the culture around me and possibly help change it for the better. 

          Throughout the beginning of the school year up until now, I had been attending a weekly meeting comprised of great girls from grades 9-12. Although the format of the meeting was always casual, we met in order to discuss important and pressing issues regarding Westtown culture and what it means to be female in our modern society. Through this, an interest was sparked in me; I heard heartbreaking stories of my younger friends feeling not only targeted, but demeaned by older girls at our school. I had experienced something very similar during my first years of high school, and I began to question why females feel the need to assert their power in such a negative way once they become upperclassmen. Not only did that inspire me to begin a project, but I also made a promise to myself that I will do everything I can to ensure that younger girls no longer need to feel judged or attacked by older girls.

          As I began my research I came to find just how complex this topic is; there were hundreds of books and websites dedicated to just specific subgroups alone under the umbrella topic of “teenage female behavior”. So, I made the decision to start reading as much as I possibly could about various related topics. This included social media, self confidence and body image, hook up culture, perpetrators and bystanders, different types of bullying, and much more.

          Although my original schedule had devoted a substantial amount of time for initial research, I faced a struggle when I felt as though I still have so much to learn, and not enough time to do so. This required a change of mindset; I couldn’t expect to learn everything about everything before carrying out the next step.

          At this point in my research, it’s time to switch gears into observing and recording how my classmates feel about the presence of girl-on-girl aggression here at Westtown. I have compiled a set of questions that I will be sending out shortly in a survey to the entire student body in order to see some baseline information that I will then be able to refer back to later on in the semester. Formatted with open-ended questions and statements that students can agree with on a scale from 1-5, some questions include, “students who are new to Westtown are made to feel welcome by all ages”, “students display courage and leadership actively intervening when necessary to stop negative behaviors that are not supportive of other students”, and “what can students/student leaders/faculty and staff do to create a stronger and more supportive culture?”. Although most questions tend to be gender-neutral for inclusivity of the whole study body, there are questions that ask specifically about the behavior between girls.

          This survey will definitely be one of the largest and most vital aspects to fulfilling my research goals. However, it is what I do with that information that matters most to me. Assuming that I get a large enough answer pool on the survey and am able to observe an overall consensus, I will then use that information to begin my conversations with students at the school. These conversations (which will be conducted in a question-and-answer format but more casual than an interview), will allow me to get insight into specific experiences of behavioral aggression at our school, and attempt to come to a conclusion as to why that might be happening. These conversations will hopefully be conducted with people of all genders and ages. Hopefully, I will be able to find enough people that will be willing to share their experiences with me, just like the amazing group of girls that I have been meeting with before. If all goes to plan, I will be able to begin to pinpoint just what’s going wrong with Westtown’s culture, as well as what we’re doing right, in order to continue to change it for the better.

          Although I faced a small setback of falling behind in my schedule, it instead resulted in gaining more background information that will benefit me later on. I continue to learn through this research that there are so many different directions I could possibly take; and while it’s challenging, I continue to look forward to what it will result in at the end of the year.

 

– Liv

The Competition for Inferiority

        Have you ever noticed how many girls and women, when complimented, will immediately deny it or deflect it back to the other person? It often looks something like this:

        “Your hair looks so good today!”

        “Ugh, are you kidding? It’s so flat. I wish mine looked more like yours…”

        I think many people can admit to using this tactic. I hadn’t even realized the commonality of it until just recently when I overheard a couple of girls in the bathroom at school. Initially, their tones could have been mistaken for an argument; they were bantering back and forth while simultaneously inspecting their own bodies and faces in the mirror. As I took a closer listen to their conversation, I realized they were talking back and forth about who looked worse that day.  They weren’t claiming that they looked better than the other, but the opposite. It was as if they were partaking in a competition of inferiority and self-hate. After reflecting on it for a bit, I wondered why girls believe that in order to bond with one another or build each other up, they must first tear themselves down.

        Responding to compliments can be tricky and even awkward. We can all agree to that. But in the situation of a girl receiving a compliment, it is very difficult for her to respond in a way that will resinate positively with everyone. If she responds by denying the compliment or deflecting it back onto the other, she may often be perceived as though she is fishing for more compliments from the other person, or an ‘attention seeker’. If the response goes the other way, and she responds with a smile and a ‘thank you’, an acknowledgement that she agrees with them, she runs the risk of being called conceited or overly confident. This is one of the many times in which girls just cannot win; they are constantly bombarded with contradicting messages of how they should act in a society. Where does this complicated situation originate?

        It may be possible that this negative self talk is just another repercussion caused from an overly critical society. It’s a historical fact that women who make the choice to carry themselves confidently and acknowledge their own success or positive qualities have been tormented by a patriarchal society, fueled by intimidation and insecurity. Not only have men been known to fear a woman who does not carry herself like she is inferior to him, but for centuries, women have attempted to tear down the one at the top, due to jealousy of escaping the social norm of being silenced and modest. Women are simply held to higher standards by society; Pew Research Center states that 50% of people believe that women’s higher expectations in the work field is considered one of the major barriers for women’s success (Pew Social Trends: Obstacles to Female Leadership). Self confident women have been feared and hated forever possibly due to the fact that they refuse to carry out the expectations set onto them by others, either in a work or social setting. It is human nature for girls and women to feel as though it is their responsibility to prove that they are the self-critical, modest beings that society has so long told us we have to be to prevent being targeted. 

        What’s so flawed about this system is that it is promoting the vicious cycle of inequality for women. On the surface, this game of who-can-pity-herself-more may seem completely harmless. It even may boost the ego of the other person involved who is hearing her compliments being dished right back towards her. However, every time we make even a small comment laced with self hate, we are doing a disservice to woman as a whole. If all of us continue to encompass a mindset that we will be unable to bond with others or succeed without first cutting ourselves down, we will be taking two steps back for every step forward.

        So instead of giving in to this toxic urge to shame, hate, and compare ourselves to others, try looking at it from another perspective: ask yourself, why do I feel the need to criticize myself right now? Who is this benefiting? Once we realize that comparing and competing with others over qualities that we should be celebrating is not bringing women together, but instead supporting a longstanding patriarch in which women are unable to embrace their true greatness, we will be taking one step closer to breaking the system. So next time you hear a compliment, resist that urge to deny it. We are beautiful, and we all deserve to be able to embrace that.

– Liv, 3/7

 

Source: 

“Chapter 3: Obstacles to Female Leadership.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, 14 Jan. 2015, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/01/14/chapter-3-obstacles-to-female-leadership/.

image:

http://s966.info/library/girl-looking-in-mirror-tumblr/g/default.html

Social Media- helpful or hurtful? – Liv

          I recently read an interesting chapter this past week from the book It’s Complicated by Danah Boyd, called “Is Social Media Amplifying Meanness and Cruelty?”  It predominantly focused on the role social media plays in how girls and adults perceive ‘bullying’, although it also had several other undertones of differences between generations, the heightened culture of ‘drama’ among young girls, and the blame that adults often place on modern technology for their children’s social problems. Continue reading

Social Behavior and Aggression of Girls Introduction – Liv

             The way in which people interact always fascinated me. Of course, during my early adolescence, I was just as confused as the next girl as to why my friends acted so mean at school. Beginning as early as second grade, our class was populated with cliques of girls who paraded around at recess and yelled at others for sitting on their slide, or wearing the same sparkly shirt as they did. Even at such a young age, the issue of girls fighting for power and social status was prevalent, and I wanted to know exactly why.  Continue reading