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.