Rachel Simmons, Educator & Author
Female aggression researcher Rachel Simmons speaks about her career in outreach and the impact of "mean girls."
Educator & Author
Rachel Simmons discusses her research on female aggression and the work she does to inspire confidence and improve self-esteem in teen girls.
RACHEL SIMMONS: Talking with girls is my favorite thing to do. There's nothing better for me than walking into a room of 500 or 1,000 girls and getting to make them laugh about the way that they treat each other. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I was eight years old, I had a friend who I cared about and, for no reason that today I even understand, began to make my friends run away from me after school. The memory of coming to school and not having anyone to be with in that big, scary school place really stuck with me. For years I thought about, why did this bother me so much? Why could I not make sense of the intensity of that experience of losing your friends, of a girl making it her mission to take your friends away from you? In college, late-night conversations, these kinds of stories would come up. And I saw that of my friends had stories. So when I first started interviewing women about their experiences with mean girls, there was an outpouring. Everyone had something to share. The book that I wrote was "Odd Girl Out-- The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls." And it was the first book to explore the psychological aggression between girls-- the way that girls can turn people against someone or say things like, if you don't do what I want, I won't be your friend anymore. I interviewed girls all over the country and really tried to understand, why were they treating each other this way? What did it feel like for others? Girls know they have to maintain an exterior of happy, peaceful relationships and kindness. And yet they've got to do something with their angry feelings. It is so important how parents respond to relational aggression-- to the use of friendship as a weapon-- early on for girls. We have seen research already that shows that when mothers in particular intervene, those girls are much less likely to continue in that behavior. We assume that kids are innocuous or easy to deal with. And especially as they get older, kids can be intimidating. Particularly the more socially sophisticated and aggressive they are, they're very intimidating to deal with. If you want to reduce drama among girls and aggression and bullying, we have to give them the skills to assert themselves. So I talk with girls about what it means to be assertive. I think the thing I want girls to realize most is this-- you're not alone. You're not crazy. It's not your fault. You're not a loser. And I also want girls to understand that the more they avoid direct, honest conversations with each other, the more they rely on social media and an eye roll or the silent treatment or any of these behind-the-back gestures, the drama will continue. [MUSIC PLAYING]