Home Institution

Carleton College

Publication Date

Fall 2010

Program Name

Spain: Language, Community, and Social Change

Abstract

After working with children, mostly girls, between the ages of four and eight, I noticed a pattern of exclusion with one girl in the group. This experience has shown me the subtlety with which bullying can occur, even at very young ages. I decided to write my essay about this to illuminate the issue at hand, one that is all too often forgotten. With boys, bullying is generally more direct but this does not mean that bullying with girls does not occur. I begin my essay by defining bullying, and follow with an explanation of the causes and the manifestation of bullying. From there, I explore the cultural significance that bullying holds in our community and propose some steps that can be taken to dealing with it. I find that our culture, which places an emphasis on hierarchies and individual power, tends to accept bullying with girls because we view it as a way to determine popularity, or social success. Moreover, I argue that the methods girls use to bully are a direct consequence of the views on masculinity and femininity within Spanish and Western society, in general. I find that the emphasis that our society places upon physical beauty for girls directly impacts the way girls view one another and, consequently, the way they bully one another. In order to fight bullying, I believe that we must first teach girls to deal with their own problems in a way that is healthy. Only if they respect themselves and their own problems will they be able to respect others too. Teachers must demonstrate that power can come in many forms—through fear or through respect and kindness. Finally, we must demand that all children take an active role in their school community. The reason that bullying is so effective is because of its power to isolate the victim. However, if the large percentage of the school that consists of “observers” begins to stand up for the victim, either directly to the bully, or by telling an adult when bullying is taking place, the power of the bully is greatly diminished.

I use several external sources to support my claims but I also employ my own experience in this class to demonstrate the power that bullying holds over young girls, through the journal I kept while I was working on the project, and an interview that I held with the teacher of the class. This allows me to explore the issue in much more detail, through the help of personal experience. The more I researched, the more I began to realize that the issues I was facing with this class were exactly the same ones I was reading about.

Bullying with young girls is all the more devastating because there are children, both bullies and victims, who have so much potential and who are not realizing half of their potential because of bullying. Bullying harms everyone involved. It creates a hostile work environment, not only for the victim but also for the bully and the observers. I once heard that there is no such thing as a bad child and I whole-heartedly believe that, even after writing this essay. We have as much a duty to the bullies as to the victims, particularly when they are this young.

Disciplines

Inequality and Stratification | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology and Interaction