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Organizing Younger Women
A Series by the Younger Women's Task Force (YWTF)

Female Bullies…as Children and Adults
By Erika Kelley

Lets face it, we’ve all had our encounter with the female bully, whether your role was that of the victim, aggressor, or bystander. I experienced female bullying for the first time in elementary school…

I walked into the lavatory (I haven’t used that word since elementary school!) and witnessed four girls applying make-up on another girl: different color eye shadows, blush, and lipstick…the makings of a hideous clown. The girls kept eyeing one another, giggling, and saying, “You look really beautiful. The boys will love you.” The clown-faced girl was beaming from ear to ear. I didn’t understand how she didn’t know that these girls were ridiculing her. I also didn’t understand why the so-called aggressors would want to do such a thing.

So, whatever happens to the mean school girls? Well…they typically grow up to be mean women.

Dawn Olsen, writer for an online magazine, Blogcritics, has some vivid (and disturbing) depictions of female bullies...

Women are territorial with teeth, passionately protective, fiercely jealous and deeply mistrustful due to strong instinctual drives.

Women like wolves, attack in packs, rarely ever confronting without some back up from their peers. Knowing the full value in the power of numbers they encircle their victim and take little chunks from all sides, whittling away at the self-esteem of the victim, and their desire to be included, a drive most women so feverishly have.

Some women are extremely adept at "silent aggression" and derive the most perverse pleasure watching their object of ridicule squirm, cry, and otherwise become unhinged. The more signs of weakness from the victim, the more vicious the attack, making the alternatives for the "odd girl out" less and less apparent.

What I have found is that these individuals…bullies…are easier to deal with when you understand them.

According to Professional Life Coach Heidi Costas, despite the façade that such people put up, bullies have low self-confidence and low self-esteem, and thus feel insecure. Low self-esteem is a factor highlighted by all studies of bullying. Bullies are seething with resentment, bitterness, hatred and anger, and often have wide-ranging prejudices as a vehicle for dumping their anger onto others. Bullies are driven by jealousy and envy.

As a child, I wasn’t equipped to deal with the toxic behaviors of female bullies. As an adult, however, things have changed. With guidance from wise female friends, family, and professionals (and as a result of past experiences!), when dealing with female bullies, my approach has been to…

1. Maintain my confidence. I refuse to let anyone intimidate me.

2. Ignore the gossip or confront the individual(s) responsible for starting the rumor in the first place, depending on the situation. (If the rumor affects my family or career, I can’t afford to ignore it!)

3. Do not pledge allegiance to backstabbing cliques or groups.

4. Aim to embrace a spirit of cooperation in my interactions with others.

And I must say, in most instances, I have been successful…yet the fight to end relational aggression continues!

Interested in hearing other strategies for dealing with relational aggression (female bullying)? Check out Cheryl Dellasega’s book, Mean Girls Growing Up: Adult Women Who Are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees, and Afraid-to-Bees. She explores why women are often their own worst enemies, offering practical advice for a variety of situations. Drawing upon extensive research and interviews, she shares real-life stories from women as well as the knowledge of experts who have helped women overcome the negative effects of aggression. Readers will hear how adult women can be just as vicious as their younger counterparts, learn strategies for dealing with adult bullies, how to avoid being involved in relational aggression, and more.

And since research has shown that girls between the ages of 8 and 17 need a little extra protection against the emotional and social hazards of growing up…Rachel Simmons, in her books, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Girls and Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write about Bullies, Cliques, Popularity, and Jealousy, prescribes clear-cut strategies for parents, teachers, and girls to resist bullies and their acts of aggression. She also has great resources on her website.

You can sign up to receive the Younger Women’s Movement newsletter at www.ywtf.org


The Younger Women's Task Force (YWTF), a project of the National Council of Women's organizations, is a nationwide, diverse and inclusive grassroots movement dedicated to organizing younger women and their allies to take action on issues that matter most to them. By and for younger women, YWTF works both within and beyond the women's movement, engaging all who are invested in advancing the rights of younger women.

Through its 8 chapters, YWTF members are working to: 1) Provide a stronger voice in the policy making process for women in their 20's and 30's; 2) Increase the impact of younger women activists through the articulation of, and collaboration on, a common agenda; 3) Create a culture of inclusion where decision-making and power are practiced collectively, and members from diverse backgrounds participate in all levels of YWTF; 4) Define and develop the next generation of women leaders; and 5) Create a local and national network for peer mentoring, networking and sharing resources.

To find out more about YWTF, please email Shannon Lynberg at [email protected]

Knox Fellowship

The Younger Women's Task Force (YWTF) is proud to announce the 2008-2009 Alexis Geneva Knox Fellowship in support of Younger Women's Leadership, Scholarship, and Advocacy.

This 12-month fellowship will be awarded in June of 2008. The fellowship will provide 1-3 younger women with a chance to pursue artistic, activist, skills building, and/or career advancement opportunities as well as financial assistance, mentoring, and professional leadership consultation.

About the Fellowship

The Alexis Knox Fellowship is an innovative national program designed to support younger women as they build their leadership capacity and support the YWTF community.

The Alexis Knox Fellowship is named in honor of Alexis Knox, a founding member of YWTF and a younger woman whose leadership potential was cut short when she past away in 2006. Still, at 22 years old, Alexis was a seasoned activist at Barnard College and in her volunteer work. She was the first to register for YWTF's founding meet-up, served as co-director of the YWTF NYC Chapter and was an integral member of our community. She will be greatly missed and in establishing this Fellowship, her commitment to women's leadership will live on.

Fellowship Fund: Selected fellows will receive a grant from the Alexis Knox Fellowship Fund of $1,200 to $3,000 to support leadership activities through individual and collaborative projects. Fellows are encouraged to pursue activities that enhance their public leadership skills, reach diverse constituencies, and build community. The Fund also offers fellows the opportunity to collaborate with others within the YWTF community and expand their work beyond their specific chapter city.

Fellowship proposals must directly support the YWTF community. The activities must support younger women and must be inline with YWTF's mission, vision, and values.

Application and Selection Process: All applicants who are active YWTF members must receive a recommendation from their Chapter Director. Applicants who are not active members must attend a chapter meeting, interview with the local chapter director, and submit a letter of recommendation. Applicants who live in cities with no YWTF presence must submit two letters of recommendation. You can download the full application at www.ywtf.org. All application materials must be submitted via email by 5:00PM on May 19th. YWTF Knox Fellow applicants will be reviewed by the YWTF National Coordinator, the Coordinating Board, and the Advisory Board. Selected applicants will be notified in the month of June 2008. Additional contact may be made with fellowship applicants during selection process.

If you have any questions regarding the Knox Fellowship, contact Shannon Lynberg, National Coordinator, at [email protected] or 202-293-4506.

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