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the secret life of [Queen] Bees

When Sarah* entered high school, she was fully prepared to be initiated.

The ritual of hazing freshmen was a time-honored tradi- tion in her rural community. And so she gamely endured pranks such as getting whipped cream smeared in her hair. “I thought it was hilarious,” the North Dakota State University student says today.

But after a couple of years, the initiation ritual developed a nasty edge. It came to a head when several of her classmates tied younger students to a flagpole with duct tape, poured Kool-Aid over their clothes, then kicked and hit them.

The incident was all the more memorable because the per- petrators were girls in a small North Dakota town.

Aggression in Girls.” Rosalind Wiseman’s “Queen Bees & Wannabes” – a book to help parents guide their daughters through the social minefield of adolescence – also became a New York Times bestseller. It inspired “Mean Girls,” a hit movie that manages to be both entertaining and searingly honest in its depiction of teenage divadom.

Several factors motivated Miller-Boschert to join the charge. One was reading Simmons’ “Odd Girl Out,” based on interviews with 300 girls from 30 different schools. Another was her own experience as a middle-school teacher and administrator. Yet another hit closer to home: Her own daughter was entering the world of brand-name clothing and cafeteria politics, of sleepovers and hallway gossip.

When Sarah shares this anecdote in DeAnn Miller- Boschert’s classroom, the NDSU education instructor is disturbed by it, if not particularly surprised. In her statewide research of girl-to-girl bullying, Miller-Boschert quickly dis- covered the ruthless pecking order isn’t confined to urban America or Hollywood films. She has unearthed stories of betrayal, cruelty and the type of peer-group machinations that might have given Machiavelli pause.

A statewide survey of middle school teachers and inter- views with female college students provided her with the necessary data. Just as Simmons and Wiseman had found, she discovered a world where even a walk down a school hallway could become a maze of catty comments, deliberate snubs and frosty glares. All sugar and spice stuff aside, the world of adolescent girls can be as fickle as it is demanding, as complex as it is brutal.

Miller-Boschert has submitted her research findings to the Association of Consumer Sciences Journal, where it is in the rewrite stage. She could not have picked a hotter area of study. In 2002, Rachel Simmons published the seminal work on girls and bullying, “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of

Like Simmons, Miller-Boschert believes female cruelty springs from socialization: Girls are taught to be kind and sweet, yet are discouraged from confronting or showing anger toward others. As a result, they develop what Simmons calls “a hidden culture of silent and indirect aggression.”


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