Mean girls in Suffolk

Published 10:02 pm Friday, May 18, 2018

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

There is an infinity war taking place in Suffolk, and I am not talking about the box office hit that recently became the No. 4 highest grossing movie globally.

The enemy is not Thanos — it is a growing number of mean girls. They are not stealing infinity stones, but they are stealing from us. Mean girls are stealing the contentment of our school girls.

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Mean girls are at the center of what were once uplifting highlights of afternoon conversations that started with “How was your day?” They are the perpetrators of aggression and body shaming that steal our girls comfort with just being themselves. When mornings are spent rehearsing how your child should respond to the offense of a mean girl, precious moments of bonding are hijacked. They pick and harass without reprimand, taking from the peace in the classroom. Most of all, they are stealing the smiles on the faces of our girls. As a result of all these stolen things, more mothers are forced into the role of an avenger. After all, it is a mother’s primitive nature to revert to her inner Storm and Rogue character when her child’s welfare is in danger.

They have written books about mean girls, made movies and even portrayed mean girls in theater. Celebrity and reality television exalt cruelty. The scholarly studies into this behavior suggest mean girls are the result of inbred competitiveness, insecurity and the need for belonging. These same studies reveal that this so-called natural occurrence is most prevalent from sixth to eighth grade and only slows down in the young woman’s senior year of high school. Far too many suicides and conflicts unresolved have occurred as the result of bullying, mean girls.

Why are we doing nothing about mean girls? A war cry is well overdue.

Female empowerment starts within the community of women who encourage each other. Just last week, we recognized teachers and mothers with reciprocal respect for one another. It is never too early to teach our girls mutual respect. Furthermore, it is not up to females alone to demonstrate how communal harmony is done. When our male leaders stand by and allow girls to address one another in foul ways, they condone the young man’s comfort in doing the same. We can no longer watch and grieve as more and more mean girls proclaim that they run the world. They do not.

Here are a few ways we can stand against mean girls together.

  • Every mother needs a #MomSquad. At the least, your squad needs to consist of a teacher in your child’s school system, the school guidance counselor, the mother of one of your child’s friends and the adult leader in your child’s activities. This team helps empower your daughter’s confidence. She needs to know she has power behind her. She also needs to know who to go to in a mother’s absence.
  • Girls need an outlet that emboldens their worth and identity. Sign up for a teen magazine, subscribe to a teen blog site, attend a girls’ leadership program or create your own online community that reinforces positive image and confidence. Read to your daughter. They never get too old for storytime. I recommend “She Persisted” by Chelsea Clinton and “Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!” by Marley Dias.
  • The school and the neighborhood where our girls live need to demonstrate harmony among women. Show them that we are friendly to each other in the community. Show them that we celebrate our success together. Congratulate and compliment the women in your circle in an outward display before young girls. Let them know those mean girls never win. Teach them how to choose friends well.
  • Our leaders cannot tolerate cruelty to women and girls. Whenever possible, our girls need to see examples of strong punitive action for these acts of harassment and abuse that demoralize the beautiful ones.

Let us not wait for the release of “Avengers 4” to win this war. May all the avenge-hers assemble so that we can put an end to this torment in our schools, our neighborhoods and our community.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.