Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Physical fighting, name-calling, threats, power struggles, competition, manipulation, secrets, rumors, and ostracizing – sounds like an episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but instead it was the topic of girl against girl crime and how to dispel it.
“Every single female has encountered an experience in which they become aggressors or victims of girl-against-girl crime,” said Lauren Parsekian, 22, one of the co-founders of Kind Campaign. Lauren and her best friend, videographer Molly Thompson, also 22, started the non-profit program four years ago. The pair talked to middle and high school girls and their mothers in the Coppell High School auditorium Nov. 19.
Four years ago, Lauren and Molly traveled across America in a mini-van with their mothers to interview hundreds of females about the “mean girl” phenomenon. The girls combined their experiences and passion to uncover the truth within the world of girls. They said they learned about themselves, females, the truth behind the issue and our culture’s influence.
Kind Campaign is an internationally recognized movement, documentary and school program based upon the powerful belief in KINDness that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl crime.
What they discovered is that mean girls have been here forever. Controversial girls and queen bees have been here forever. The Greeks were writing about Helen of Troy who started a war with her beauty. Everybody’s been fascinated with being that kind of character in life.
“It’s clearly not a new phenomenon; it’s been going on for generations, but the scope and intensity is greater now than ever before,” Lauren said. “Why are we accepting this as our so-called rite of passage? Girls today see 30,000 more commercials and images in advertising a day than our mothers did, everything from billboards, to commercials on the internet, to messages we wear on our clothing, and the images that come through our mobile devices, and magazines. Media is such an ingrained part of this world.
“Ten or 15 minutes of a young girl’s looking through a magazine decreases her score on a self-esteem measurement,” Lauren said. “TV shows and movies glorify violence against women, and portray women pitted against women for love, for success, for money, for beauty. Every message out there tells women, ‘You’re not okay where you are; you have to fight that other girl or woman to get where you want to be, and you can’t trust women.’ That is a recipe for disaster.
“With cell phone, text messages, blogs, twitter, My Space, and You Tube, it’s increasingly easy to say whatever, whenever we want with no face attached. (We can do that) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These new forms of communication have created a new world of cyber bullying, a world created and controlled by our fingertips – a world dominated by girls. There are messages on My Space against girls our age by girls our age.”
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyber bullying is the biggest threat kids face, especially girls. It is through the speed of technology that the speed and the scope of girl against girl crimes have grown so large.
“Girls are now doing cyber bullying, going to the Internet to post videos of some of their physical fights,” Dr. Phil said in the Kindness Campaign documentary shown at the assembly.
A Florida girl was beat up by other girls and the video posted on You Tube. The girls who did it were convicted and face up to a year of detention. The girls said they did it because of the victim’s trash talking.
Authorities decided not to file charges in the Internet hoax that caused a teenage girl to commit suicide.
The file note read, “This world would be a better place without you.”
A short time later, the girl hung herself.
“Girls view the world in a 2D format,” said a therapist interviewed for the documentary. “They don’t go out and play; they sit and text. They do not have to look into one another eyes, they do not have to feel responsible for another person’s feelings, and they do not have to deny their feelings, because they are just looking at you through a screen.”
She said good questions for girls or women who are bullies would be:
Are you aware of the consequences?
What happened to you?
What did you go through (with the presumption being that we bully because we’ve been bullied)?
“Why can’t girls get along?” a young woman in the documentary asked. “We can be the meanest creatures to one another.”
“We all want to be liked,” Lauren said. “It’s already hard enough to accept ourselves for who we are, let alone accept the perceptions and judgments that other girls have of us. Over the years, the vicious ways in which females treat each other have become societal norms, with various media outlets that mock and even glamorize the issue. What we often choose to ignore is the fact that these experiences very often lead to depression, anxiety, loss of self-worth, eating disorders, drug abuse, alcoholism, attempted suicide and actual suicide in millions of girls’ lives.
“Finding a way to stop girl-against-girl crime from happening is something that has been on my heart since I was twelve years old. For me, the hardest time was middle school, when a group of my girlfriends turned on me. I can still vividly recall every torturous experience they put me through throughout seventh and eighth grades.
“I think the most important part of my story is how those experiences affected me as a young girl. I became scared to go to school, my grades started to drop. I was scared to answer the phone, and finding places to hide on campus became a daily routine. Through this time, I battled depression and got to the point where I tried to take my own life in seventh grade. I know first-hand how much it hurts to be called names, to be threatened and to feel like you are all alone.
“I promise you it gets better and I am so thankful that I am here today, able to tell you that and to do the work that we do,” Lauren said. “I know it’s extremely hard to be a girl. It’s hard for all of us. However, I have confidence that through Kind Campaign, we will all come together to create a community and an awareness that will change this problem.
“I wouldn’t take back a second of my middle school experience because it led us here in relationship and conversation with each other and amazing girls all over the country. There’s no definite reason why these things happen. You can blame media, society, parents, gender rules, technology, the school system, but it’s not about that, although they do pay a huge role.
“The solution is simple: It’s us. It’s you and it’s me and it’s the way we consider how to treat other females – other people,” Lauren said.
How to change
Consider what others might be going through.
Apologize for things you’ve said or done, even if it happened 30 years ago.
Talk to your friends about the issues you’ve had with them.
Be happy with who you are.
Stick up for the kid being bullied in class.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything or find something nice to say.
“The kids that are out there hurting others are hurting themselves on an emotional level,” one mother said. “We need to be helping each other, not tearing each other down.”
Another therapist in the documentary said, “Everybody is insecure. Even the pretty girls are insecure. It’s tough to be at the top too because you’re always worried about being dethroned. We’re all struggling for the same thing. I find acceptance in the fact that you’re seeking it too. We may not all be beautiful, we may not all be smart, we may not all be talented, but we can all be kind.”
“We need to just lean on each other,” Lauren said. “Be kind.”
Information from www.kindcampaign.com included.