Bullying is a growing problem in our society today. It isn’t new, but with the rise of social media bullying seems to be getting worse. Being connected to the entire world via the internet has given bullies a new way in which to inflict emotional harm on others. No one is worse about bullying each other as females are to other females. Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton is the best resource I have ever seen in the fight against bullying.
Bonnie starts off explaining why we, as females, tend to hurt each other. She goes over how biology and hormones, the way we are raised, the legacy we pass down to our children, and the naturally competitive nature of women all play into why we tend to bully each other. Seeing such an in depth look at the why is such a great step into helping it to stop. Sometimes all we, as humans, need to better ourselves is to understand why we do some of the bad things that we do.
From the why she continues to the how bullying occurs. Bonnie goes over various ways we hurt each other including the silent treatment to gossiping, to cyberbullying, and to other methods. She explains what each method is, why it happens, why it hurts, and how to deal with it. Meru, my 11 year old daughter, after reading the section on verbal abuse came up to me in tears and said, “Mamma, I’ve never thought about why [name of girl in her class] says such mean things to me, but now I know it’s because she’s hurting. Now I feel bad for her.” Meru hasn’t come home upset after school since.
Girls Against Girls then continues to teach readers how to deal with the stress of feeling overwhelmed by bullying. Sometimes when we are bullied we can feel as if we are completely alone. Bonnie goes beyond the traditional “just ignore them and they’ll go away” advice and gives some real ways in which to deal with bullying. She gives some examples such as writing in a journal, exercise, and even starting a club at school. She also gives advice on how to get help if the problem gets to be too big to deal with on your own. A list of different agencies, websites, and hotlines is included for anyone who may need the extra help.
The last two chapters are all about stopping the bullying cycle and how to team together as females to help empower instead of tearing down. Bonnie helps us to find constructive ways to vent our frustrations instead of taking them out on each other. There is also a list of websites and organizations to help women form strong relationships with other women to help gain empowerment.
Girls Against Girls is a must read for everyone. Anyone who has felt bullied or has perhaps bullied someone else can learn something. Especially any mothers of young daughters should pick this up. It is one of the greatest weapons out there in the war against bullying.
Recently I was fortunate enough to ask Bonnie a few questions:
Carrie: What first inspired you to write this book?
Bonnie: I was bullied when I was a kid, and the only books that I could find about the subject were completely unrealistic or written for parents. It’s hard to deal with bullying in junior high and high school when all the advice is outdated. So I wrote this book to help girls get good advice on what to do and not to do, as well as how to avoid turning into a mean girl by battling bullies. Fighting fire with fire only leads to a lot more drama.
Carrie: What is something that you personally learned through writing Girls Against Girls?
Bonnie: I learned that mean girls grow up to be mean women. Sadly, women learned bad behavior as kids and never really grow out of it. So you have to use the same defenses from junior high, but in the workplace or PTA meetings or even dinner parties.
Carrie: It definitely seems as if bullying has been getting a fair share of media attention lately. Do you think that the rise of social media has made bullying worse? Or do you think it has just helped bring bullying more to light?
Bonnie: Anything that gets people talking more about bullying and why it’s wrong, is always a good thing. The worst that could happen is that people think “it’s just a natural thing all kids have to go through.” There’s nothing okay with mistreating those around you because they’re different or quiet or not exactly like you. Parents, teachers and other students ALL have a responsibility to take a stand against bullying and offer support to those kids who need someone to talk to. Bullies will never go away, but that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate them!
Carrie: What inspired you during a time when you felt you were being bullied?
Bonnie: When I was being bullied all throughout school I turned to writing and art to keep my spirits up and not be discouraged about what was happening to me. When you’re a kid, life can seem unbearable when you think it will never get better. But it DOES get better. Once you know how to deal with bullies, surround yourself with real friends, and be comfortable doing your own thing, life doesn’t have to be so miserable.
Carrie: Who is your biggest female role model?
Bonnie: That’s a hard question to answer! I have a wide array of female role models! I love funny ladies like Tina Fey and Laraine Newman who paved the way for female comedians and improv actresses. I love the writing of everyone from Anne Rice to Jenny Lawson. Bettie Page and Dita von Teese are big fashion icons for me. Siouxsie Sioux, Jane Wiedlin, Kim Gordon, Kim Shattuck, and Patti Smith influenced me to learn how to play guitar. My friend Felicia Day inspires me to follow my dreams and never give up on goals no matter how impossible they might seem at the time.
Carrie: Girls Against Girls is such a great book, have you ever thought about writing more books along this line?
Bonnie: As a matter of fact, yes! I’m hoping to write a series of anti-bullying books like this but for elementary school aged girls. Sadly, bullying happens to younger girls as soon as preschool, so the sooner we can teach them kindness, the better.
Carrie: If you could only give one piece of advice to a young girl being bullied, what would it be?
Bonnie: Be your own best friend. It can be hard to trust others and not feel betrayed when friends turn into frenemies. But if you can be happy just entertaining yourself through reading, writing, painting, crafting, running, playing guitar, playing with pets, etc., then you won’t feel as alone. Friends are great, but depending on them 100% for your happiness is a recipe for disaster.
Carrie: What is your favorite video game or video game series?
Bonnie: I don’t really play video games because I’m paranoid that I’ll end up getting so caught up in the game that I’ll never get my book projects done! But I do love old school video games like “Hamburger Time” and “Frogger.” “Ms. PacMan” will also be dear to my heart.
Carrie: Cupcakes or brownies and why?
Bonnie: Cupcakes! Brownies! Ooooh I can’t decide. How about both together as the ultimate dessert?
Carrie: Finish this sentence… “If I ruled the world every home would have at least one____________.”
Bonnie: …taxidermied squirrel playing the violin!
Bonnie Burton is a San Francisco-based author, journalist, comedian, actress and show host. From 2003 to 2012, she worked as a Senior Editor for Star Wars.com and staff writer for Star Wars Insider magazine, and was the Senior Editor of the Official Star Wars Blog. Burton’s books include The Star Wars Craft Book (Random House), You Can Draw Star Wars (DK Publishing), Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Klutz Books), Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change (Zest Publishing), Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Planets in Peril (DK Readers) and Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-Workers (Apress).