Girlfighting: Betrayal and Rejection among Girls

By Lyn Mikel Brown | Go to book overview

1
Reading the Culture of Girlfighting

SARA, A TWENTY-YEAR-OLD COLLEGE STUDENT, sits forward in her chair in a way that suggests earnestness. Her wavy dark hair is pulled back in a ponytail; her intense brown eyes hold my gaze whenever she comments or answers a question. She has an air of self-assurance. I think about this as I stand before this classroom full of students, mostly sophomores like Sara; a room full of adolescents here to learn about adolescence. I recall her paper; it's somewhere in the pile I'm handing back today, still speaking to me, pulling at me. The assignment was autobiographical, to explore a significant moment in early adolescence. Sara chose to reveal her painful, protracted search for popularity:

It was in fourth grade that I discovered what popularity meant …
friends, security, and the envy of my peers.… I started to associate
myself with the popular girls. I worked my way in slowly, quietly, and
took a back seat to the “leaders” of the group. I dressed like they did,
walked like they did.… I remember using a valley girl voice for the
second half of fourth grade, placing “like” in between almost every
word. It was difficult and drove me and my parents crazy, but it was
necessary in order to attain rank.

By fifth grade I was there. I was popular. I made sacrifices along the
way, losing touch with my best friend who didn't fit the “mold,” using
my allowance to supplement the clothes allowance my parents gave
me in order to buy the designer clothes, spending my winter recesses
freezing on the playground because wearing a hat wasn't cool, sleep-
ing over at strangers' houses where I wasn't comfortable because the
hostess had popular status, and putting down others in order to en-
sure my place at the top.

Talking behind “friends'” backs became second nature, and I be-
came an excellent liar to deal with the rare occasions when people
confronted me about my inconsistencies.… They called us the
“clan,” even the teachers did, and I always thought of it as a fitting

-11-

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Girlfighting: Betrayal and Rejection among Girls
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do? 1
  • 1: Reading the Culture of Girlfighting 11
  • 2: Good Girls and Real Boys 36
  • 3: Playing It like a Girl 67
  • 4: Dancing Through the Minefield 99
  • 5: Patrolling the Borders 135
  • 6: From Girlfighting to Sisterhood 175
  • 7: This Book is an Action 199
  • Appendix 229
  • Notes 233
  • References 243
  • Index 255
  • About the Author 259
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