bullying

Brutal Boys versus Mean Girls

Brutal Boys versus Mean Girls: Male Bullying vs Female Bullying

Exploring gender differences in bullying trends 

Bullying can be difficult to pinpoint in a school setting because it doesn’t always look the same from case-to-case. The methods of bullying change from bully-to-bully. Methods also tend to look dramatically different between male bullying and female bullying.

For instance, girls tend to use more social bullying while boys tend to resort to physical bullying. This doesn’t mean girls won’t be physically aggressive or boys won’t exclude others, but there are inclinations in bullying behavior that are influenced by gender.

Brutal Boys Bully – Male Bullying

While bullying by both sexes involves similar levels of aggression, the ways aggression is expressed usually differ between the genders. Male bullying mainly consists more of a direct method, or bullying face-to-face. Boys bully using their physical power over the victim in an attempt to gain status or control. They may engage in fights, or use the threat of physical violence to torment their victims. They may also damage a victim’s property to enhance their threat.

Research also shows that boys are more accepting of bullying than girls. Boys may even admire bullies. This is likely due to the socially constructed view that physical aggression is part of being masculine—the “boys will be boys” mentality. When we socialize boys with the idea that they must dominate others to prove their masculinity, we breed the very tendencies that lead to boys bullying and dating violence.

It is important both at home and in the classroom that we have conversations about masculinity as well as the appropriate levels of aggression and their proper outlets. When you’re at home, take notice of what is on television, the content or story line of video games they are playing, or what music they are listening to. How is masculinity being portrayed in what your child is watching, playing or hearing? Then, have a discussion with them on why the behavior seen or heard is considered bullying and why these actions don’t make your more masculine.

Mean Girls Bully – Female Bullying

If you’ve seen the movie Mean Girls, you know the stereotype of the female bully. Like the girls in the movie, female bullies are much more likely to engage in social bullying, also called relational bullying. Unlike the movie, most victims are incapable of rescuing themselves. Female bullies often attack through rumors, exclusion, teasing and insults. They are also more likely to gossip about their victims online. The goal is to damage the victim’s reputation and isolate them from others.

Girls’ social currency lies mainly in their appearance rather than their physical strength like boys. Because of this, female bullying attempts to tear down the appearance of their victims in any way they can.

Because these forms of bullying are more secretive and subtle, girls are less likely to get caught bullying. There is less physical behavioral evidence for parents and teachers to witness, so attacks can be longer and more severe than male bullying.

Far too often we hear of kids taking their own lives over relational bullying, and it is more evident than ever that we need to address this form of bullying just as much as we address physical bullying. Be aware of how girls talk to one another and don’t be afraid to intervene. Ask them why they feel the need to be mean to other girls. Make sure you are always available to listen when your child is having relationship problems with her girlfriends and don’t dismiss them as just girl drama.

Remember, these are not hard and fast rules on what bullying looks like. These are trends. It’s important to pay attention to the social dynamic of your child, and teach them what healthy behavior and healthy relationships look like.

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