“Vicious,” or “Good Girls Making Tough Choices”

On the weekend I went to a high school drama performance. It was written by the roughly 24 grade-nine and grade-ten students performing, all of whom were girls save for the four, brave boys who chose to stand in their midst. It was a series of vignettes, scenes derived from monologues written by the students and based on their real-life, early-teen-aged experiences. The students collectively chose to title their presentation “Vicious, a representation, according to the teacher, of their perception of themselves: The average 14 year-old girl.

Now, I am not naiive. I know what teen-aged girls are like. I was one. I’ve sat through the horrors of the autobiographical movie Thirteen (http://www.foxsearchlight.com/thirteen/). I’ve watched (don’t laugh) Doctor Phil’s shows on teen-aged girls (http://drphil.com/search/results/girls/). I read. I talk to other mothers. My Little Miss, who will be 13 sooner than I am ready, has been on the receiving end of early-onset-mean-girl-syndrome at school, and I’ve seen the effects. But for these girls to label themselves collectively as vicious, and then print it in black-and-white, on a program, just to seal the deal, quite frankly bothers me.

Little Miss, who sat in the audience with me, thinks I’m over-reacting. But here’s the thing: Very few of the stories show-cased actually dealt with girls bullying, ostracizing, manipulating, or otherwise being vicious in any way. The stories these children re-enacted were poignant, brutally honest, and absolutely on-point with the issues facing today’s teens—drinking, peer-pressure, body-image, friends, siblings, boys, dating, social media, sexuality, school and parents. For example:

In one scene, a girl re-tells her true-life story of coming out as a lesbian to her friends despite her fear that her honesty will cost her their friendship.

In another, a girl sits on a dinner date with a boy she likes, debating with herself and the waitress-friend serving them what food to order so that she can maintain her weight and her image. She considers the social suicide that could result simply from eating the “wrong” food in front of a boy.

In a third scene, a girl argues with a friend about the consequences of getting drunk at a party and waking up the next morning in an unknown field, vomiting and alone, with no recollection of events of the night before that lead her there.

These are serious, serious issues to address and perform in school, in front of your peers, friends, family, teachers and other strangers. The bravery and openness these students demonstrated is commendable. They did a fantastic job.

Which is why I’m left wondering, Why would these girls, several of whom I know personally to be kind, thoughtful, considerate girls just trying to navigate their way through the labyrinth of adolescence, allow/agree/concede to be called vicious? Adolescent girls are troubled, sometimes; they can be nasty, no doubt; and boy, can they be moody. But vicious? This is what vicious means (I looked it up!): depraved, defective, faulty, invalid, impure, noxious, savage, fierce, malicious, spiteful (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vicious). Most girls, even the meanest girls on the block, simply do not fit this description.

Our society has, thankfully, in the last several years, turned the spotlight on adolescent girl behaviour. We now not only see with glaring clarity their propensity to be nasty to each other, but also the soul-damaging effects this behaviour imparts on the girls targetted. It is absolutely an important, necessary conversation. But I fear that somewhere along the way the message has gone askew. Is there now caché in being labelled a mean girl? Is it simply assumed that all teen-aged girls are mean, so why fight it? Is it undesirable to be seen as a good girl?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know this: Despite the rampant challenges that face our teens and the behavioural issues that characterize many teenagers, both female and male, there still are some nice girls out there. Some kids are making good choices, and also making some mistakes, and in practicing who they want to be—who they will become—they are trying on multiple personas, good and not-so-good. This does not make them vicious.

It is possible that the title “Vicious” was simply meant to be provocative. Maybe so. But just in case, I say, “You go good girls!” Why not wear this label with pride, (or at least make some mention of it on your next program)?

12 Responses to ““Vicious,” or “Good Girls Making Tough Choices””

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  2. Another great, thought provoking post! I’m happy I returned. This all makes me so nervous about the years to come with my daughter. I think often of how to steer her in the right direction and help her to make the right choices so that she is a “good” girl. So that she builds up confidence early on because I strongly believe confidence is the foundation of living a fulfilled life so that so much of the angst in the teenage years isn’t as necessary.

    I wonder if possibly the title “vicious” referred to life itself? Not the girls, but how the girls view life at this age? Because to me, that makes total sense. Life Is Vicious. And Impossible. And Gut wrenching to teenage girls. It’s the perfect title for what they enacted in their play, if that’s how they meant it.

    How wonderful that these girls had the opportunity to put these tough times out there for an audience to see… it must have been very helpful for them to get it off their chests in this way.

    Thanks for this post.

    • Thank you for checking back in and for taking the time to send your comments. You could be right; a few people have expressed the idea that the title might refer to life itself, and that does make sense. It is not easy being a teenager, girl or boy. We can all remember our own experiences, and it seems so much more complicated today. I agree that confidence is the key. It’s something I, too, spend time focusing on as a parent. Hope to hear from you again,

      Christie

  3. Another great, thought provoking post! I’m happy I returned. This all makes me so nervous about the years to come with my daughter. I think often of how to steer her in the right direction and help her to make the right choices so that she is a “good” girl. So that she builds up confidence early on because I strongly believe confidence is the foundation of living a fulfilled life so that so much of the angst in the teenage years isn’t as necessary.

    I wonder if possibly the title “vicious” referred to life itself? Not the girls, but how the girls view life at this age? Because to me, that makes total sense. Life Is Vicious. And Impossible. And Gut wrenching to teenage girls. It’s the perfect title for what they enacted in their play, if that’s how they meant it.

    How wonderful that these girls had the opportunity to put these tough times out there for an audience to see… it must have been very helpful for them to get it off their chests in this way.

    Thanks for this post.

    • Hi Becca,

      I find your comments so interesting, simply because the idea of the title “vicious” referring to life in general, and not to the girls themselves and/or each other, never occurred to me. I’m really starting to like this blogging thing! How great that we can interact and share ideas this way. It’s quite possible you correct, which actually makes me feel a bit better! I, too, have spent a great deal of time trying to ensure that my daughter has the confidence to be a “good girl”, and so far the proof is in the proverbial pudding. The tougher years lie ahead. Fingers crossed, she maintains what my friends call her well-developed “gauge”.

      Christie

      Christie

  4. I read your article and enjoyed it. I as a mom struggle with being a friend or a mom and with all that our girls have to struggle with. We do also we need to be a mom.
    Sometimes a “Mean mom”, sometimes the “Perfect mom” and sometimes just plain old everyday mom. But everyday I try hard to remember children learn by what they see and vicious I beleive is a learned behaviour not something we just are. May we all reap what we sow…

    • Hi Vi,

      You are so right. It’s such a tight rope we walk with our daughters, determining when to be a friend and when to be a mom. I think I was the “Mean mom yesterday”; somewhat more the “Patient mom” today. I aspire to be the “Perfect Mom,” but somedays…

      And we certainly do reap what we sow. I am constantly aware of the role model that I am for my daughter. I recently found myself checking my own behaviours and attitudes towards a female friend and reassessing the way I manage my own friendships, simply because I wanted to ensure that I was modelling the kind of person I want her to be.

      So much to think about! Thanks for reading,

      Christie

  5. Hi Christie!

    I came back this morning to browse around some more.

    Instead of trying to bury unhappy memories, I believe that it is better to remember those moments and then walk over them as stepping stones on the road to better character building. Maybe I’m just an odd old bird, but that’s my little red wagon and I’m going to pull it my way. LOL!

    Later on yesterday, it occurred to me that those same girls that did “Vicious” should follow up with a “Glorious!” assessment of themselves. Our society seems a bit too preoccupied with negative aspects. Why shouldn’t good deeds and perspectives be showcased as well? I don’t believe in the saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.” Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. I truly believe that the little, honest, and spontaneous random acts of kindness are way more fulfilling than vicious attacks on others or even ourselves. To wit, everyone, including teenage girls, is capable of doing.

    As for Little Miss, I’m fairly certain that she is a lovely character in her own right. After all, she has a wonderful role model in her mom. Someday, she’s going to be a ‘know it all mom’ herself.

    Warm regards,
    Liz

    • Hi Liz,

      I whole heartedly agree, and you hit the nail right on the head when you said that our society can be so pre-occupied with the negative that we often overlook, and certainly do not always celebrate, the good. That’s exactly the point I was making. Thanks for checking back in.

      Christie

  6. Dear K-I-A Mom…

    I really enjoyed reading this article. It was pretty courageous for those girls to get up in front of an audience and bare their souls like that. I can only imagine that it was cathartic for them to do so; but, I’m inclined to believe that it was.

    I was a teenage … well, ummm… mouse. And I recall very vividly the taunts of one particular girl that made it her mission to make my life miserable and to terrorize me with abandon. And occasionally, she got physical about it.

    Fast forward about 40 years later (I’m 52, btw), and here I sit, recalling the most grueling part of my life.

    I am the “know it all mom” to a nearly 22 year old son. Let me tell you, its no picnic getting a boy through teenager-hood, either; but considering the alternative, I got a better deal. I cherished the notion that he was a walking, talking, bag of testosterone instead of a bag of estrogen. He’s been in the Army for nearly 3 years now and has done a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was a goofy kid when he went, but he came back a man with a more worldly perspective on life. The goofy kid is still there, somewhat… and he is just as loving and caring as he ever was. But my reward has been that I’ve been told by several people what a good mother I was.

    I tip my proverbial hat to you in the raising of your daughter. I bet you’re a good mother, too.

    Best regards,
    Liz

    • Hi Liz,

      I found your comments so moving. Thanks for taking the time to write. I think that, somewhere in our distant past’s, most of us have been the victim of nastiness, whether from an adolescent girl or someone else, and it never seems to fully leave us. Out of the blue a memory is jogged and instantly we are re-living the exact experiences we long to forget.

      It sounds like you have a wonderful, brave son, who you must be happy to have home safe and sound. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to raise a boy, “a walking, talking, bag of testosterone” as you say. Girls can be hard, no doubt about it, but I wouldn’t trade my Little Miss for the world. It’s strange how nice it is to hear, “You’re a good mother,” from someone through cyber space, but once again, I thank you.

      Keep reading,

      Christie

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