Don’t let the pink lipstick and ponytails fool you — teenaged girls are getting tougher and tougher. Last week, my column was about the extreme level of physical aggression that we often see in boys’ and mens’ hockey. I mentioned that guys exceed girls in the physical aggression department.
But that doesn’t mean girls are sugar and spice and all things nice. Experts used to say girls fight with words, not fists like their opposing gender. But times have changed, and so, too, it seems, have the girls.
Statistics Canada recently reported that girls, aged 12 and up, accused of violent crimes, has increased from 1986 to 2005. In fact, being charged with a “serious violent crime” has more than doubled.
So, what are we saying, that girls are just as bad as boys? Yes — and no. Girls tend to save their physical violence for people close to them, such as schoolmates and siblings, whereas boys will also beat up on complete strangers.
Extrapolating on that, you don’t hear of many (if any) women out combing the streets at night, preying on strangers, mugging, raping, or burglarizing. That’s male domain.
With girls, the violence seems to start smaller, with taunting and teasing, then escalates to bullying — pushing another girl in the schoolyard, tripping her on the stairs — until something snaps and the fists go flying.
One explanation for the increase in violence is the positive reinforcement and “props” the girls seem to receive, not only from the other girls, but also from the guys in their peer group. The toughest girl becomes the leader of the group and is now on par with the head of the boy’s gang.
Teenagers in high school have always fought, and often in a gang. Remember the movie The Outsiders? What about West Side Story? But those were just guys.
These days high schools around our country aren’t anywhere near as white bread and candy floss as portrayed in the current hit movie High School Musical. We have diverse ethnicities represented, mixed socio-economic backgrounds, and every religion going.
And we have increased exposure to violence in every form of media. Young people are constantly connected — by way of YouTube, Facebook, movies and television — and therefore constantly aware of violence, both fictional and real.
So when we hear of hockey violence, and fighting in other male-dominated sports, we women can no longer cluck and shake our heads in disgust. We need to realize that though the playing field may be different, violence is becoming increasingly common for our gender as well.
We need to pay closer attention to these rising trends in violence and put an end to any acceptance of it. Because it’s simply not acceptable.
It’s no longer “boys will be boys” — now, it’s everybody needs to keep their hands to themselves.