In sixth grade, I was best friends with the queen bee of our elementary school. She and I ruled our hive with mile-high bangs, eyebrow-plucking parties, and a gaggle of girls whom we equally loved and bossed around.
Until one day, when I wasn't cool anymore.
It was never clear to me why I was targeted; the shift happened literally overnight. Prank calls started, hate mail arrived, and gossip spread like wildfire: I was a slut, a skank, a loser. I was ostracized at the lunch table, shunned at recess, and ambushed at the movie theater with airborne Mike & Ikes. Ugly Kid Joe's I Hate Everything About You was dedicated to me on the radio regularly.
The bullying became so consuming and distressful that at the end of sixth grade, my mom petitioned the school board for me to switch junior highs to avoid the majority of the gaggle. In hindsight, this school transfer set off a chain of events and friendships that led me to find a new tribe, create a new identity, and eventually meet the people who would introduce me to my now husband.
Girl-against-girl bullying is painful and damaging psychological abuse, and can have lasting effects on a woman's psyche. Where boys often bully through aggression and physical violence, girls tend to bully more subtly, through humiliation, harassment, exclusion, and alienation. Peer pressure runs deeply through adolescent girls, often leading to an exclusive pack mentality. Adults can be oblivious, slow to react, or dismiss the bullying altogether, claiming it's "just a part of growing up."
But why does it have to be?
The Kind Campaign, co-founded by Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson, is a non-profit movement and organization created to bring awareness and healing to the lasting, negative effects of girl-against-girl “crime.” Through their documentary and school tours across the country, Parsekian and Thompson have brought girl-against-girl bullying into the spotlight in an effort to spread a message of acceptance, inclusivity, and kindness to girls everywhere.
This winter, The Kind Campaign partnered with Omaze to create a limited edition You Can Sit With Us t-shirt, with proceeds funding the Kind Campaign's ongoing nationwide tours. My t-shirt arrived over the holiday, and I'm rocking it for you here.
I'd like to think the scars from sixth grade have long since healed; they've definitely shaped the way I form and nurture friendships, especially with women. I encourage all the mothers I know—especially those with young daughters—to listen closely, offer unconditional support, and take action. Bullying doesn't have to be accepted as an unavoidable consequence of growing up.