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The semi-mean girls

Posted by Kara Miller, Culture Club  April 2, 2010 01:40 PM

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Mike Males and Meda-Chesney Lind bring up a fascinating point in their op-ed in the New York Times today: are we wrongly extrapolating from the Phoebe Prince story?

Males and Lind offer a raft of evidence suggesting that, over the past few decades, girls have actually become less violent, not more. "Rates of murders of and by adolescent girls are now at their lowest levels since 1968 — 48 percent below rates in 1990 and 45 percent lower than in 1975... F.B.I. reports show assault arrests of girls under age 18 increased from 6,300 in 1981 to a peak of 16,800 in 1995, then dropped sharply, to 13,300 in 2008."

On one hand, then, I think it's fair to say that - for much of the ravenous media - Phoebe Prince has become another object of somewhat-morbid fascination, part of a long line of women and girls that includes Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and Natalee Holloway.

On the other hand, though, perhaps it is not extreme bullying which Prince's death should highlight - though that's what she unquestionably endured. Perhaps it's run-of-the-mill bullying. Not so violent that any crime is committed. Not so horrific that school officials know about it. But so pervasive that almost everyone has seen it or been targeted by it.

Perhaps, while the focus in South Hadley is on prosecution and responsibility, the focus in the rest of Massachusetts and America should be on raising nicer, more polite, more tolerant kids. Honestly, I can't see any other way of getting to the root of the problem.

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About the author

Kara Miller is an Assistant Professor of English, specializing in journalism, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She also serves as a guest panelist on WGBH-TV's “Beat the Press” and contributes to 89.7 FM WGBH (NPR). More »

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