Book by Rachel Simmons
Review by Carly Taylor
Program Manager, Center for Success Coaching
Florida State University, Tallahassee
Odd Girl Out provides awareness for advisors and coaches alike as it explores the mysterious underworld of female aggression in the formative years. Rachel Simmons uses each chapter to investigate various means and methods to bullying in the world of girls and presents insight into the potential destructive tendencies of female social circles. Focusing on the importance of social status among young women, Simmons deconstructs how conflict becomes a cancer on relationships. She also explores how girls manipulate others in order to maintain in good social standing. She states, “if isolation is trauma for girls, there is power to be found in relationships” (82).
As advisors and coaches, this book is a worthy read as it sets the stage for what to expect when we encounter young women with fresh bruises from high school or even as early as elementary school. Simmons discusses how these wounds don’t simply heal after the bullying stops but that symptoms from being rejected or socially abused can persist for years. One case study told Simmons that, “she has only now, in her late twenties, begun to reconnect with women” (210).
Chapter Four is noteworthy to advisors and coaches as it discusses the effects of social media on girls. Simmons mentions a case study in which a girl uses Facebook to witness her best friend back at home drift away from her. With the readily available stream of information, be it social networking sites or “smart” phones, Simmons points out that girls are incapable of avoiding the social atmosphere and can even stalk parties and events they are missing out on. In doing so, self-esteem plummets and paranoia mounts as they observe the friends they aren’t making and even worse, watch their own friends drift into new social circles. This conundrum is something to be aware of as advisors and coaches sit down with students who may be experiencing difficulties acclimating socially.
Another chapter to take note of is Chapter 10 as it provides solutions or alternatives when faced with a girl who has encountered bullying. It would be helpful to familiarize oneself with the tactics that Simmons suggests, including responding with empathy and openness. She also outlines what not to say during a discussion about bullying and even provides prompts for generating discussion and helpful solutions to the problems, be it something the girl is recovering from or still undergoing. It would be naïve to think that bullying and social aggression ends once a girl heads to college, as most who work in higher education can attest that the problems among women do not go away at college but merely morph into a more deviant strain of isolation and manipulation.
Overall, this book is a worthy read for advisors and coaches. Despite the focus on young girls, it sheds light on why that bullying takes place and how it continues to affect women long after it has ended. Because we cannot end the conflict and bullying among young girls, this book offers healthy alternatives to what is within our control as we encounter women as they matriculate into college life.
Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. (2002). Book by Rachel Simmons, Review by Carly Taylor Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 432 pp., $14.95, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-547-52019-3