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Mercer Island Relational Aggression Presentation


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30 minute presentation for coaches. Defines forms of relational aggression, where RA happens, signs of RA, and what coaches might do to support girls on and off the field.

30 minute presentation for coaches. Defines forms of relational aggression, where RA happens, signs of RA, and what coaches might do to support girls on and off the field.

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  • Introduction - Who Am I? Why This Workshop? Goals and Outcomes?
  • Keep in Mind - material speaks in generalities and norms. Girls, their social development, etc. can fall outside of the information given, and they are completely normal. Making blanket assumptions are dangerous, and norms do not define normal or good. Gender norms can easily become Sexism. Adolescent norms can easily become adultism.
  • Short clip from Odd Girl Out, a 2005 movie produced by Lifetime and based on Rachel Simmons’ nonfiction book of the same name.
  • Alternative aggression defines any behavior that expresses anger in ways other than direct words or physical aggression. It has been happening for years among girls, but only recently has the literature come more into the mainstream with books like Odd Girl Out and Queen Bees and Wannabes and movies like Mean Girls.
  • Rachel Simmons - Girls don’t want to express anger directly to the person that caused it for fear of losing that relationship. There are problems when direct confrontation happens. Because so many girls lack facility with everyday conflict expression of anger makes listeners skittish and defensive. The sound of someone upset feels like the first sign of impending isolation, a kind of social thunder echoing in the distance. Result: relational aggression - silent treatment. Not inviting someone. Stares and glares. I won’t be friends with you if…” Pretending the person isn’t there. Sabotaging a relationship.
  • Rachel Simmons - Plague of the “sorry”: perfunctory like “bless you.” Really means, I don’t want to lose you so let’s call truce. But incident is recorded in memory to bring up at a later fight. Plague of the “I’m just kidding.” “Can’t you take a joke?” Girl making comment is really taking a jab to release aggression but keeps the “nice girl” thing by saying she was kidding. The girl on receiving end is hurt but won’t say because she doesn’t want to be “hypersensitive girl,” someone no one likes. For boys who have other outlets for anger, one-up teasing each other is actually a joke. For girls who have no other outlets, joking takes on another meaning altogether.
  • Can’t you take a joke? Gosh you are such an over-reactor. Eye rolling. Sarcasm. Mocking. Rumors - someone else does the “dirty work” in ruining the reputation and relationships of the target.
  • Stats from The Ophelia Project
  • Source: Ophelia Project Relational Aggression Booklet
  • Source: Ophelia Project Relational Aggression Booklet and Odd Girl Out
  • Policy - When schools don’t have an explicit policy, teachers have no legs to stand on in dealing with these matters. Kids know it’s happening, teachers know it’s happening, but there is no real response when parents or students say “it’s just what happens at this age,” or “what’s the big deal?” Programming - As Gary Howard always said, “You can’t teach what you don’t know.” Give teachers support in learning about alternative aggression, how to recognize it, and what to do about it. Teachers and staff also need to stop repeating the cycle of gender bias unwittingly and punishing girls more harshly for acts of aggression or acting out in general. Students need support, too. If girls don’t know how to deal with conflict, they will resort to what they know and what is safer. Practice - Adults jump on kids “don’t say” “don’t do” but don’t always follow through with meaningful follow-up. These same things then get driven underground to be used when adults aren’t around. They become the very weapons of bullying, which occurs in spaces where there is less adult supervision. Swift and clear consequences must follow acts of alternative aggression, and further explanation and training must reinforce the policy and programming. Adults also need to commit to being more visible in unsupervised spaces like bathrooms, hallways, lunch rooms, etc. to increase safety for all kids from all forms of bullying. People - with enough people on board, it becomes a part of the culture instead of the isolated islands of safe people and safe places for kids.
  • Sports teams can be the place where girls learn healthy assertion as well as distinguishing between “professional relationships” and “personal relationships. This is a space outside of the social dynamics of the school and therefore sometimes the only safe space some girls have.
  • Utilize those bystanders - they make up nearly 70% of the population - rally them to set a positive tone for the entire school (they’re like the ants in A Bug’s Life!). In diversity work, they are the allies who can really make some changes in the world, those who can carve a new path away from the “path of least resistance.”
  • Final Tidbits: -teach first and refer to later. We have a tendency to see it happen & react with education. -there are times and places for interventions. What is important is that SOMETHING is done in the moment, and that there is ALWAYS follow-up -don’t let girls get away with a quick “sorry.” they know how to please adults. Get authentic conversation out of them. -practice, practice, practice. The more clever, poignant, and effective language comes out on the third try :-)
  • Transcript

    • 1. Mercer Island Coaches Retreat Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee Sugar and Spice but Not Always Nice: Relational Aggression On and Off the Court Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 2. About Seattle Girls’ School Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 3. Disclaimers and Other Food for Thought Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 4. Film Clip Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 5. Alternative Aggression
      • Relational Aggression
      • Indirect Aggression
      • Social Aggression
      Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 6. Relational Aggression includes acts that “harm others through damage (or the threat of damage) to relationships or feelings of acceptance, friendship, or group inclusion.” Relational Aggression Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 7. Indirect Aggression allows the perpetrator to avoid confronting the target directly, making it seem as though there is no intent to harm. Indirect Aggression Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 8. Social Aggression Social Aggression is intended to damage self esteem or social status within a group. Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 9. Alternative Aggression: Where Does it Happen? Students report that alternative aggression happens in the following areas: 55% during recess or break time 52% in the cafeteria 42% in the hallways 37% on the way home 36% in the restrooms 36% in the classroom 29% in gym class 25% in after school sports 17% in after school activities Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 10. Alternative Aggression: Signs That She Might Be Aggressive • Her friends do what she wants to do. • S h e isn’t intimidated by the other girls. • H e r complaints about other girls are limited to the lame things they did or said. • She is charming to adults. • S h e won (or is very reluctant to) take responsibility when she hurts someone’s feelings. • If she thinks she’s been wronged, she feels she has the right to seek revenge. Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 11. Alternative Aggression: Signs That She Might Be Victimized • She is more sensitive, unhappy, cautious, anxious, quiet and withdrawn than other children. • She is generally insecure and non-assertive, and react by withdrawing when targeted by other students (rather than retaliating or asserting). • She exhibits sudden change in behaviors: showing signs of depression, not eating, cutting herself, letting herself go, losing interest in favorite things, quitting teams, etc. • She may be embarrassed to admit that she is being bullied. She may blame herself or feel guilty. Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 12. Advice for Schools
      • The Four Ps
      • • Policy - A comprehensive anti-bullying policy that includes alternative aggression.
      • • Programming - Training for teachers and staff on gender, bias, and aggression. Support for teachers and staff in acting to combat alternative aggression. Self-esteem and conflict management programs for students.
      • • Practice - Consistent and meaningful follow-through in dealing with alternative aggression. Coverage of unsupervised spaces where bullying occurs most.
      • • PEOPLE - Critical mass of people who are supportive AND active on all levels.
      Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 13. Advice for Coaches
      • The Four Ps
      • • Policy - State explicitly your expected behaviors for being on the team. Explain your policy around bullying. Gain support for your policy from the school.
      • • Programming - Train your athletes on how to be a team player, including not bring personal matters on to the field. Help your athletes develop direct communication skills that will be helpful on and off the field, court, arena, etc.
      • • Practice - Spend some time in unsupervised spaces like locker rooms, bathrooms, and pick-up waiting areas. Address behaviors that you do see. Address behaviors that get reported to you. Give consequences on the team (benching, probation, withholding leadership positions, etc.).
      • • PEOPLE - Communicate with school and parents and line up allies that will support your actions and decisions regarding bullying.
      Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 14. Empowering the Bystander
      • Many bullying curriculum centers around agents and targets. Why not address the 70% who are bystanders?
      • Empowering bystanders keeps the focus away from blaming the targets or agents.
      • Empowering bystanders gives you a chance at affecting the unsupervised spaces even when you’re not there.
      • Create a mass of empowered allies and shift the balance of power.
      Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 15. Questions and Answers Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 16. Resources
      • JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters
      • Northwest Girls Coalition, Protective Factors for Middle School Girls - What can Parents Do?
      • Mary Pipher, Ph.D., Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. The Ophelia Project.
      • Rachel Simmons, Odd Girl Out . Odd Girl Speaks Out . Curse of the Good Girl. Girls Leadership Institute
      • Rosalind Wiseman, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence
      Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (
    • 17. Presenter Information
      • Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee
      • 6th Faculty and
      • Professional Outreach
      • Seattle Girls’ School
      • 2706 S Jackson Street
      • Seattle WA 98144
      • (206) 709-2228 x 219
      • [email_address]
      Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee (