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Review: Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons

Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls
Rachel Simmons
Mariner Books
Published August 3, 2011

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About Odd Girl Out

When ODD GIRL OUT was first published, it became an instant bestseller and ignited a long-overdue conversation about the hidden culture of female bullying. Today the dirty looks, taunting notes, and social exclusion that plague girls’ friendships have gained new momentum in cyberspace.

In this updated edition, educator and bullying expert Rachel Simmons gives girls, parents, and educators proven and innovative strategies for navigating social dynamics in person and online, as well as brand new classroom initiatives and step-by-step parental suggestions for dealing with conventional bullying. With up-to-the-minute research and real-life stories, ODD GIRL OUT continues to be the definitive resource on the most pressing social issues facing girls today.


My Review

I’ve been trying to remember how long this book has been on my reading list. Probably since it came out. I’m sure I saw another blogger talking about it, but I haven’t been able to track down who it was. At any rate, I’ve had a copy of the book for years and around the end of 2022 finally got down to reading it.

I think the most startling thing about the book for me was thinking about the women I know who still behave the way she describes in the book. ODD GIRL OUT talks a lot about how girls have been socialized to avoid direct conflict. We’re taught that it’s not nice. Not feminine. Not appropriate behavior. And so instead, a culture of indirect, often cruel or opaque conflict has emerged.

It’s the silent treatment. The refusal to talk through a conflict directly, instead pretending it didn’t happen or imagining the other person can read the body language or covert signals we send about our feelings.

When I Was the Odd Girl Out

Anyway. I remember being the odd girl out in sixth grade. I wasn’t sure how it happened, since my best friend from fifth grade and I ended up in the same class. She’d been the new girl in fifth, and I think by sixth grade, she’d decided she wanted to be friends with the cool girls, and not friends with me. It was a painful, lonely year.

In tenth grade, we had a class together. We hadn’t spoken since sixth grade, but she apologized. We didn’t become friends again, but I feel very lucky that she reached out like she did. Many people don’t get that kind of… validation? Closure? Whatever it is, I remember feeling that it lifted a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t realize I still carried.

At any rate. This book. ODD GIRL OUT. I love the way Simmons carefully peels back the layers of what’s happening between girls. The book contains tons of interviews with individual girls or group discussions from the three schools she visited regularly. It’s clear that she really tried to listen to the girls and put aside her preconceived ideas.

This Book Has References for Parents

I think my favorite chapter is the one on how to talk to your child if she’s being bullied. There are suggestions for things to say and why you should or should not take certain steps. I love that this list has been compiled from her conversations with girls experiencing bullying. When I spoke with my own daughter about some of the things in the book, she agreed with the book’s assessments. I like the idea of having something of a roadmap to help you navigate having those conversations with your kids.

One thing she mentions in that chapter, too, is how important it is to take stock of your own experiences with bullying in school. That way those feelings don’t leak into the conversation or drive you to make choices that are really about what happened to you, not about what’s going on with your child. Very wise stuff.

Ophelia Project

In the book, they reference the Ophelia Project, which I wasn’t familiar with. It’s a national nonprofit organization that teaches and promotes self-worth and self-confidence in girls. I’m hoping to learn more about the project and find some ways to contribute and maybe bring the curriculum to our schools or libraries where I live.

At any rate, I think ODD GIRL OUT is a necessary read for teachers, parents, and anyone who works with kids. I think readers who enjoy books on social issues or child development will love this book.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Simmons is herself a white woman. She relates stories as told to her by girls of color and white girls.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
References to kissing between boy and girl. Brief reference to sexual abuse– one girl interviewed is an abuse survivor.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
References to domestic violence and abuse. References to fist-fighting. Many descriptions of cruel bullying behavior, especially psychologically or emotionally abusive behavior.

Drug Content

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