If only Veronica Sawyer had been a teen in the 21st Century.
Rachel Simmons, a 36-year-old bestselling author, Oprah regular, Rhode Scholar and bully-prevention trainer has opened up a Girls Leadership Institute, in which “young girls spend two weeks learning Girlworld survival tactics.”
The girls in question are in the eight and ninth grade — a perfect time, in my opinion, to start training them out of the bitchy hierarchies they’ve already undoubtedly begun internalizing and adhering to in the final stages of elementary or middle school.
The point of the program is to allow participants to be silly without worrying about being mocked or teased. The girls are encouraged to express themselves, even in the smallest of ways:
One day at lunch, Molly Kaissar, a ninth grader from Manhattan who struggled with confidence after being bullied last year, swans proudly through the dining hall wrapped in a turquoise feather boa, which the staff bestows daily on an F.F.F. — a Fierce Fabulous Female.
There are, of course, some barriers to this self-esteem renewal course. Like money:
The program is not a camp in the conventional sense, but, at $2,650 a session, it is camplike.
Hmm. I seriously hope that that figure is meant to represent the whole two weeks and not each day. Because if that is daily, at that price you could buy some friends.
But in all seriousness, I think any attempt to put a stop to high school bullying should be commended. People may claim that bullying or teasing is always going to be a part of the high school experience, but given all of the forms of new media available to today’s teens, cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking mean that harassment no longer ceases when the school bell rings.
Several girls — and their mothers — share tales and testimonies about the hurtful impact of bullying and the curative effect of Simmons’ program. But I do have to wonder: doesn’t this kind of just sound like The Breakfast Club for young teen girls — a liminal space where the usual societal rules no longer apply? Because even the enlightened old soul teens in the John Hughes classic know that tomorrow at school, all of those walls go right back up.