Harriet Walker: Nothing is as toxic as the venom one teenage girl can inflict on another

 

Share
Related Topics

Channel 4's Educating Essex is a brilliantly appointed snapshot into life at a secondary school through academic trials and tribulations, workaday acts of heroism and the gym kit tyranny that teenagers inflict on each other.

This week's episode stalked the Popular Girls and catalogued a specifically adolescent sort of intifada.

Initially inseparable thanks to a mutual loathing of Pi, the Hot One stopped speaking to the Bright One without giving any reason, and took most of the female student body with her. The Bright One tried to get on with lessons, every so often asking why communication had ceased as suddenly as someone cutting a phone line. They smirked and failed to answer; she took three days off.

It was sickeningly familiar. The agony of not knowing what you are supposed to have done; the desperate need for reassurance, but meeting only impassive, unconcerned faces – or worse, being looked through and spoken over. You're a wraith; you become hollow, a walking outline to be filled with other people's opinions of you because you have no perspective of your own. It is an all-consuming agony. Howls of impotent rage and sympathy ripped through Twitter. "Why are girls so cruel?" some asked. "Thank God school's not forever," counselled others. Magazine editors, PR gurus, politicians, celebrity chefs: all felt her pain personally and keenly. There is nothing as toxic as the venom of teenage girls; it burns most corrosively when dripped from glossed pouting lips.

Why do girls treat each other like this? Why so insidious and spiteful, why so hell-bent on humiliation? It lies in an innate sense of competition and insecurity that can't be blamed on nascent gender relations, because it is by all accounts worse at girls'-only schools. It's depressing to think this barbarism is a phase women go through before realising the need to stick together. Not all of them do it, of course, but with smartphones and social media, this sort of behaviour is actually gathering strength. I hope the programme is enough for schoolgirl phantoms to take succour and focus on getting out with the grades. But when you're the centre-point in a circle of people who don't want you, it's hard to concentrate on Pi.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick