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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test