vendredi, octobre 29, 2010

homophobic chilean anti-domestic violence campaign

In societies where masculinity equals power and femininity is equated with weakness, it's no wonder that gay men and women are marginalized. It's frustrating to see women internalize that message and turn it against their gay bretheren. It's also not surprising in a culture where machismo dominates everything and everyone.

A recent Chilean ad has me deeply conflicted -- it's one step forward, two giant steps backward in dealing with societal attitudes about domestic violence. On the one hand, it's a campaign condemning violence against women, which is great and a huge step forward in a society where, on average, women wait 7 years to file a police report about domestic violence and 73% of women who die of domestic violence never even file a police report.

On the other hand, it's advocating calling men who are violent against women by a slur that demeans them as weak -- 'maricón' means 'faggot'. The rationale is that a man who demeans a woman is "poco hombre" -- barely a man.
"¿Es más macho el que maltrata, golpea o denigra a una mujer? La respuesta es clara: el que maltrata a una mujer es poco hombre", agregó la Ministra.
Gay groups are (justifably) pissed now backing the campaign. Clearly, a larger conversation needs to take place about what it means to be powerful and attitudes that marginalize the powerless.

En Chile llaman 'maricón' al que maltrate a una mujer
29 de Octubre del 2010
Es una campaña del Ministerio de la Mujer para reducir los índices de violencia contra ellas.

La ministra del Servicio Nacional de la Mujer, Carolina Schmidt Zaldívar, anunció que en Chile casi 2 millones de mujeres sufren violencia intrafamiliar y que una mujer es asesinada a la semana por su pareja o ex pareja.

La campaña, denominada 'Maricón es el que maltrata a una mujer', insiste en que la violencia intrafamiliar es un delito, pero invita a los agresores a informarse y a pedir ayuda.

"Esta campaña está dirigida al hombre. Es una campaña fuerte, potente, con una mirada nueva, habla claro y de manera frontal", dijo la Ministra al explicar que la violencia de género en Chile se basa en el abuso de poder y en una mala comprensión de la verdadera masculinidad.

"¿Es más macho el que maltrata, golpea o denigra a una mujer? La respuesta es clara: el que maltrata a una mujer es poco hombre", agregó la Ministra.

La campaña contará con los rostros del fotógrafo y presentador de televisión Jordi Castell, quien ha reconocido públicamente su condición homosexual.

"Cientos de veces me han gritado maricón y maricón es el que maltrata a una mujer. Digámoslo al que se lo merece", enfatizó Castell. De hecho, las organizaciones de homosexuales respaldaron la campaña.

La presentación de esta iniciativa coincidió con la entrada de la Ley de Femicidio, que tipifica el delito e impone mayores sanciones.

En Chile una mujer tarda, en promedio, 7 años en denunciar a su agresor y el 73 por ciento de las chilenas que murieron por violencia familiar nunca pusieron una denuncia.


jeudi, octobre 28, 2010

outside my comfort zone

Cambodia is probably the most raw place I've ever been. It is filled with stark contrasts: beautiful Angkor Wat, horrifying Killing Fields, scenic countryside, pungent food, and a guarded national psyche that's still reeling from years of civil war and genocide. All of these took me well outside my comfort zone.

I like that the country has the same effect on others, including Tony Bourdain.
Comfort Zone
October 28, 2010, 5:06 PM
By: Anthony Bourdain

I am a total whore for a grand, old, colonial hotel in Southeast Asia. In my early, adolescent fantasies of what it might be like to be a writer and what land such exotic creatures might occupy, I imagined a place where Somerset Maugham or Graham Greene would look at home. Pierre Loti, Norman Lewis. In short, it would look like this:

Le Royal in Phnom Penh, the smell of jasmine flowers and burning coal, the occasional waft of jackfruit. Gin tonics by the pool, fiery noodles in broth for breakfast, and the history bearing down as heavily as the humidity.

Day one after a long, long flight–over 36 hours in transit — Zach and Todd are in their rooms, sorting equipment and are due down here any minute. I think the plan is beer at Hurley’s, the local Expat Central–said to be the information hub–then shooting starts in earnest tomorrow.

It’s been ten years since I’ve been here–the last time in the still not-so-good old days, the third episode of COOK’S TOUR, my first time really out on the road with a television crew on the other side of the world. Me, Chris and Lydia, not yet really knowing what we were doing, still feeling our way–and over our heads in Cambodia, a country still reeling from one of the most awful genocides in history. We arrived to dark, unpaved streets, random road blocks, and a country that frightened, confused and beguiled us. We then went straight out on a spectacularly misguided, foolishly arrogant and misinformed plane, boat and road trip to Pailin, then the retirement village/heartland of what remained of the Khmer Rouge.

Things have changed. The decidedly unlovely government hasn’t–but the country has.

Then? I had a very different life to return to–which may or may not explain the recklessness with which I careened through this still tragically afflicted country. It was, in late night, Battambang, not the first time I’d had a loaded gun pointed at me. But it was certainly the first time it was a group of locked and loaded AK-47′s, held by a group of very angry persons trained in their use. We’d just attempted to blow though a roadblock and these men had not taken this breach of etiquette lightly. It was, as they say, a learning experience.

There are now consumer goods in the streets. New cars and motorbikes. School children in clean uniforms. It seems, at first glance anyway, a younger and slightly more prosperous and hopeful country. I no longer feel the paranoia of my previous trip. But maybe it’s just me that’s changed. They no longer serve alcohol at the gun range after (it is said) a depressed expat blew his brains out. You read the local English language paper and it’s still a litany of the depressing and the lurid. But these days–at very least–it’s easier to recognize the obvious about this country: that it’s spectacularly beautiful. Electric green rice paddies, tall sugar palms, the incredible temples, the moldering, French style villas of the long gone or long dead.

Today, it’s gin tonics by the pool and expat quesadillas. Tomorrow? We jump right in.

I’m clinging particularly hard to my current creature comforts as–in general–the next few days and weeks and this season as a whole–are not about that at all. After a season six, which found me in Rome, Paris and Madrid in cushy succession, we’ve decided to move out of our comfort zone a little bit, off the usual travel show grid, confronting destinations with more… challenging histories.

Cambodia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Yemen, the Congo, the Ozarks. Needles to say, it won’t all be gin and tonics and five star water pressures.

mardi, octobre 26, 2010

let's talk about sex, dad

I never had "The Talk" from either of my parents. Their silence about sex was pretty deafening and it took a long time for me to unlearn their taboos.

I plan to have a very different approach with my children about sex, sexuality, and their bodies. So I'm filing this one away, for future reference.
Girls Want to Talk About Sex — With Dad?
By Belinda Luscombe
Monday, Oct. 25, 2010

Mostly, the conversation that dare not speak its name, the most excruciating 25 minutes of either a parent or an offspring's life, The Talk, is left to Mom. Make lunch, do laundry, figure out where the thing is that goes on that other thing, tell kids about sex. But a new study from New York University suggests that young women could actually use a little more talk about intimate matters from their dads.

Yes, I know, eeeew. Previous studies have concluded that girls who have open communication with their fathers — about everything — tend to have intercourse later in life and also have fewer sexual partners, both of which can be very good for sexual and mental health. But do they actually have to talk about sex to have this effect?

While young women are still mostly influenced and informed on this subject by their mothers, Katherine Hutchinson, associate professor at the NYU College of Nursing, wanted to figure out whether fathers had a role to play. As part of a larger study examining family influences on adolescent sexual risk, she asked a representative sample of 250 or so women aged 19 to 21 what kind of impact their fathers had on their sex education.

The answer was: very little. And, surprisingly, a lot of the women, most of whom were sexually active, wished their fathers had told them more. Specifically, they wanted to hear stuff only guys would know, about how to communicate with men and what the carnal landscape looked like from a male's vantage point. "They felt that if they could have been more comfortable talking with their fathers about issues around sex, they might have been more comfortable talking to boyfriends or potential sexual partners about them," says Hutchinson, whose study was published in the Journal of Family Issues. "And they wanted to know how to negotiate intimacy issues with men."

So does this mean dads should be the ones sitting down and explaining where we all come from? "I'm not a big proponent of The Talk, whether it's from a mother or a father," says Hutchinson. "It takes away from the normalcy of sexuality." She advocates instead for ongoing communication with kids about their bodies, sexual development and sexual issues, so that the subject is not so fraught. But she feels dads could weigh in on how to politely tell a guy you don't want to have sex with him, or that you're not ready for sex with anyone right now, or that you want him to wear a condom.

One note of warning to dads: probably best not to bring the subject up while the guy your daughter likes is in the room. Awkward.

lundi, octobre 18, 2010

tunes that got you through your teens

Several albums come to mind, including
U2 "The Joshua Tree", "War", "The Unforgettable Fire"
David Bowie "ChangesBowie"
Depeche Mode "Violator"
Peter Gabriel "So"
INXS "Kick"
Pretenders "The Singles"
Squeeze "45s and Under"
Blondie "Best of"
New Order "Substance"
The Smiths "Louder than Bombs"
Pet Shop Boys "Discography"
Erasure "Best of"
ABBA "Gold"
Johnny Cash "Live at Folsom Prison"
Beatles Discography
Rolling Stones Discography
Sam Cooke Discography
Bill Withers Discography
Don McLean"American Pie"
Simon and Garfunkel "Greatest Hits"
Neil Diamond "12 Greatest Hits"
Cat Stevens "Tea for the Tillerman"

I think I'll do this as a birthday present for Seba when he's 13 ... filing this one away for future reference:
Tunes That Got You Through Your Teens
September 29, 2010
by Bob Boilen

The other day, Steven Feller, a Facebook friend and fan of the show, wrote to me with a special request. He said his daughter was turning 13 and he wanted to give her 25 albums that were essential to getting her through adolescence. He wanted to know if I had any suggestions.

For me, In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson was the one that immediately snapped to mind. I slept with that frightful cover art next to my bed for years. I saw it every morning and every night. In a world where I had a comfy suburban bed, but could also be asked to pick up a gun and fight in Vietnam, that music and that cover was somehow grounding.

Other records I offered included:

The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet
Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
Neil Young After the Goldrush
Led Zeppelin - II
George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
The Doors - The Doors
Steve Miller Band - Sailor
Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends
The Who - Tommy

That last one was cathartic when I failed my drivers test. Some of these may seem like obvious choices, part of the canon of great records, but at the time they were groundbreaking, mind blowing records.

So tell us what you think. What albums were essential to getting you through your adolescence? Share any stories you have about listening to or discovering the music.

forty-two things that change when you have a baby

Forty-two things that change when you have a baby
by Rebecca Woolf
Last updated: June 2009

What changes when you have a baby? A better question may be: What doesn't change? Here, writer and mom Rebecca Woolf lists her most notable post-baby observations. Then scroll down to read our favorite comments from readers about how their babies changed their lives.

1. You finally stop to smell the roses, because your baby is in your arms.

2. Where you once believed you were fearless, you now find yourself afraid. [See a reader's perspective in #22, below.]

3. The sacrifices you thought you made to have a child no longer seem like sacrifices.

4. You respect your body ... finally.

5. You respect your parents and love them in a new way.

6. You find that your baby's pain feels much worse than your own.

7. You believe once again in the things you believed in as a child.

8. You lose touch with the people in your life whom you should have banished years ago.

9. Your heart breaks much more easily.

10. You think of someone else 234,836,178,976 times a day.

11. Every day is a surprise.

12. Bodily functions are no longer repulsive. In fact, they please you. (Hooray for poop!)

13. You look at your baby in the mirror instead of yourself.

14. You become a morning person.

15. Your love becomes limitless, a superhuman power.

And from our readers...

1. "You discover how much there is to say about one tooth." — Ashley's mom

2. "You finally realize that true joy doesn't come from material wealth." — Anonymous

3. "You now know where the sun comes from." — Charlotte

4. "You'd rather buy a plastic tricycle than those shoes that you've been dying to have." — Sophie's mom

5. "You realize that although sticky, lollipops have magical powers." — Roxanne

6. "You don't mind going to bed at 9 p.m. on Friday night." — Kellye

7. "Silence? What's that?" — Anonymous

8. "You realize that the 15 pounds you can't seem to get rid of are totally worth having." — Brenda

9. "You discover an inner strength you never thought you had." — Ronin and Brookie's mom

10. "You no longer rely on a clock — your baby now sets your schedule." — Thomas' mom

11. "You give parents with a screaming child an 'I-know-the-feeling' look instead of a 'Can't-they-shut-him-up?' one." — Jaidyn's mom

12. "Your dog — who used to be your 'baby' — becomes just a dog." — Kara

[Many readers begged to differ, saying things like, " I disagree with number 12. My dogs are my additional children," "Nothing about previous babies, whether two- or four-legged, changes when a new miracle comes along," "My dog will never be 'just a dog," and "This is sad to me. My dog is still my baby too."]

13. "You take the time for one more hug and kiss even if it means you'll be late." — Tracey

14. "You learn that taking a shower is a luxury." — Jayden's mom

15. "You realize that you can love a complete stranger." — Dezarae's mom

16. You find yourself wanting to make this world a better place. — Arizona

17. If you didn’t believe in love at first sight before, now you do! — Ciara

18. You start to appreciate Sesame Street for its intellectual contribution. — Anon.

19. You have to quit watching the news because you see every story from a mother's perspective and it breaks your heart. — Brooke&Boys

20. You just plain love life more - everything comes together and becomes better because of one tiny person and your love for them. — Anon.

21. You finally find out the real reason you have those breasts. — Anon.

22. In response to #2 [above], I'd say that where you were once afraid, you're now fearless. I was always very timid and shy and let myself get walked all over … but now where my kid's concerned, I'll speak my mind and really connect with my inner "b"! — gummismom

23. The support you get from other people surprises you, because the people giving it are not always the ones you'd expect. — japanese_macaque

24. Nothing is just yours any longer. You share EVERYTHING! — DylanLsMom

25. No matter what you've accomplished in life, you look at your child and think, "I've done a GREAT job!" — Anon.

26. You want to take better care of yourself for your child. — Treasor

27. You can have the most wonderful conversation using only vowel sounds like "ahhh" and "oooo." — littlehulk2008

samedi, octobre 16, 2010

pumpkin spice cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup yogurt, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan (or even better, use Baker’s Joy spray).
  2. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine eggs, yogurt, pumpkin, and oil. Beat well with a hand mixer (or use a stand mixer), scraping down sides with a spatula, until everything is well blended. Add flour mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until everything is well combined. Scrape down sides, then blend in the vanilla extract.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in the center of a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack for ten minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack and let cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar immediately before serving if desired.
Yield: 10-12 servings

Recipe Notes: *Pumpkin pie spice can be substituted with 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or make your own combination).

Adapted from Pinch My Salt

lundi, octobre 11, 2010

my pledge on national coming out day

On National Coming Out Day, I pledge to teach my son what I didn’t learn at home:
  • That the greatest family value is valuing all families.
  • That home is a safe place to be himself.
  • To embrace his identity and the identities of others.
  • That there is no normal, no different ... there’s who you are and that is unique.
  • To speak up for those who are afraid to use their voices and to stand up for those who feel powerless.
  • To fight for a world where there is no need for closets because there is no longer any reason to hide.

dimanche, octobre 10, 2010

mean girls and me

The New York Times article below about mean girls and bullying -- and how parenting, pop culture, and a culture of entitlement all feed the phenomenon -- triggered memories I'd long forgotten. It gives me pause as a parent. I'll also admit that it makes me slightly relieved that I have a son and not a daughter.

Like most teens, I was incredibly insecure, cared far too much about what other people thought of me, and craved acceptance and approval from my peers. I also had a very dysfunctional mother who actively eroded my self-esteem. I was never a popular kid. I wore the wrong clothes, was smart (and didn't make any effort to hide it), and was not clued in to what was cool pop culture-wise. All of these sins were manageable in elementary school, but I still remember the day in junior high when the mean girls turned on me.

I was an eighth grader at Cope Junior High in Redlands, CA. Redlands is an old-money town, where the kids at my school had been together since playgroup. Worse yet, their parents had all been together since childhood, making it difficult for me (the kid who rode the bus in from the next town over) to feel like part of the crowd. I had the misfortune of being one of the only kids who attended that junior high from my elementary school, so I had no friends with whom I'd gone to K-6. Finally, I skipped from sixth to eighth grade, so I was ill-equipped to deal with the socialization issues of my peers because I was about a year and a half younger than they were. (On the pop culture front, I was still way into Anne of Green Gables, while they were into hair bands like Poison and going to parties with alcohol at them.)

Coming into Cope (a name whose irony holds up all these years later), I knew one person from my elementary school. Her name was Pretty Simon. She had been my buddy on the bus during elementary school, but went on to Cope the year before I did because she was a year ahead of me in school. I immediately looked for her when I got to junior high. She was Indonesian, a fashionista, and into the 'right' things (she was obsessed with Simon LeBon of Duran Duran) even in elementary school. She was also quiet, had an unfortunate case of acne that I think made her very self-conscious and insecure (in hindsight), and not someone who would stick up for me when push came to shove. But I didn't realize that when I unwittingly joined the clique she was part of.

She was at the periphery of the group of the cool girls in our grade. I don't remember if she invited me to join her for lunch or if I just gravitated to the one familiar face I saw. Either way, I was soon eating with the cool girls and immediately feeling the pressure to keep up. It was the 80s, and the ESPRIT bag was what all the cool girls carried their books in. I became desperate to get one and finally got a used purple one (with a big ink stain on it) either at a thrift shop or as a hand-me-down (I honestly can't remember where it came from). It's a telling artifact that even my bag reflecting my membership in the group also gave away my status as an impostor ...

I didn't realize it, but I was marginally "in" with the group -- after being interviewed by the B-level females of the bunch, I skated by for a few months, changing my hair and makeup, and trying to literally wear the uniform of the group. Eventually, my lack of the 'right' clothes, lack of pop culture knowledge, and naïveté caught up with me. The group had a few alpha females at the center, and many of the B-level girls were nice or shy or had been part of the group since preschool. Several of the B-level girls were also in my college-prep classes, but had the good sense to play down their intelligence. Anyhow, I don't know what triggered it, but as I walked up, put my ESPRIT bag down, went to buy my lunch, and returned to a cool reception from the girls. One of the alpha females essentially played a game of cat and mouse with me that day and I unwittingly failed the test.

She asked me about my clothes and why I didn't wear certain shoes (Peds), certain jeans (Guess), or a certain watch (Swatch). I could not bring myself to tell her that my mother refused to spend money on brand name items and bought 90% of my clothes at thrift shops. I tried desperately to turn the tables on her, then another alpha female brought the topic back to my clothing. When I tried to change the subject and to engage the other girls in the conversation, Pretty Simon and the other girls wouldn't make eye contact with me. The lunch bell rang at that point and I rushed off, hoping that the days events would be forgotten.

I foolishly returned to the lunch table the next day, but I was an untouchable -- I was ostracized in a public way when not a single one of those girls spoke to me. I left, humiliated, and bought a big plate french fries, a cinnamon roll, and some ice cream. It was the first time when I'd consciously turned to food as a source of comfort. That year, food became my friend and I went from the 50th percentile weight-wise to the 80th.

Although I was a social pariah among the popular kids, I made new friends amongst the other kids in my college-prep classes. I joined a few clubs that met at lunchtime. And I moved on, at least on the surface. Clearly, I was still hurting from the pre-teen pecking order drama (and issues with my mother), and using food to stuff down the hurt. The girls got to me in one more dramatic incident the next school year. I'm not sure how, but somebody must have noticed my crush on one Eddy Malesky.

Eddy was a popular kid who was whip smart, easy on the eyes, and in most of my classes. He was also one of the nicest boys in school. At lunch, a girl who was not in the clique told me that Eddy "liked" me and was planning to ask me out. On the way to 5th period, a geeky guy told me he heard about Eddy, too. In 5th period, a B-level girl asked me if I liked him. I replied that I did and was glad that he was going to ask me out. I later saw that girl speaking to a group of the popular kids and him blushing. By the 6th period, the anticipation had built and when I saw him, I couldn't even look at him. For whatever reason, he never said a word, and I watched as the girls in my class whispered and snickered. To this day, I don't know if he was interested and caved to the pressure from the clique or if it was all an elaborate ruse to mess with me one last time.

Thankfully, I left the Redlands Unified School district when it was time to go to high school. I made new friends, crafted a new persona for myself, and mostly enjoyed my high school existence (within reason). I also put the mean girls of Cope Junior High and their petty cruelty behind me.

The Playground Gets Even Tougher
October 8, 2010

SCARLETT made for a good target. The daughter of a Williamsburg artist, she wore funky clothing to her East Village school, had a mild learning disability and was generally timid and insecure. Lila, the resident “mean girl” in Scarlett’s kindergarten class, started in immediately.

Scarlett, she sneered, couldn’t read. Her Payless and Gap shoes weren’t good enough. She wasn’t “allowed” to play with certain girls. Lila was forming a band, and Scarlett couldn’t be a part. One girl threatened to physically hurt her. During recess, Lila would loom over Scarlett, arms crossed, and say, “I’m watching you.”

“I was in middle school before things got as awful as they did for Scarlett,” said Scarlett’s mother, Annelizabeth, who asked that her last name not be used to protect her daughter. “I understand that children are maturing much faster, but to see such hostility at this young age, wow. It was really shocking.”

Mean-girl behavior, typically referred to by professionals as relational or social aggression and by terrified parents as bullying, has existed for as long as there have been ponytails to pull and notes to pass (today’s insults are texted instead). But while the calculated round of cliquishness and exclusion used to set in over fifth-grade sleepover parties, warfare increasingly permeates the early elementary school years.

“Girls absolutely exclude one another in kindergarten,” said Michelle Anthony, a psychologist and co-author of the new book “Little Girls Can Be Mean.” When her own daughter was manipulated by a “friend” into racing down a slide booby-trapped with mud, making it appear to a group of boys as though she’d soiled her pants, Dr. Anthony was taken aback. “You don’t expect to run into that level of meanness in a 7-year-old.”

But at a time when teenage cyber-bullying is making headlines, parents fear that the onset of bullying behavior is trickling down. According to a new Harris survey of 1,144 parents nationwide, 67 percent of parents of 3- to 7-year-olds worry that their children will be bullied; parents of preschoolers and grade-school-age children are significantly more likely to worry than parents of teenagers. Such fears may be justified. One recent survey of 273 third graders in Massachusetts found that 47 percent have been bullied at least once; 52 percent reported being called mean names, being made fun of or teased in a hurtful way; and 51 percent reported being left out of things on purpose, excluded from their group of friends or completely ignored at least once in the past couple of months.

In Washington, at a “Bullying Prevention Summit” in August, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced stepped-up efforts in elementary schools, noting, “Bullying starts young — and we need to reach students when they are young with the message that bullying is not O.K.”

Capt. Stephanie Bryn, a military officer overseeing the government’s “Stop Bullying Now!” program, is initiating a campaign geared toward 5- to 8-year-old children this fall. “Girl relational bullying has been under the radar,” she said. But when the campaign surveyed its 80 partner organizations, they unequivocally said children were aging up, making bullying pervasive in the early elementary years. “We realized we need to address this in kindergarten.”

In the case of a little girl named Caroline Port, the torment didn’t begin until first grade. Within months of starting at a private elementary school in suburban St. Louis, Caroline, now 9, was waking up with night terrors, sleepwalking and crying excessively. When her mother, Karen Port, met with Caroline’s teacher, she learned that her daughter was being ostracized. “I was very upset,” she said. “Why hadn’t anyone told me?”

Five birthday parties passed, without any invitations. No one would play with Caroline. She sat with the boys at lunchtime. “I hate myself,” she would tell her mother when she came home. She was 7 years old.

Ms. Port sought help from a school counselor, which improved matters briefly, but the scorn and ridicule persisted. One day, Caroline came home from school carrying a little blue rock that her counselor had given her, a treasure she had presented to her class. “They asked if it had Caroline Disease,” she told her mother. “It’s starting again.”

Is there really a fresh spate of mean little girls? Social scientists who study relational aggression point to a dearth of longitudinal data. It could just be heightened awareness among hyper-parents, ever attuned to their children’s most minuscule slight. It could be a side effect of early-onset puberty, with hormones raging through otherwise immature 8-year-olds. Or it may be that an increase has yet to be captured; relational aggression wasn’t a focus of academic research until the mid-1990s, making longitudinal study a bit premature. Most studies still leapfrog from preschoolers to early adolescents.

Nicole Werner, a psychologist who studies bullying at Washington State University, said that she hasn’t seen research “to indicate that these forms of hurtful behavior are increasing in younger kids.”

“However,” she continued, “I have to expect that the amount and type of media kids are consuming at younger ages is having an effect.”

Other experts agreed. “The research literature on aggression is very clear that with relational aggression, it’s monkey see, money do,” said Tracy Vaillancourt, who specializes in children’s mental health and violence prevention at the University of Ottawa. “Kids mirror the larger culture, from reality TV to materialism.”

We no longer live in the pigtailed world of Cindy Brady where a handful of channels import variations on sugar and spice, with prompt repercussions for the latter. “So much of what passes for entertainment is about being rude, nasty and crass,” said Meline Kevorkian, who studies bullying at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Fla. “What we see as comedy is actually making fun of other people.”

Nicole Martins, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, has conducted a study linking aggressive behavior to shows with stars she deemed socially aggressive, like “Hannah Montana” and “The Simple Life.” “There was no effect on aggression on boys, but in girls, there was an increase among those who watched socially aggressive female models on TV,” Dr. Martins said.

Then there is the tendency of children to grow older younger (a trend with its own acronym: G.O.Y., bandied about by parents and educators). Six-year-olds go to see Erin Munroe, a school guidance counselor in Boston, complaining that So-and-So won’t play with them because they like the Jonas Brothers and the “It girls” like Miley Cyrus. She sees first-graders pulling their hair out, throwing up before school and complaining of constant stomachaches. “It’s not cool to not have a cellphone anymore or to not wear exactly the right thing,” Ms. Munroe said. “The poor girls who have Strawberry Shortcake shirts on, forget it.”

Nobody wants her daughter’s penguin kicked out of the igloo on Club Penguin. But too many parents are too quick to take their daughter’s side, without fully exploring her role in the fracas, said Rosalind Wiseman, the author of the anti-mean-girl bible, “Queen Bees and Wannabes.” Sometimes, she points out, the victim may turn out to have been the initial provocateur.

While peer influence is no doubt a factor, veteran teachers and school counselors say parents are often complicit. “Parents think it’s really cute when their 2- and 3-year-olds are doing ‘Single Ladies’ or singing the Alicia Keys/Jay-Z song,” Ms. Wiseman said. “But it’s not so funny at age 8, when they’re singing along to Lady Gaga and demanding a cellphone.”

A kindergarten teacher at one of New York City’s top private all-girls schools observed, “The mean girls are often from mean moms.” She was thrown back by the “venom” among 5-year-olds. They’ll say, “You only read ‘Biscuit,’ and we’re all reading chapter books.” Or, “Why don’t you brush your hair? You don’t look nice today.” And they’re not afraid of getting into trouble with a teacher. “Perhaps they can act that way at home without repercussions,” she said. “It’s untypical of this age group because they’re usually adult-pleasers.”

In certain cases, the parents themselves seem to be pleased. When her daughter Julia was in first grade last year, said Lea Pfau, a mother of two in Sherman Oaks, Calif., one girl threatened that, unless Julia did as she ordered, “I’m going to tell my mommy, and she’ll set up a meeting with your mommy, and you’ll get in trouble.” The girl then orchestrated a series of exclusive clubs in which girls could be kicked out for various infractions. “I was surprised by the fierceness,” Ms. Pfau said. “But I was more surprised at the other parents. Rather than nip it in the bud, they encouraged it.”

Eileen O’Connor, a lawyer and mother of five girls in the Georgetown section of Washington, has also witnessed trickle-down meanness in her daughters’ classrooms. “To be honest with you, the parents not only enabled it, they engaged in it,” she said. “The parents of mean girls often think, Great, our daughter is so popular!”

Across town, in southeast Washington, Rosalyn Rice, the associate principal of a public elementary school until last year, continually held mediations among young grade-school girls. “They were reporting deeply held grudges from the first grade,” she recalled. One first grader was shunned because she didn’t have the “in” classroom supplies — sparkly glue and a Powerpuff Girls carrying case. She stopped going to school because her parents couldn’t afford them. “The other girls kept accusing her of stealing theirs, which wasn’t true,” Ms. Rice said. Children who didn’t have their uniforms regularly laundered or had to borrow one from the school office were mocked mercilessly. Even at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, “Girls were judging how much people cared about them based on what they owned.”

Ms. Rice and several other experts point to a shift in childhood play, with a focus on controlled environments, techno-goodies and material objects. Instead of working out issues themselves during free play outside, children are micromanaged by parents who step in to resolve conflicts for them. Debbie Rosenman, a teacher in her 31st year at a suburban Detroit school, said that helicopter parents simultaneously fail to provide adequate authority or appropriate forms of supervision.

“The girls who are the victims tend to be raised by parents who encourage them to be more age appropriate,” Ms. Rosenman said. “The mean girls are 8 but want to be 14, and their parents play along. They all want to be top dog.” And so the nastiness begins.