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Natalie Whitney
Friday, September 11, 2009

Teenage Female Violence in Canada: Are we in trouble?

Women have made tremendous strides throughout time. They have progressed
from the decades when their primary responsibilities were cooking, cleaning and taking
care of their children. They surpassed the age when a husband was supposed to be the
sole breadwinner. Now Canadian women have begun to react publically to situations
when they feel their rights are being compromised. Society has made some impressive
changes for the women in Canada, but what about teenage girls? What about the ones that
aren’t quite women yet? Through analysis of their peer groups, paying attention to the
media and comparing numerous statistics, it’s becoming quite evident that teenage girls
in Canada are more violent than ever before. If women have come so far in the past few
decades, then why are the female youth taking such a turn for the worse?

There are many causes for this violence which include puberty, separation from
their parents to form a new identity, romantic and sexual relationships, hormone changes,
and the progression to high school (Underwood). However, the biggest reason for this
violence is their peer groups and the pressure to conform to them. Statistics show that
among teens, drug use has increased over the past 10 years and with the exception of
2003, sexual and physical assaults on youth have also been on the rise steadily since 1998
(Sternberg, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 73). It is also shown that both drug use
and being in an abusive household can cause a youth to grow up more aggressive and
more violent (Hoffman, 26). This actively describes the cycle of abuse: the victim
becomes the perpetrator. Since both statistics of drug use and abuse are on the rise, it’s no
wonder that youth violence is on the rise. The per capita rate of youth violence doubled
from 1986 to 1992 and is continuing to grow (Underwood). So other than their peers and
families, who and what else is influencing these teens to react to situations so violently?

It seems as if everything is headed downhill for the youth of this generation.


There are more drug addictions and abuse is more common, but that almost seems
thrilling to us and although it sounds disturbing, it has become a reality that this culture
has an obsession with violence. It is becoming normal to see female perpetrators on the
news. For example, the majority of the population has heard about Reena Virk, the
teenage girl who was gang-beaten and drowned by other teenage girls, or Stephanie
Rengel who was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend upon the request of his new
girlfriend. By making these horror stories known across the country, girls are moving
away from the stereotypical passive female. “Women are taking more and more
leadership roles, and as they do. they are redefining traditional stereotypes. It used to be
that an angry man was assertive and an angry woman was aggressive. That is slowly
changing as the egalitarianism of the sexes really takes hold,” says Louise Giroux, a
women’s counsellor and author. Since women are no longer condemned as much as they
used to be for expressing their anger, this is making it more socially acceptable for
women to be violent. One, however; should not confuse anger and aggression. Cheryl van
Daalen-Smith, a professor at York University for women’s health states, “Anger is an
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emotion, aggression is a behaviour” (Finlay). Although women are being taught that it is
okay to express anger, sometimes this can be misinterpreted so that violence seems
acceptable.

Although it is easy to say that girls are becoming increasingly violent in the news
and although it is easy assume the reasons behind this, there needs to be some hard
evidence behind these assumptions and stories. Girls usually express their aggression
through verbal insults, rumours, and threats, it would be very narrow-minded to say that
boys are more aggressive than girls. In fact some researchers agree that both boys and
girls are equally aggressive but express it in different ways (Underwood). Boys are more
physically violent but it is quite a shock to see that girls are catching up. In 1990, 12% of
offenders were female compared to 1997 in which 25% of offenders were female. Not
only are more females becoming offenders at a faster rate than boys, but as they become
older the crimes they commit become more serious (Hoffman).

As the media focuses on these fallen angels and the youth of today continue to act
more violent due to the influence from their peer groups, our generation should be asking,
“Where do we go from here?” We have forged a new era in female history and identity in
Canada by creating equal rights for men and women, but seeing as the youth of today are
the future of tomorrow, is our fragile world in stable hands?
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Works Cited

Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Family Violence in Canada: A statistical profile.
2005. “5.0 Family violence against children and youth”
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-224-x/85-224-x2005000-eng.pdf

Finlay, L. (2008). The Art of the Hissy Fit. ELibrary. Retrieved (09/08/09) from
http://elibrary.bigchalk.com/

Hoffman, A.M., Summers R.W. (Ed.). (2001). Teen Violence. Westport, CT: Greenwood
Press.

Sternberg, B.S. (2003). Addiction. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Retrieved (08/10/09)
from http://go.galegroup.com/

Underwood, Marion K.. Social Aggression Among Girls. New York, NY: Guilford Press,
2003. Print.

Works Consulted

Biernat, M. Deaux, K.(2001). Sex Differences. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Retrieved
(09/08/09) from http://go.galegroup.com/