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Macho is not just for the boys

Girls once suppressed their masculine traits. Not any more. Dorothy Lepkowska reports.

Girl power is taking on a new dimension with teenagers resorting to violence - including "glassing" and head-butting - as a means of asserting themselves and protecting their image, new evidence shows.

The culture of the beer-swigging "laddette", epitomised in the media by television celebrities such as Zo Ball and Ulrika Jonsson, is taking shape among the 14 to 18-year-old age group which is rejecting traditional female stereotypes.

Girls are abandoning playground cat-fights involving scratching, hitting and hair-pulling for more violent acts using knives, broken bottles and baseball bats as weapons, according to research from Antoinette Hardy of Loughborough University.

Ms Hardy told delegates at the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group conference at the University of Derby, this week, that her study of 40 teenage girls in the Midlands showed that today's adolescent females are consciously choosing to emulate boys.

They are more confident, assertive and independent than their mothers, and enjoy greater freedom in the home by being allowed to stay out later than would previously have been acceptable.

Ms Hardy said the role of the female as a support to the male did not feature in the expectations to the modern girl, who wanted a career, or at least a job, and who may decide not to have children.

She said girls were claiming an individual identity. "Not for them the adherence to the traditional gender roles or the repression of their masculine traits, " she said.

"This raises the question of whether women have always had the innate potential to be aggressive but because aggressiveness in a woman was socially unacceptable it was suppressed.

"There are some studies which argue it is only social constraints that have made women appear not to be aggressive."

Ms Hardy said that rather than being ostracised for fighting many claimed they achieved greater respect from their peers - even their boyfriends - if they could "take care of themselves".

She added: "Many stated their desire to be more like males, specifically with regard to freedom, independence, the right to stand up for themselves and the ability to do and say as they please.

"Although legislation may say that men and women are equal, many girls still feel they have to prove it and if that required violence and aggression then so be it."

Many of the girls surveyed were disparaging of the Spice Girls, popularly perceived as the role models for today's teenagers. But, they could relate to the central female character in the films Terminator 1 and 2 who was a "dainty little woman who wore dresses" in the first film, and "wore muscle tops and worked out every day" in the sequel.

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