Documentary 'Finding Kind' urges girls to stop bullying
"Finding Kind," a new documentary shown in six Seattle-area schools, encourages girls to choose kindness over envy and competition.
Seattle Times staff reporter
When it was over, the ninth- and 10th-graders at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle cheered and gave thumbs-up to a film that explores a serious problem among adolescent girls: bullying.
Two women who have experienced the worst of adolescent girls' cruelty to each other are using the documentary they've made, "Finding Kind," to bring attention to the issue and change the culture that pits girls against one another.
The filmmakers, Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson, are showing the film around the country, including at six schools in the Seattle area. The film has been featured at the Seattle International Film Festival and is expected to return to Seattle theaters in late September.
The film tells the stories of girls who have been bullied, as well as those who have bullied others. Anyone can play both roles, Parsekian and Thompson say.
The filmmakers say they're on a mission to inspire people of all ages, but students in particular, to take up the cause of kindness.
After the film screening Tuesday at Nathan Hale, students could fill out apology cards to someone they've bullied. Students could also write cards telling of their own experiences as victims. Sharing the cards was optional.
Student Chloe Trosper, 16, said the film made her "think about how words can be used to help or hurt people."
"It was really, really well done," said another student. "The message was important."
Teacher Jessica Torvik noted that the film was very well received.
Parsekian, who grew up in Orange County, Calif., said she was "one of the popular kids" with lots of friends through sixth grade. Then came middle school, and a lie was started about her by a boy who liked her. The lie was spread by one of Parsekian's girlfriends, who was jealous of the boy's attention.
As the lie gained momentum, her friends turned away and she found herself isolated and the target of telephone threats. Objects were thrown at her as she walked through school, things were stolen from her locker and her homework was destroyed.
When males phoned and said she'd be raped if she came to school, she wasn't bothered as much by the threat as she was by the sound of laughter in the background — the laughter of her former friends.
At 12, she developed an eating disorder, was severely depressed and attempted suicide.
Thompson, 24, grew up in Texas and also was the target of lies. She was punched in the face by a girl and abandoned by friends who wouldn't stick up for her.
The filmmakers now tell girls who are being bullied, "You're not alone" and "You will get through this."
The film interviews girls, psychologists and authors who have written on the subject.
TV shows, movies and advertisements targeting young women often pit them against each other, encouraging competition, and putting a high value on appearance rather than on goodness, experts say in the film.
Girls see girls sniping at each other on TV and think it's normal behavior. While in generations past, women fighting one another was a taboo, photos of girls fighting are posted on the Internet.
The state attorney general's Youth Internet Safety Task Force estimates that up to 30 percent of all students have either been the perpetrator or the victim of cyberbullying. The task force is creating a curriculum on cyberstalking to be distributed to schools in the fall.
Just last month in Issaquah, two girls, an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old, were charged with cyberstalking and computer trespass after they allegedly hacked into a classmate's Facebook account and posted sexually explicit photos and messages.
Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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