I feel bad for the politically-conservative women of the Tea Party who haven't gotten past the kind of high school behavior most of us hated. It takes soooo much energy to keep that whole "mean girl" shtick going while trying to work and raise a family in the real world.
Even though middle school and high school are a couple of decades back in my rear view mirror, I still remember the taunting and teasing I took at the hands of my school's mean girls. But as I made my way to graduation, I figured there would come a day when, as grown-ups, we'd move past that.
When it comes to today's political world, I couldn't have been more wrong. Mean girls are still out there and loaded for bear -- though not their beloved mama grizzlies.
According to a vocal few, conservative women are "hot" and progressive feminists are ugly "freaks of nature." Liberal women are "fat and nasty." And, apparently, we're a lot stupider than Tea Party women, who believe themselves to be the keepers of common sense. Progressive women are "trust fund socialists," and liberal feminism only involves a bunch of irrelevant older women.
Whew! I need to put on some Kevlar for those kind of attacks!
Some "smart girls" want people to think they're the only women who know anything about politics and that the rest of us should just be ignored. For some reason, the most vocal of the bunch are apparently afraid of a little actual political conversation. Which is too bad, because I know plenty of women who don't always agree with me on politics. But they're never catty, rude or mocking in the way that a vocal handful of conservative standard bearers have become. I don't know who created The Real Housewives of 2010 Politics, but it's getting old -- I guess just like us!
A Newsweekarticle a few months ago by Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes -- which was the basis for the movie Mean Girls-- as well as Mean Girls Grown Up: Surviving Catty and Conniving Women, commented on the left-over mean girl tactics that growing numbers of women are resorting to:
"In our culture ... we get rewarded for mean-girl behavior, so we see adults behaving in ways that we typically assign to teens ... Getting attention is the most important thing."
The funny thing about mean girl behavior, though, is this: it turns out that if you're talking about what nature expects, the mean girl mantle is something we're supposed to outgrow by our mid-twenties. The current group of political mean girls seems to be enjoying the attention they're getting from their heckling and I don't see any sign of it slowing down, even as they march toward their idea of what an "older woman" is. If the media would stop giving these mean girls the attention they crave, I bet we could actually have some multi-partisan female discussions!
I just want to give these gal flame-throwers a little head's up on one thing. We live in a flavor-of-the-day world, so the attention they're loving now will surely be gone as quickly as it came. So if they want to make a difference for whatever they believe, some other tactics might be in order. But the women who stand out as the worst mean girls in the bunch aren't about real change. They're more concerned with the bright spotlight of celebrity.
One other thing. The new crop of "smart girls" needs to be careful about tossing around phrases about irrelevant "older women." It won't be that long before they cross over into the world of oldsters, and generations of their daughters and granddaughters will be more than happy to remind them of that. Unless, of course, they've got pictures hiding in their attics. But we all know what happened to Dorian Gray in the end.
As for mean girls, things don't usually end well for them, either.
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the forthcoming book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder of the blog PunditMom, where she write about politics from the perspective of a progressive mother, and pens the weekly column Speaker of the House at Cafe Mom's the Stir.