An article in this weekend's Washington Post analyzes what happens when "Mean Girls" (aka those Regina Georges of the world, with their nice blonde hair and lack of decorum) graduate, get jobs, and become adults.
The article discusses how we should view these women that the author has interviewed -- reformed bitchy girls -- as a positive reflection of how women are getting over that catty stage of life. But what about the victims of these "mean girls'" bullying, taunting, or just the people they never included in the clam bakes or house parties? They're apparently OK too, says the Post.
The article leaves out the victims of mean girls' bullying. Instead, it takes a case of one girl who shares Facebook posts with a former tormentor. I'm not sure I'd call this progression, but instead smoothing over a probably significant childhood pain.
Jezebel criticizes the Post piece by saying that those interviewed fit a bit too perfectly into the writer's theory that being a "mean girl" is something one grows out of. It does seem a little convenient -- that these girls who were bullies (also fails to define exactly what we mean by a "mean girl," which could use some analysis) just snapped out of it.
What the article fails to mention, however, is that "mean girls" have absolutely nothing to do with high school.
Sure, it is exacerbated or flagrantly obvious when the prettier girls in middle school or high school don't let certain girls sit at their cafeteria table, but basically, women are mean to other women at all ages.
Women putting down other women doesn't stop after high school -- how about in college, when in a sorority, mean girl behavior exists aplenty? I can admit there were times when I said mean things about potential members of my sorority, or girls older or younger. I loved my sorority dearly, but I recognize that a big group of girls, an organized clique, can be dangerous.
I'd argue that mean girls are not only at every age, but are more powerful after we turn 18.
I vividly remember three girls making me feel like the awkward fifth grader when I studied abroad in Barcelona at age 20 -- excluding me from trips, group assignments, or nights out at certain clubs. I still carry that with me today, and I definitely wasn't just hitting puberty.
What about in the work place? Being a mean girl professionally, putting down coworkers, excluding them, "climbing the corporate ladder," is commonplace. Is it necessary to be mean to get ahead professionally? Alpha girls are more manipulative, does this mean that they will get what they want professionally as easily too?
I received an email from a 40-year-old woman and reader of my site, lamenting a "frenemy" she had who she just couldn't bear watch dangle her robust dating life in front of her again. Mean knows no age.
I'm aware that as a writer, often about popular culture, mean gets the reads. It gets the hits. It's why sites like Gawker, or Perez Hilton (although now flailing) get so many readers -- our snark and our catty prose is entertaining. Maybe it makes us feel better to be mean, to put others down. Maybe it's just payback?
More than taking these examples of women who used to be "mean," we ought to be evaluating why grown women are sometimes just as mean if not meaner to each other than at age 15. We're smarter, more developed, and more capable of bringing each other down verbally and psychologically.
And that's something we need to grow out of.
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