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Grown up mean girls

April 16, 2013

Anyone who has been to High School knew them. They got a label in the 2004 movie.

Mean girls.

I’ve long said that girls in their teens are the cruelest creatures on the planet. Their hormones are kicking in, they are confused, trying to model who they will be – looking for role models. They are pressured by society to be thin, to be pretty, to be smart (but not TOO smart, or you won’t attract a boy). If you are a teenage girl who does not fit in, woe be to you, because you will find yourself a target of the mean girls.

So what happens when mean girls grow up? Do they grow out of the meanness?

Well, if what we see on television, whether “reality” (Real Housewives franchise, anyone?) or fiction (any soap opera, Grey’s Anatomy), when mean girls grow up, they get meaner.

Adding to my theory is the fact that there is a new book out called “Working With Bitches: Identify the Eight Types of Office Mean Girls and Rise Above Workplace Nastiness”. In it, the author, a psychologist, discusses the cattiness, dismissive, snide remarks, and cliques and talking behind people’s backs.

Wait, in an office? This doesn’t end in High School?

It appears not (and I can tell you from personal experience, no, it doesn’t). When did it become acceptable to behave in such a juvenile manner past the age when we reach adulthood? When did it become necessary to cater to these people, who by all rights should not be in a professional environment (maybe they should get their own television show).

Moving beyond these questions, a person must ask the most important one: Why? Where does this behavior come from, anyway?

Well, think about it. I mentioned the television shows earlier – behavior modeling. We idolize people who are mean (and they are usually people with money). We are constantly told all of the things that are wrong with us (we are SHOWN models that are airbrushed to a perfection we will never reach); it takes someone with a pretty strong sense of self to be able to ignore/deal with the constant negative messaging that we encounter. In a word: insecurity. Low self-esteem.

The interesting thing about this is that women get pretty devious when we are feeling bad about ourselves: micro-managing, exclusion, lying, gossiping. (Yes, I know that men do these things too but it is entirely different and I am now addressing women).

I was at an interesting discussion about a month ago, where a group of women were discussing women as leaders in different contexts, and at different times. One of them said something that struck me because I have heard it before and personally don’t find it to be true, yet it still comes back, so there must be something behind it: the statement that women have a desire to be liked.

Since when, and how does being a mean girl bring about positive results?

If insecurity and wanting to be liked are these peoples’ motivations, then why are they being mean instead of nice? (And be careful, when some of them are nice, their motives are not at all)

How do we deal with all of this, anyway? I can’t claim to have an answer because I am still trying to figure it out. Honestly, when I encounter a mean girl, whether in professional or personal life, I would rather not deal with the person at all. Unfortunately, I can’t avoid it, because they are all around me.

Maybe I should read that book…


4 Comments leave one →
  1. R. Strina permalink
    April 22, 2013 6:12 am

    Hi Karin,
    Thanks for sharing your most recent blog entry about ‘mean girls’ – as you said, we have all encountered them, but I don’t think ‘meanness’ is isolated to ‘girls/women’! I think we experience the ‘meanness’ of people of the same gender differently than the ‘meanness’ from the opposite gender, but I agree with you; it’s an unpleasant experience and we tend to avoid it whenever possible.
    Sending many greetings to you, Renate

    • April 23, 2013 6:59 am

      Renate – I actually specifically say “Yes, I know that men do these things too but it is entirely different and I am now addressing women”. Women have an entirely different approach to things and are much less obvious about it. We are also seeing a lot of showcasing of women who behave this way, which is setting a bad example for girls and young women.

  2. Marina permalink
    April 22, 2013 9:18 pm

    Hi Karin, I have send it to my daughter…. We had a discussion a while ago about this subject. Brassa, marina

  3. Mom permalink
    April 23, 2013 8:29 am

    I agree with you that media “showcases” such behaviors these days — for entertainment? Bravo is ripe with such mean girl issues in grown women, and I agree that it sets a very bad example for our young people. Sadly, even at my ripe old age, I encounter lots of mean behavior in men and women. It seems everyone is angry these days. Lets hope it all changes.

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