Mean Girls

I caught Mean Girls on TV this weekend. It wasn’t a bad movie. Basic gist: Cady moves to the US after being raised and home-schooled in Africa. She struggles to figure out how things work. A couple of people take her under their wing…and convince her to infiltrate the “plastics” clique –  three girls who think they own everything and everyone. (Think…the Heathers – actually, Mean Girls is kind of a watered down version of Heathers.)

So she does, and reports back to her two friends so they can all have a good laugh. She also develops a crush on Regina’s (the lead plastic) ex-boyfriend, which Regina falsely shows support for and then ends up stealing back so Cady can’t have him.

Which is when Cady becomes full-on plastic herself and seeks revenge.  She undermines Regina’s friendship with the two other plastic girls (who are both so stereotyped I can’t trust myself to describe them here), causes her to gain weight, and continues to try to get the guy away from Regina.

She succeeds, of course, but Regina doesn’t take it lying down. She’s got a “burn book,” a nasty journal that cuts down a huge number of girls in the school. Regina adds a vicious entry about herself, then takes it to the principal and, worse, distributes copies of all the slanderous insinuations. Yeah. Bedlam erupts among the class, and all the girls are corralled into the gymnasium.

Where they all receive guidance and learn they all need to stop cutting each other down, because that gives others (the boys) the freedom to do the same. Valid. At the end, every girl has made peace with the other, there are no more nasty cliques and everything is sunshine and roses.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true in real life, if we could all just snap out of it?

And DO we as women sabotage ourselves?

I had a discussion with a coworker about raising  boys versus raising girls, and she said she was glad she had boys only because boys told it like it was, no messing around. She said she’d been burned so many times by other girls as a child that she didn’t  think it would be nearly as easy to raise girls…and that got me thinking. Is this tendency to backstab (and I’m not talking vicious here; some sabotage can be VERY subtle.) inherent with women, or are we learning it in our environment? And if we’re learning it in our environment, how do we change it so it’s not such a huge issue?



  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    You know, I used to think women weren’t as bad about sabotaging each other as some people make out, but recently I’ve come to feel differently. (This is not a put down of women: I think men can really put each other down in various ways, too. If women ARE worse about it, it’s probably due to frustration at not being allowed to compete in the real world against men, historically.)

    I’m still just realizing how many female “friends” I’ve had who seemed to be helping me, but were really sabotaging me. Their strategy was “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”. I was their enemy on sight apparently. Who needs that sort of crap?

  2. MaggieCat says

    I’m not sure how prevalent women sabotaging women is in the adult world, but I remember it as being fairly rampant when I was a teenager. Which is why the majority of my close friends at that age were male. I got burned a few too many times by girls who said ‘oh I’m not mad/I don’t care’ then turned around and stabbed you in the back; with my guy friends it was more ‘get pissed off, yell for a minute, and move the hell on’. It was downright refreshing after trying to navigate the minefield of “Well Girl A said that Girl B said that you said…”.

    I think it has something to do with the socialization that says that women aren’t supposed to be direct about negative things (or anything for that matter) for fear of being labeled a bitch. That evasiveness drives me nuts- I respect, and personally take, a much more straightforward approach.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Exactly – passive-aggressive behavior is a tactic of weak people. Weak men use it as often as weak women. BUT a lot of potentially strong women feel forced into the “weak” position when it comes to competing socially, and so they use the weak tactics. Reverse the genders, and I think it would be men who were more often passive-aggressive. And you’re right – women aren’t “supposed” to criticize, vent, or confront, and when they do it anyway they’re likely to suffer repercussions most men would never have to consider.

  4. scarlett says

    Mean Girls is loosely adapted from a book called Queen Bees and Wannaes by Rosalind Wiseman – I recommended it for the booklist. It was the account of a guidance councellor about how teenagers interacted with one another, particularly the way girls both support and sabotage one another.
    What I liked about the movie was that they all ended up being accountable for their actions, and that the Queen Bee Bitch character was relatively fleshed out. One of the things Wiseman went into was how even those at the top of the food chain suffer from insecurities and doubts, which I think was fairly well portrayed in the movie.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    You know, the people at the top are often the MOST insecure. I’ll never forget when I was in high school, senior year. The in-crowd kids were the planning committee for graduation, and they came up with a cute idea for the theme. ONE person said it was stupid, so they completely caved. I actually gawked at three of them who told me this story and said, “You guys are the in-crowd. Don’t you realize what you say goes, and everyone will fall in line to support you?” They had no clue. That was a HUGE eye-opener for me.

  6. sbg says

    Not me. I think I avoided much of the turmoil in high school by being rather invisible (not a fix I’d recommend, but it did let me fly under the radar). Don’t get me wrong, I still hated the “plastic” girls, but if there was drama and backstabbing going on, I wasn’t aware of it.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    Quite likely.  Or they’ve never had to deal with challenge because it’s always been their way right away.

  8. MaggieCat says

    I think that’s part of it- there’s a reason people say that adversity makes you stronger. When everything is handed to you, you either don’t learn how to push for the things you want and end up a doormat when faced with a stronger personality, or you don’t learn that you sometimes need to compromise and let other people have some input because you feel entitled to everyone’s unfailing devotion. I’ve seen it play out both ways.

    Which reminds me of that other thing adults always told me as a kid: the people who are on top of the world in high school aren’t going to stay there once they get into the real world. Or at the very least, they’ll probably be boring. 😉

  9. SunlessNick says

    And it then becomes a temptation to aim your venting, confrontation, or agression at those without greater recourse against you. In racial terms, it leads to the “No one resents this year’s immigrants like last year’s do” effect. In gender terms, it makes the easiest target for a woman’s anger another woman.

  10. scarlett says

    It’s interesting you say that because one of my professors (actually, the only actual professor I had, who happened to be a woman!) was saying that, in her experience, you got a first year representation of about 50% of students from the private schools and more exclusive public schools, and >10% from the really poor schools. By the begining of second year, that representation was almost completely reversed; basically, by far the majority of people who dropped out in first year were from the more exclusive schools. Her hypothesis was once they were away from the structure of an exclusive school, they didn’t know what to do because they’d never had to adapt, but those who’d had to fight against expectations they wouldn’t have to amount to much could adapt easily.
    Thought that was relevant…

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