The Phenomena of the Mean Girl
Who's In , Who's Out, and Who's In Between
Psychologists, sociologists, and social scientists decry the so-called recent phenomena of mean girl culture. There was even a 2004 movie called MEAN GIRLS which a girl was first accepted and subsequently ostracized by a clique at her school. However, mean girl culture has existed for decades in junior high and high schools. There was always a girl pecking order based upon socioeconomic backgrounds, grade status, and the attractiveness factor.
Females have always competed against each other from time immemorial. However, this was never acknowledged by society. Females, especially girls, have been characterized as being docile, gentle, and peaceful. Females were also characterized as being less confrontational and less argumentative then males. Girls were further inundated that they must be "good girls" and to be assertive and aggressive were unfeminine.
Many girls succumbed to this artificial feminine stereotype, thus sublimating their aggressive and assertive feelings. Girls learned that being outwardly aggressive is wrong; however, they use this energy surreptitiously, being aggressive towards each other. decided to be surreptitiously aggressive towards each other. It comes as a revelation to many people that girls can be bullies also.
Even though there are mean girls at the nursery school, kindergarten, and elementary school levels, the phenomena of the mean girl becomes highly prevalent in the junior high and high school level. I have discovered that the apex of mean girlness is at the junior high school level. At this stage of life, girls are trying out different personas and on their way to discovering what type of person they wish to become. Formerly nice girls are becoming more catty just to fit in a particular clique and to gain the acceptance of a certain alpha girl.
Many alpha girls have excellent leadership girls but they elect to use those skills negatively. Alpha girls are usually the head of a particular clique. The word of the alpha girl is law and all the other girls in the said group follow her. The alpha girl thrives on control. She does not believe that the girls in her group should express their individuality. A prototype of the alpha girl is the character Christy Masters in ROMY AND MICHELE'S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION. Ms. Masters was the alpha girl in the A -listed group of cheerleaders. These girls were on top of the high school pecking order who periodically derided girls whom they deemed inferior.
The main objects of their scorn were Romy and Michelle who were near the bottom of the high school pecking order. In one scene when the A-listed group derided Romy and Michelle, one of the cheerleaders tried to defend the two girls; however, Ms. Masters gave the cheerleader a glaring look, putting the cheerleader in her "place." Alpha girls believe that group think is more important than individuality. Any girl who elects to be an individual within a clique is often derided and oftentimes ostracized. As a result, many girls who are in cliques sublimate their true personalities in order to belong.
Many girls have the status of being the in betweens. They are neither insiders nor are they complete outsiders. They are in pecking order purgatory or limbo so to speak. These girls have a wide variety of associates and friends, believing in playing it safe. These girls maintain that they are in the best situation possible. These girls also cam be classified as bystanders regarding the girl pecking order situation. In between girls have different types of associates and friends as a barrier i.e. in case one group excludes them, there is always another group. These girls can be classified as beta girls; however, they are not as low on the pecking order as the odd or outsider girl.
In between girls can exhibit various types of personalities in order to fit within their particular group of the moment. These are the girls who are most afraid of asserting their individuality because they want to be part of a group. To reiterate, they are in group purgatory. They clearly do not want to be alone for whatever reason so they oftentimes do harmful and/or cruel things to other girls to conform to their group. These girls know that they do not have the power that alpha girls have. In between girls have secondhand power.
Then there are the girls at the lowest end of the pecking order. They are usually the odd or outside girl. No one wants them at all not even the in between girls. These girls are in hell figuratively. The are reasons for being the odd or outside girl according to girl group think. Probably the outside girl is different from the group in terms of socioeconomic status, familial background, academic status. Oftentimes girls who refuse to go along with the crowd are quite frequently ostracized within the junior high and high school culture.
Sometimes in certain cultures, girls who are studious and serious are ostracized by their peers. For example, girls who are not boy crazy and adhere to the average adolescent girl group think are severely ostracized. I know this firsthand. When I was in the 7th and 8th grade, the alpha girls in my school were boy crazy and into romance novels. These girls wore the shortest miniskirts and the tightest clothing. Many of those girls started dating in the 7th grade and they were not into sports.
Academically, an overwhelming majority of them ranged from B to C-students. They also were physically beautiful and very middle class. I remember one of the girls stating that they did not want girls who were "unattractive within their group." They considered themselves to be the MOST MATURE girls around. They considered girls who played sports to be immature. I recollect one girl indicating that a girl was totally immature because this girl was into sports and not dating yet. This group considered the girl to be at the kindergarten level emotionally.
These alpha girls had all the boys around them. Although this group had two A students, those students were not the leaders but were followers. Let us not digress. The aforementoned outside girl was an independent girl, not a follower. She was never afraid to express her difference and her individuality. She was excluded from group after group.
Furthermore, this girl was an extreme beta girl. She was ostracized from the time she entered school because she was different racially and ethnically from the regular school population. Besides being from a different racial/ethnic background, she was also one of the poorest students and came from an extremely Duggarish large family. Most of the girls derided her, often holding their noses when she walked by. However, she was never fazed by girl groups making fun of her. She believed that she was just as good as anyone else.
There are many odd or outside girls who use their status as a source of strength. Many odd or outsider girls learn to be highly creative and individualized young women. These girls often have a rich inner world and pursue activities different from that of the other girls. Many odd or outsider girls have friends and activities outside of their school. Odd or outsider girls usually follow their own drummers.
For example, in my high school, there was one girl who was ostracized because of her extreme brilliance. She was never shy in expressing her brilliance; furthermore, she was an early feminist. The other students refused to understand her because she was the smartest student in the class. The other students often made fun of her last name. However, she did not care, often electing to pursue solitary hobbies. She was a very outstanding artist and a very advanced thinker. During her high school career, she had very, very few friends; however, she had activities outside the school and a very supportive family.
Many odd or outsider girls have supportive family members. The average odd or outside girl is usually quite mature beyond her years and believe that conforming to the "normal" girl culture is somewhat asinine. This girl believes that she has something better to do. However, there are some odd or outside girls who are so traumatized about being excluded from the group that they feel as if they are nonentities. These girls have little or no self worth and would do ANYTHING, even harmful, stupid, and/or deleterious to be accepted by the group. Some of these girls even commit the ultimate act of suicide because they believe that they are totally unworthy of living and that life is a hellish experience.
There are programs as to how to remedy the mean girl culture. However, these programs are very few and far between. Many parents are either unaware or indifferent to the culture of mean girls. To many parents, the mean girl culture is just girls being girls and a normal part of life.
However, studies show that the proliferation of mean girls indicates that this is a very serious matter. Articles in THE NEW YORK TIMES and other magazines clarifies how the culture of mean girls adversely impact on our young women psychologically ranging from low self-esteem to suicide. Talk show hosts such as Tyra Banks and Oprah Winfrey regularly discuss the issue of the mean girl culture so this issue should be taken seriously and not to be casually demised as mere girl's play.
Parents and teachers must be jointly involved to discuss this issue and to institute workable solutions to this ongoing dilemma. Our young girls should feel good about themselves and have a right to develop their human potential to the utmost. Furthermore, young girls should have an as unencumbered childhood and adolescence as possible.
© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams