We just love to hate “mean girls”, don’t we. Okay then, let’s go there. Let’s talk about “mean girls”. Warning: This blog post features curse words and feminism. This blog post tells the truth.
Check out the 7 minute video from The Today Show from their feature “Are mean girls getting meaner?” And please do watch the whole thing.
Labels are useful for canned goods. However, they suck for people….especially our kids. If I label myself or am labeled as a “mean girl,” then, everything I do will be seen in the context of my label. “OMG, I can’t believe she was so nice to me. Usually, she is a total mean girl.” OR “I am not at all surprised she said that about you. She is such a mean girl.” Once we label our kids, they start to believe these labels. A canned good may be able to promise consistency – all of the ingredients you read on that label will most likely be in the can. People, for better and for worse, are not that consistent. No one can be nice or mean or anything else all the time. This is what makes us human.
The experts in this video share a lot of smart stuff about how to support our daughters with bullying. However, what bothers and frightens me so much is how much this segment reinforces our “love to hate mean girls” culture. It pits the “good girls” against the “mean girls” so dramatically. Just look at the 4 theater girls (another label) they interviewed who are doing the anti-bullying play. These girls are talking about the “mean girls” they know as if they are completely different from themselves. They are talking about “mean girls” as if they themselves have never used their own power in inappropriate ways, never made a bad choice to appeal to their friends and peers. And all of this is reinforced later in the clip when Maria Shriver asks the experts “how do we give the power to the good girls?” Yikes. What does that mean?
We have a saying at Go Girls!…it’s the chorus to our Go Girls! theme song…
I’m not a mean girl. I’m not a good girl. I am a Go Girl!”
I can guarantee you that all 4 of those “theater girls” – the ones that were made to appear so “good” – have all struggled with their own power. I can guarantee you they have said unkind words to and/or about another girl. They may not be guilty of bullying per se, but I know that every kid has behaved in ways that have lacked empathy, hurt someone else’s feelings, and been down right mean. Just like every kid has made choices that are loving, kind, and courageous.
Our girls are still a little young for us to go into a deep exploration of misogyny (the hatred of women and girls) but we can bring it up here for a second, can’t we? No matter how many advances women and girls have made in American culture, we still live in a society that dislikes us. We are bombarded everyday with messages about how we should look and act, what we should say and not say. The messages aim to remind us that we are not in charge…not even of ourselves. So, we receive the messages loud and clear that we have 2 choices. We can be a “good girl” and do everything right (meaning, never do anything wrong) OR we can be the “mean girl,” the “bitch, ” the “slut” or whatever you want to call it. And, given this incredibly damaging and limiting choice, we are left only with the option to turn against each other and ourselves. This is when bullying happens. They is when eating disorders happen. This is when suicide happens.
The first lines of our theme song are:
I am proud, so proud, proud of me. I am exactly the kind of girl that I want to be.”
The number one place these experts are 100% right is when they talk about how important it is to validate and support our girls to “be themselves.” We must get rid of the labels and make space for our girls to express every part of themselves. When I think about tips for Bullying Awareness Month, here is what I want all of us to walk away from this month with: LET’S STOP CALLING GIRLS “MEAN GIRLS” and STOP CALLING GIRLS “GOOD GIRLS”. We have to insist on more choices for girls in our society. We have to insist on and build pathways for girls to connect to each other and themselves. We have to make it okay for girls to be able to make mistakes and know that they can make a different choice tomorrow in how they treat people. If we can collectively throw out the terms “mean girl” and “good girl” we can do the radical act of dismantling our misogynist society and build a world that values and can benefit from the gifts girls bring.
This post is #21 of 25 Tips to Teach Your Daughter to Respect Herself, Command Respect, and Respect Others. Wanna make sure you get all 25 Tips for Bullying Awareness Month? CLICK HERE and we’ll send ‘em right to your email!