The New York Times Magazine has an article this week about mean girls. Although the focus is on girls, they do speculate as to why males and females often express anger in different ways: "...up to the age of 4 girls tend to be aggressive at the same rate and in the same ways as boys-- grabbing toys, pushing, hitting. Later on, however, social expectations force their hostilities underground, where their assaults on one another are more indirect, less physical and less visible to adults."
In my experience, that's generally true, but of course some girls do use physical aggression as well. Have you noticed a gender divide in ways we express hostility? Do you think one way is worse than the other? What can we do about mean girls and mean boys (without just cross-polluting each style of meanness to create a super-duper extra mean mean? )
I read that article last night actually, and it made me remember grades three through seven all over again. What a terrible time! I was certainly a "wannabe." Girls were so cruel. I was mean to the girls that were even lower than me on the social latter too, and I'm so glad I got past that.
I was talking to my boyfriend-type-thing about our childhoods recently. It greatly surprised me when he told me that he used to get into physical fights a lot in middle school. He's so sweet and gentle that I couldn't imagine that. But then I realized that although I like to think that I'm a very nice person nowadays, I once tormented an incredibly unpopular girl about her scoliosis. I guess it's just as unthinkable to him that I would do that as it is to me that he would ever hit anyone (who didn't want to be hit).
I know that I was pretty miserable at school during the clique-war years, and that was mostly due to the social machine. I don't really know if there's anything to be done about it beyond personally getting out of it.
------------------ "I'll be a Venus on a chocolate clamshell rising on a sea of marshmallow foam." -Hedwig
I certainly wasn't a Queen Bee either, but I wasn't exactly a wannabe either. I wanted to be popular, but not if it meant compromising my principles.
I thought it was interesting to read about the new high tech ways girls are being mean to each other...I'm glad we didn't use instant messaging services in my day... but they made do just fine with harrassing phone calls and notes!
Oh, that is definitely true- girls can be meaner than anything. So can boys, the potential for meanness isn't restricted to any gender, but for social and physiolgocial reasons, girls tend to realise their mean instincts through manipulation and backstabbing rather than overt violence.
One thing I will say about the article though, is that in my experience after 8th grade (when everyone was just horrible)the "wannabe" girls were actually worse than those right at the top of the social ladder. It was like they needed to prove themselves, whereas those at the top were more confident, and as such didn't need to confirm that by being bitchy. I (who was at the bottom of the social ladder) actually became friends with a couple of the most popular girls in my grade after that horrible 7th/8th grade period, while the "wannabes" were still people I just avoided for my own sanity.
i'm reading reviving ophelia right now... and i realize the mixed messages that are sent to young girls. for example, as far as violence goes, girls are sometimes told by the media to stand up for themselves, and be independent. (key word is SOMETIMES- i guess it depends on who's trying to make money off of little girls today). other times, girls are told by peers and family to be "ladylike" and "soft"- no hitting, no swearing, etc. girls constantly have to prioritize and decide whether to go along with their parents' and friends' expectations or to abandon their parents' old-fashioned ideals and become who the media tells them to be. you see, families usually have ideals that are either complex or simple, but almost always laid out clearly, and rarely contradictory. i know where my parents stand on most issues.
however, the media contradicts itself constantly. this makes it easier to rebel against your parents' ideals, because they are clearly laid out and you can accept or reject them. yet the media's ideals are sometimes (unfortunately) easier to embrace, because 1) usually the media has different values than families, and many children, in an effort to seperate themselves from family to gain independence, will reject the values of their parents 2) you may not agree with all the values that media presents, but most are appealing and tempt you to change your values to accommodate what they want you to be, because when you do, you will be 'accepted', 'sexy', 'rich', and 'independent'(ironic, huh?)
that was a tangent... moving on. so, young girls have these decisions to make constantly that are huge, in that the decisions that they make affect who they will become morally later in life, and it's sad that most of the time, their moral examples are set by the television; and these decisions are also little, in that girls don't talk about them. i've never heard a little girl say flat out that she was struggling with whether to abandon her parents' ideals or embrace the values of the media. these decisions are little in their minds because they barely recognize that they even are making a decision. and although some girls come out of this experience having decided to forget all other influences and be herself; others come out of this not accepting but not rejecting anybodys point of view. they simply give up and don't take a stance one way or the other. so they can decide to be a bully, "just like the boys", or they can decide to do nothing- because if they decide not to fight back, they're a "wuss", but if they do fight back, then they're a "tomboy", and when you're a tomboy, you're criticized when you do anything remotely girlish.
am i making sense? i'm so tired. well, enough of my rambling. i'll leave it up to you coherent people.
To me at least, i think girls are only mean because of boys. I used to be nice, but then the boys started picking on me, so i became mean, even violent. Im not that bad anymore, but im still kinda violent, not as much though. i remember in 6th grade i had to sit all by myself across the room from everybody because i kicked all the guys around me. teehee, i was one tough chickie. But they were mean to me just because i was fat, but they wouldnt accept that as a reason for me hurting them. ugh, boys suck sometimes... But then again girls are mean to girls too. but i think that is also because boys are there. some girls that are mean to me are usually the worst around guys. ugh, stupid boys! BOYS ARE THE ROOT OF ALL VIOLENCE!
lol, sorry, im sure not all guys are, but i know tons of guys that are.
------------------ I have problems... teehee ;)
Posts: 2 | From: Houston, TX, usa | Registered: Mar 2002
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I would agree with Beppie, middle school seems to be just an awful time for meaness in kids. Both my sister and i had some serious social problems in grades 6 to 8. While my sister's were more public ( she was slapped by two people and publicly humiliated) mine was more a matter of being friendless. I spent many lunch times circling the school, waiting for the bell to ring. It's an unfortunate, but probably necessary part of life. It teaches us (or atleast those who experience it) that we need to be more sensitive to others. I think guys are equally as affected by this 'meaness', but may react to it in a different way.
------------------ I think this boy's cheese slid off his cracker - The Green Mile
Mikhalia, I'm not sure that's a healthy attitude to have. While we certainly have to consider all influences that encourage certain behaviours, to say that one particular group is solely responsible for someone else's behaviour is wrong- after all, when it comes down to it, you make the choice as to whether or not you hit someone.
I personally have experienced meanness from boys as well as girls (and I do agree that the meanness tends to take different forms depending on gender), and niether has driven me to become a violent person, or to say that one gender is responsible for any bad reactions that I might have as a result of that. And, in my experience, girls being mean to girls has very little to do with boys being there- and even if boys are there, while the gender differences can be used as a tool for meanness, I haven't seen it to cause meanness.
I feel for you that you have been hurt by boys in the past, but please do try not to make broad generalizations, especially ones that paint a particular group in a derogatory fashion- it's really not fair to the guys here who have always been very respectful to all users (regardless of gender) and especially our male volunteers who put in a lot of their own time to make this a supportive place free from the meanness that has hurt you in the past.
i live in the UK and i read much of that NYTimes article in The Guardian over here last week, i think, and i totally understood it. true, i have never called anyone a Queen Bee, and i don't think the cliques in my school have been quite so pronounced as to have rules, dresscodes etc - actually i know theyre not - but i have experienced my fair share of bitchiness. when i was about 10 or 11 my two best friends, both girls, decided to 'turn on me'. it ended one of the friendships but i still know the other girl. but at my current school [age 11-18, in my final year now] it has been quite different. i go to a private, feepaying, all girls school. i've never been one of the popular girls, but i've never really wanted to be. i look at the 'popular' girls and i see how very fake all of their friendships are. i will maintain a conversation with them, walk with some of them, talk with some of them, but i do nothing out of school time with them. at my school we also have a Head Girl and a Head Girl Team. terribly old fashioned, kind of thing you read about in boarding school books, and the head girl is a close friend of mine, but her deputies like to think they are marvellously, infinitely better than me because of this position they hold. i really don't buy into that. similarly, there are girls who like to think they're superior because they have a boyfriend/have nice clothes/have lots of money. in my opinion i have nice clothes, i have enough money, and i don;t want a boyrfiend. they are no better than me.
i'm rambling now. but i hope my gist was got! i absolutely cannot wait to get out of this environment - it has to be one of the most unhealthy environments for teenage girls to be in.
------------------ - you think you're the only one who's sexually frustrated? - well come on baby , i'm ready!
This complex social construction does not seem to me to be so stringent in male pupils. I think I can sympathise with Mikahlia but it sounds to me as if there would be faults on both sides of that conflict and not so completely the boys fault. Remember that boys have that old never hit a woman rule (discussed elsewhere on this forum) which reduces them to making fun of girls instead!
In general, feuds between boys are more likely to be sorted by a quick fight in which the two parties gain a few hits each and nobody is an obvious winner. No one is usually seriously hurt. This might be a strange view but I think that if the fight is mutually agreed upon, it might be a better solution than the on-going feuds and friendly hatreds that are more likely to take place among girls.
------------------ 'An Anarchist is a Liberal with a bomb' Trotsky
Rizzo, I completely agree with you when you say you're glad we didn't have instant messaging services back in the younger years. My sister is a 14-year old high school freshman (and a pretty popular one, too) and she's told me about how some sophomore girls have IMed her and called her names, accused her of having "oral sex parties" and other completely untruthful things.
I remember middle school and the early years of high school, and it was all complete hell. Suicide attempts, depression, loneliness, all run through my mind when I think of those times. I am a college freshman now, and I don't think there's any sum of money someone could pay me to go back to middle school. I'm much stronger now, but I think the constant tormenting and gossip would still hurt me.
i'll definately agree that social circles suck, and often it can drive people to do some pretty terrible things. I've been through the whole 'loser' phase and when i see kids at my school still going through it i feel so bad, and i just want to go over to them and tell them it'll be ok. But i suppose that that whole social 'norm' keeps me from doing anything to change the order of things.
------------------ "Everybody thinks i'm such a horrible person, but i have the heart of a little boy. In a jar. On my desk." -Stephen King
I have never been with the popular group at any of the 8 schools I've been to. I think boys can be just as cruel as girls, but usually in a different way (I am a girl by the way). At my last school, it was mostly boys who gave me the physical abuse, and mostly girls who gave me the verbal abuse. I got badly bullied at that school, and it has stayed with me. I can't say which is worse, the physical or the verbal abuse but either way, it has made me nervous, distrustful, aggressive, and scared of physical contact.
Posts: 388 | From: UK | Registered: Apr 2002
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