Think about “how much more kick-ass we could all be if we just stopped tearing each other down.” – GirlHate.com
There may not be any proof of an uptick in actual girl-on-girl violent crime. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t committing awful, hurtful, and disrespectful acts against each other all the time.
A spate of books released in the early 2000s examined aggression in girls and inhumanity between women, but the idea really took pop culture by storm with 2004’s Mean Girls. Ever since then it has seemed like cattiness is the fashionable accessory of the decade.
But we could all get a lot more accomplished—kick-ass or not—if we’d start lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. Because we’re doing a very good job of tearing each other down.
“Girls can better understand how other girls feel,” a Finnish professor named Kaj Bjorkqvist told the New York Times, “so they know better how to harm them.”
Last weekend opened my eyes to a particular kind of girl harm. (I am going to give the offender the benefit of the doubt and say she didn’t realize the crime she was committing.) It struck me as indicative of a trend I’ve noticed lately from watching the way other women interact with men they know to be in relationships, when the man’s significant other is also present.(Okay, so really I’ve just been watching how other girls talk to my musician boyfriend in front of me. Fascinating stuff really!)
We met at a strange mix of mutual friends and friends-of-friends. She talked art, music, and grad school, slowly ignoring more and more people around the table in favor of beaming glowy bedroom eyes towards Musician Boyfriend. She began shrugging off his attempts to include others in the conversation and ignoring my comments entirely.
After she performed a brief song-and-dance number to her favorite Cake song for him, Bewildered Musician Boyfriend realized things were getting a little weird and did his best to communicate to her that he is decidedly off the market. But I couldn’t help feeling like she thought we were going head to head in an every-woman-for-herself battle for his attention and perhaps ultimately, his love.
So where does this girl-eat-girl mentality come from? I don’t buy that there really are not enough viable men to go around. Is it just another manifestation of how we feel better about our own insecurities when we put others down?
Perhaps we are just completely unaware of how our body language and speech patterns change when speaking to a person we find attractive and how that may be disrespectful to others.
Or maybe, in light of celebrities’ and politicians’ ubiquitous philandering, the meaning of and seriousness of commitment has diminished so much that in Girl Hater’s mind, Musician Boyfriend is only an eyelash fluttering away from leaving me while I sit there and watch.
We act like “mean girls” only exist in middle schools, where cruelty like cyberbullying has led to frighteningly awful consequences like teen suicide. But it seems to me the same judgmental thoughts persist into adulthood, we simply act them out in different ways.
As we achieve higher and higher career goals, other women cut us down by questioning our commitment to our families or by accusing us of having the managerial fervor unique to only a man.
As old dating standards—like that the man must be the one to do the asking—fall away, other women cut us down by believing every man is available for the taking. Just like we might cast our Girl Hate on a woman’s outfit—that dress would look better on me—so too do we view the mancandy on another woman’s arm.
I could forgive Girl Hate if I was able to understand where it is coming from. But it’s hard to understand. To go all dewy-eyed at a man as his girlfriend watches is to blatantly insult and disrespect another woman. And if women won’t fight for other women, who will?