The 2004 hit teen comedy Mean Girls and the bestselling book by Rosalind Wiseman upon which it is based, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, hit a powerful chord with audiences, exposing the painful world of adolescent girls who are too often tormented and bullied by their so-called friends and classmates.
"Adults find it funny," commented Tina Fey in an interview about the movie, which she wrote and appeared in. Young people on the other hand find it "much too close to their real experiences," she added.
Tina, I love your Sarah Palin impersonation but disagree with your fantasy that women outgrow the "mean girls" nightmare. Even if we are lucky enough to graduate from middle or high school relatively unscathed by bullies, we are likely to find those same mean girls popping up again and again.
From the time they are young, females are socialized to be good girls who are nice to one another. So rather than engaging in outright criticism, confrontation or competition like their male counterparts, girls and women often use rumors, innuendos, back-stabbing, exclusion, teasing and other passive-aggressive behaviors. Mean girls consistently make use of these approaches to bond with their friends and to jockey for status at the expense of other women.
It's common and normal for women and men to compare themselves to others based on looks, behavior, or social status. That's how they define themselves and figure out what they want to become at various stages in life. But mean girls, who lack self-esteem and worry that they'll come up short in a side-by-side comparison, tend to pick on their more vulnerable sisters and degrade them in words and actions in order to achieve dominance and control.
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