In Defense of Mean Girls

I’ve been thinking about “mean girls” lately—more the label than specific people. I’ve listened to colleagues label certain students as “mean girls” and sigh with frustration or sometimes express hurt and anxiety at the thought of dealing with them.


The reason why I’ve been thinking about it is that I don’t see the “mean girl” behaviour even though I teach some of these girls. So I wondered what the profile of a “mean girl” would look like based on who my colleagues identified. They were pretty, popular, had a close circle of friends, asked for things they thought they deserved, questioned things they thought were unfair, formed and reformed alliances, gossiped about their peers, gave “attitude” when asked to do things they didn’t want to do.


With a few minor exceptions, this profile also fits a lot of teachers I know. Usually, the closer the teacher is to the profile, the more they complained about “mean girls.” So what is this?


Is it possible that most of what we categorize as the mean girl phenomenon is actually just resentment and/or jealousy of young women who refuse to just smile politely and accept what they’re given?


I find myself questioning this stereotype that boys are easy-going and don’t hold grudges but girls are mean and catty. Honestly, if I think about a lot of the behaviour people attribute to mean girls and imagine that the girls were boys instead, I don’t think people would even notice the behaviour.


I know this “theory” doesn’t account for all the mean girl behaviours, but isn’t it possible that at least part of it is that?

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