By Katie Hutchinson
In a generation where corruption, school shootings, and body image have garnered much attention, people have come to question why girls are so mean to one another. As a matter of fact, Tina Fey produced a movie called “Mean Girls”,which details the dynamic between Cady, the new girl at school, and the so-called “plastics”. However, most conflicts between girls are under the radar so you never really hear about them.
When they are heard of, administrations just say “that will happen” or “it will all blow over.” They almost never get involved as girls do no want to “snitch” on each other in fear of retaliation from the clique. So this brings the question, why is this ancient notion still alive in the world?
One reason explains how girls are biologically wired this way. Their hormones have a lot to do with this as they control a lot of how we feel. Scientists have found that females’ brains are truly more complex than males, making them very difficult to read at times. Scientists also did a study and found that it is easier to tell if a male is annoyed than a female.
Girls’ upbringings are also a cause of emotional suppression. They are told to be ‘sugar, spice and everything nice’, and cannot display many emotions or they are labeled as crazy or psycho. Girls keep everything pent up, causing them to want to bring down others like them.
Finally, girls want to bring other girls down because of how much people verbally interact as a species. Girls come to know of most information through others, creating a massive game of telephone where no one hears the same thing. They most likely believe what they hear, causing misinformation to be spread. We talk so much you never know what is real news and what is not. Rumors are huge too, as it goes after a girl’s self-esteem and can sometimes lead to anxiety and depression.
To obtain a perspective of this issue, I interviewed twelve students, whose ages ranged from 14-18, along with three teachers. I asked the students how they felt this was still an issue and why we do it so much. Their responses were varied, but most attributed the patriarchal ideals that shaped this country centuries ago. Rose DiPaolo, a sophomore, felt very passionate about this issue. She felt as though her upbringing has to do with her stance on this issue. “I first encountered this in Pre-School. I remember standing there thinking, I am better than these girls because I love who I am.” This generation would call it “reverse Uno carding” in this situation.
They were also asked if they felt as though it is more common now than in past generations. Those who said yes, felt as though it was easier to spread because of a rise in social media. Those who disagreed said it is the same amount just spread in a different way. For those who disagreed, they felt as though the rise in social media, though has contributed to other things, did not contribute more to this issue. Those who agreed did think it was because of the risen popularity with social media.
Student Thoughts On the Modern Education System and This Issue
The final question the girls were asked was if schools were doing enough to help this issue. “I feel like though we ask teachers for help on the issue, they do their best. They say it will be okay and that is it. And you never want to tell a teacher because then you will be labeled a snitch, so either way nothing gets done” said one student who will remain anonymous. Though it doesn’t really apply to Garnet Valley, dress code is heavily enforced at other schools.
Some of the girls also said a few things about gym classes. They felt if they were un-athletic they were judged by other girls for not being good at sports. Some were fine with gym classes but found the girls hard to read so they thought they were making fun of her.
Most—if not all—of the girls interviewed said “the education focuses more on bullying and this is different from bullying. The school can do what they can but will never be able to stop it.”
Teachers’ Interviews & Reactions To Student Responses
Three teachers from Garnet Valley were interviewed. The teachers have asked to not be named; however, they are beloved educators by most if not all students who have been in their class. However, one name has been included. Since Mrs. Hopkins, the assistant principal, would have a slightly different stance because she has a more powerful role in school.
I read the responses from the students interviewed about the modern education system or teachers were helping them. I also asked what they would do if a student came to them with this issue. One teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous said, “We never want to say anything to make the situation worse. My advice for the student would depend on the situation. The one thing I would not say to a student is to be less sensitive and toughen up because in the moment after a bullying situation this is bad advice as the student is probably acutely upset. They at most did not want to make the situation worse for the student and help as best they knew how.”
Mrs. Hopkins was the second administrator interviewed and our conversation was very interesting. She felt like the students that it was societal—that it was so engraved in the high school scene. She was very surprised as she said it was not talked about. I asked her what she would do as a principal. She said that very few situations ever got all the way to her level. If it did reach her, each student would be talked to apart. If the issue continued a mediated conversation would proceed. The main aspect we need to keep in mind is respecting boundaries. “Yes I would act on a hunch but I have to respect the students.”
The last teacher asked said similar things DiPaolo along the lines of the patriarchy. “It is a hard issue to tackle. Unless you do not experience it yourself, you might not know how big the issue really is. In the past, one-way women could rise in status was through marriage, which started the competition. That pattern may still be lingering in society despite improvements in human rights and equality.” Their advice was similar to the other responses of it would depend on the student and situation. One interesting part of the response is they felt as though in today’s society likes or comments on a post and marriage in early history are representative of status just in different forms.
What Can We Do About This?
After hearing the reasons we do this and conducting interviews from Garnet Valley teachers and students, there are ways we can stop this destructive nature.
The first is to not let rumors spread. The most common form of girls attacking girls is spreading rumors or gossiping. They can be hard to trace back to the person who started it. If you ever hear a rumor about somebody else, do not tell others. Let it end with you. By not spreading it, you not only protect others but yourself as well.
Another is, most of the drama has a male in the mix. Going back to how we are biologically wired to this as the ratio of males to females on the planet is 1:3. We can stop this by not assuming every girl is trying to go after your boyfriend. Chances are they are not and there is something else going on in your life. We also need to stop competing for men but for things that will help in the long run such as a spot for an important such as a job opportunity.
Stop comparing yourself to others on social media. Body image not only contributes to other issues such as depression, eating disorders, etc, but many girls feel they are attacked for the way they look. Many photos on social media are either photoshopped or face-tuned. The bodies are unrealistic but teens do not know that and try to make themselves look like that. Everybody is different and are beautiful in their own way. Just because you do not have a skinny mini body, long hair, and perfect skin does not mean you are any less than them. Know your worth and do not let others define your worth.
Understanding that this is an issue is the first step towards putting an end to this form of humiliation. If you have ever been guilty of doing this to another girl, know that of all 12 females interviewed they all said yes. The goal of this generation and future generations should be to assemble together and put a stop to it, not blame. Remember that words and actions can hurt people and that there is nothing wrong with talking to a trusted adult about what is going on.
*This article was not meant to shame anybody or bring attention to anyone in particular. It was purely educational*