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April 1st, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Do 'mean girls' make 'mean women'?

(CNN) – The movie "Mean Girls" explored the cliques and conflicts that come with high school, but as we've seen in too many real-life cases – most recently in western Massachusetts – teen bullying can have tragic results. And it often involves girls hurting other girls.

Erika Holiday and Joan Rosenberg wrote the book "Mean Girls, Meaner Women." They joined us on Thursday's American Morning.

Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. dora

    The problem as I see it , is that people nowadays are always at one end of two poles: your with me or against me. you can not make a negative comment nowadays to someone you know because is construed as criticism and not just a show of emotion on something bad about you, it is taken to another level and not that all is bad about you, it just means that someone does not like something in particular and not all of you. people are not taught to love themselves, we need to do that more often, and also to know that we are loved by others even if were not perfect.

    April 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
  2. naveen

    I think its jealousy and insecurity. I also think parents are responsible to some degree. We have to teach our children the qualities they need to be...compassionate and kind. I remember when I was in school; these popular cheerleaders would be the most popular; and not necessarily because they were pretty; in fact sometimes I was puzzled what anyone saw in them; it was usually because there mother drove a mustang or they had an older brother. Then after high school they vanish into nothing. That is what bothers me about this tragic case. This girl lost her whole life due to these self-centered mean girls. I hope they receive punishment and so should the school staff. It is obvious that they couldn't tolerate a pretty irsh accented girl living in there school. This is sever abuse that should be controlled by the parents by teaching their children common decency and kindness. I was taught never to laugh or be mean to someone because they were poor, different; fat..whatever. It just wasn't tolerated. I am happy I was taught that. THis is so disgusting.

    April 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  3. Terry W. Brookman

    All sugar and spice, everything nice! LOL

    April 2, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  4. Mia

    Nicole, I completely agree with you – "You CAN compete with out being nasty about it."

    Any girl (or boy for that matter) can be both competitive and compassionate (enough to make friends). A lot depends on what is tolerated at home. If most of the parents get past the habit of defending their child (for mistakes made at school or in other social situations) at any cost, they would have done their part of raising responsible adults. Best way to handle these issues even at an early age is to make your child realize/accept his/her own mistake, apologize to the affected party and move on. I have seen this work very effectively with both my kids.

    April 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  5. JOHN

    It all started back in the caveman days.

    Men duked it out with fist.
    Women duked it out with brain and mouth.

    April 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  6. dave

    I don't think race has anything to do with it. From what i've seen lately is that women are more likely to fight than men, and usually over some guy who both of them should be running away from either. And this phenomenon is across racial lines, if anything its a class issue. Just seems like with women its either they are really good friends or cant stand each other. very little gray area

    April 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  7. annonymous

    I love and completely agree with Nicole

    April 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  8. Cami

    I agree with Nicole. I don't think being competitive is the same as being mean. Very competitive people can be class acts and still encourage those around them. There are lots of reasons people are mean but it is heartbreaking how a bully's selfish behavior is so very destructive.

    April 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
  9. Latinagirl

    @bobby; Its a girlsĀ“ thing, latinas, just like white girls or any girl for that matter, are mean too...I experienced it first had in High School. There where these girls who made my life impossible back then, they would critique my clothes, my not so lean body, etc.....they would even draw pictures of me where they would point all my flaws.....and those girls where latinas like me.

    April 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  10. Hunny bear

    @ bobby
    I have noticed that the problem perhaps seems more severe among white women. When I was in grade school I was surprised to see the overweight African-American girls had friends, when the white girls often didn't. Girls who were were poorer, skinnier, poorer students, etc, still had friends in the African American community, where white girls were shunned, and then by high school usually hung out in small groups of girls similar to themselves (poor students, overweight, lower SES, etc), but never, ever in the cliques. This was in the late 1970's and early 80s. I'd like to say things are different as adults, but I still see white women befriending those women who most look like themselves.

    April 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  11. Susan

    I will have to read the book.

    I know that not everybody is going to hit it off with everybody (e.g., "I don't particularly want to hang out with you.") That is reality, and kids have to grow up accepting that.

    Yes, it IS possible to dislike somebody and still have a courteous, civil, polite, though distant relationship.

    Bullies never learn that behavior. They somehow believe they have license to trample all over others.

    April 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  12. A. Cayne

    This is a parent issue!!! At the end of the day, the children have to go home to the parents. If a parent DOES NOT instill RESPECT, discipline, fear, love, empathy, and RESPECT into their children, the result is bad BEHAVIOR for which we look to blame everyone else for.

    April 2, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  13. Lynda

    I can tell you, junior high school was miserable for me. And its not just white girls, its all races and sexes.

    Yes, I knew of mean girls, bullying me. I finally got to stop one girl, just by confronting her saying – its over! Knock it off! Enough! And her brother, he was worse. He not only bullied all the new kids in school, but he would actually beat on them. He took their food – I would venture to guess he didn't get enough at home, but he was extremely overweight. I would also consider that there was abuse in the home, so they would take it out on the other kids in school. I know of one young girl who completed suicide, her head was messed up because her brother abused her. But I think I saw the girl who bullied me a few years back, when I visited my home town. She hasn't gotten any better and she looked to be out of control. Its all kids who feel the need to take over, be king of the hill, and bully the seemingly weaker kids. Why? Parents are not involved in their kids lives as much as they say they are. Parents are responsible for their behavior – teach them values and how to behave in real life.

    April 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  14. deadbrokediva

    You can blame third-wave feminism for this. Where feminism once was about equal pay and controlling our reproductive lives, it's devolved into telling women that we should have the right to be as mean and ruthless and narcissistic as men, when in reality, that goes against our nature as peacemakers. Look no further than the disease-ridden skanks who bask in the light of celebrity for doing nothing more than breaking up marriages and glorifying adultery. I'm calling for a FOUTH-wave of feminism that gets women back to being REAL women.

    April 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  15. Pat

    Yes, they usually grow up to become either CEO's or Republicans and in some instances – both! Since empathy and compassion are lacking, what else could they become?

    April 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  16. Violet

    Isaiah sums it up very, very well. It is encouraging to know that others see it the same way. Promising that people are acknowledging it exists and not accepting it.

    April 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  17. Jen

    There was just a story in Texas about a boy who committed suicide because he was being bullied by other boys. Boys can be mean too. In my high school there were both boy and girl bullies. There was an interesting study about bullying that came out this week. Boys are more likely to do it but both boys and girls look down on a girl when she bullies a boy but not when a boy bullies a girl. Yes, women can be very mean but from the time our girls are babies they're taught that their looks are practically everything and that they shouldn't express their anger to someone's face. That said, some people are just plain mean, both men and women.

    April 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
  18. woodie

    Mean girls are girls that haven't been taught correctly. Same goes for the guys. The solution to these problems is simple. Expell them from school and send them back to the parents and let them worry about it. Their behavior is destructive and we shouldn't be rewarding that.

    April 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  19. Karen

    I agree – JEALOUSY is the reason for most of the mean behaviour. I have been a target of jealousy for 5 years since I moved to titusville, Florida. Many women are so insecure, it's sad. I've been the target of lies, slander, gossip that doesn't even come close to the truth. They can't stand the sight of me. They get their feathers all ruffled as soon as they see me and slap the cuffs on any man they know lest he speak to me. They are so JEALOUS. Especially in Downtown Titusville, Florida.

    April 2, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  20. Nicole

    I have known many mean girls. And yes, some of them go off to be wildly successful people but most are just left behind. Mean doesn't give you any advantage. You can be nice; your patients will see your kindness in medical school; your clients will trust you more in law school; etc. Mean women lack the empathy needed in many of those competitive jobs. You CAN compete with out being nasty about it.

    April 2, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  21. peggy

    this is very true.....but i believe its applys both to women and men

    April 2, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  22. lc

    Booby, No, it is not just a white woman issue, you just hear about it more. Plenty of black and hispanic woman are mean, as all races have their bad apples. I do think that if the victims are white, they are less likely to talk back or stand up for themselves than their black or hispanic counterparts, because it seems to be more acceptable for woman to express anger in those cultures (Major stereotype, I know, but we're talking generalities), BUT, asian woman will respond more in line with whites, due to culture. I knew an asian woman who was going to quit her job because a guy made an inapproporiate remark to her, and she felt too much shame to keep working with him.

    I think this is more of a parenting issue than one of race – parents who tolerate "talking back" and "acting out", those who spoil their children and give them a sense of entitlement rahter than kindness and responsiblity, are the ones truely responsible for this unacceptable behavior. I also believe that the movement away from religion (all forms) contributes to this self-centerness on the part of the bullies. When you believe in something larger than yourself, it's harder to think of yourself as the queen of the universe.

    April 2, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  23. Susan

    "I've intentionally raised my children to be uber competetive"?????

    Wow. I've intentionally raised my children to have empathy, volunteer in the community, and help others.

    Bullying, meanness, cruelty, mocking – even of pets – is never tolerated in my house and my children learned from an early age that things like that are hurtful and not funny. I am not one to overly blame parents for kids' bad behavior, but this one I believe definitely begins at home.

    April 2, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  24. Steve


    I think the propensity of women to turn on each other has more to do with class/occupation than with race. I've worked in a professional office environment for 15 years, and I can tell you that women of all races can fight, scheme, and backstab as good as any man. And I've seen men of all races be very conciliatory, people-oriented, and concensus-building. It really comes down to personal attributes, what MLK termed "the content of [one's] character."

    It's funny to me that in this day and age of "all are created equal" that we still seek to indulge in some form of racial calculus. Whites aren't any better than minorities, but the flip side is that minorities aren't any more noble or any less self-serving than whites, given the same circumstances. To say anything else is not only racist, but flies in the face of everyday experience.

    I find this reassuring rather than threatening, because it proves to me that we're all the same once you get past the epidermis.

    April 2, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  25. Isaiah

    Girls and women are for more mean and vicious than guys are. Guys may get jealous of another or bully another, but they fight, get it out of their systems and then it's over. Girls/women keep it going, and going. Snide remarks and rumors and gossip, they will drag out their assault for years. I mean look at the "popularity" of those gossip rags and celebrity websites?

    April 2, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  26. kenda

    LMAO to bobby who said this is a white women issue. As a black woman I HAVE to tell you that this is a woman issue across the board REGARDLESS of a matter of fact, I would be inclined to say that black and hispanic women protect each other LESS than they would other women given the situation. This is something that truly does affect all women.

    April 2, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  27. Suzanne

    I agree 100% with Tony. There is a serious lack of accountability in our society.

    April 2, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  28. Linda

    If mean girls means meaner women what do you think their daughters will be like? Being mean, manipulating and spreading rumours is a learned behaviour, where do they learn it? There is more protection in a work place than there is at a school. We don't need more education we need more laws and these mean people need to be stopped. I think the word "mean" really diminishes what is going on, it's criminal behaviour and should be treated as such.

    April 2, 2010 at 2:07 am |
  29. bobby

    Is this a white woman issue? It seems that black and hispanic women support and protect each other more that white women. White women seem to judge, bully, and compete more. Has anyone else observed this?

    April 1, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  30. Tony

    "Meaness" toward another human or other type animal is a CHOICE. Period. Americans love to excuse bad behavior, give others chemicals to control percieved behavior, commit a crime, cheat on your spouse, beat your wife, indulge yourself in dangerous drugs...go to rehab, take your meds, everything will be fine. Short of serious diagnosed mental illness it's all a question of CHOICE. I CHOOSE to be a good human or I CHOOSE to be otherwise.

    April 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  31. futbol Czarina

    The premise of their book is correct. Many girls are taught that negative emotions are masculine, and that competition is not kind. I've intentionally raised my children (girls and boys) to be uber-competitive. It works well in the sports and academic arena, but makes it challenging to find friends for the girls. The competitive nature is perceived as not girly and hurts potential friends' feelings.
    Regarding the bullying: how can there be a zero tolerance policy? What one person considers bullying, another person considers expressing feelings. (ie "I'm mad that you did XYZ and don't want to hang out with you." I've seen this spiral into school detentions, parents phoning with complaints of hurt feelings.) Too much anti-bulling can be related to not sharing feelings and not allowing actual, deep, negative conversations to further relationships.

    April 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm |

    I am not sure about the true answer to the question but I knew a girl I went to school with and was in class most of my life with and to this day I can tell you her whole name verses anyone else. She was so mean to me and cause my life to be absolutely miserable. In the seventh grade I had to see a doctor who warned my mother that I was about to have a nervous breakdown. I begged my mother to let me go back to the seventh grade just so I could not be in the same grade with her. Now that girl was mean, too! That was in 1968.

    April 1, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  33. Valerie

    I could of wrote the book in one word:


    The end!

    April 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm |