Opinion Writing: Mean girls use subtle, cruel tactics to isolate

Published: 26 September 2010

The word slipped out of her mouth like venom. I could smell its pungency and feel the sting. My day was ruined.

“Ew.”

That’s what one of my three former best friends said as they walked by me, mumbling the insult under her breath. There is something about the word “ew” that makes you feel so unworthy and disgusting. As if you are a nasty flea that won’t go away. No not even just a nasty flea, a nasty flea on the rear of an old ratty mutt that has been thrown out on the street in the rain. Yes, that’s how I felt my entire sophomore year, like a useless mutt.

After accidentally spilling the beans about a surprise party, I was treated like I had committed a horrendous crime. I was called every offensive word in the book. From my body to my family, they attacked every angle, skewing reality. They ganged up and taunted me to my breaking point for more than a year.

This mean-girl morality is nothing new. But it needs to be put to rest.

My sophomore year of high school centered on manipulation, lies and betrayal. It was straight out of the movie Mean Girls. It was as if Regina George, Gretchen Weiners and Karen Smith were in my midst, sitting in the cafeteria and lingering behind me in the hallways, waiting for me to mess up.

High school girls tend to use passive-aggressive behavior in order to get ahead and climb the social ladder. It’s no wonder experts say an estimated 160,000 kids miss school every day out of fear of intimidation by other students.

Unlike boys, who tend to bond through sports and activities, women look for friends they can confide in and share their innermost thoughts and concerns with. This can be the ultimate weapon female bullies use. The easiest way for girls to hurt each other is through what experts call “relational aggression.”

According to Rachel Simmons, the author of The New York Times bestseller Odd Girl Out, “the female bully doesn’t use her fists; instead, she denies other women a social connection by mocking or shunning them.” Destroying people’s relationships and connections with each other fuel a mean girl’s main line of attack.

Teenage girls flock together and have power in numbers. This is what makes it so easy for them to deny other girls the right to popularity and friendships. They have the ability to group together and attack people when they are most vulnerable.

According to Irene Levine, a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, girls may “exclude, gossip or do other things to demean one individual. Making someone feel alone, rejected and treating her as an outcast can be as vicious as physical assault.”

Technology makes it easier for mean girls to seep into the lives of unexpected victims. By sending a rude text or vicious Facebook post, a bully can get away with using words they would never have the guts to use in person.

Many girls act this way simply for fun or because they are bored. This seems like a shallow reason to treat another human being so badly, considering the fact that some effects of female bullying include suicide, depression, substance abuse and personality disorders. It seems like pretty high stakes just for grins among high school girlfriends.

All I can say is choose your battles wisely. I had to learn that, at the end of the day, those mean girls weren’t telling me who I was – they were showing me who they were.

Kara Adkins is a junior at Coppell High School and a Student Voices volunteer columnist.

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