Last week I was irritated by an article in the Washington Post about mean girls and what happens to them when they grow up. Apparently, they change.
Amanda Judson, a senior at Union College in Upstate New York, wrote her senior honors thesis on the same subject, comparing freshmen with seniors. She reported that freshmen women observed significantly more incidents of bullying than seniors did.
"Indirect aggression was less acceptable to older women because it was no longer the norm," she wrote. "Seniors outgrow this behavior or at least have the ability to recognize it as juvenile."
While that may be true for some, I certainly don’t think it is true for everyone. Since leaving high school I’ve witnessed and been the on the receiving end of the mean girls phenomenon, in college and as an adult. The article put too much emphasis on how rare these situations likely are.
Two things struck me in the article: first, recent research referenced in the article made the point that it ends in high school – girls get to college and move on from such antics, or grow up; second, the media has hyped the issue and it really is not that bad.
Those mean girls from high school may not be the same mean girls in college or as adults, but some are. Some don’t grow out of it. Women are trained to compete with one another from early ages, and some never learn how be an adult without that kind of competition, and some don’t care that their behavior should change. Either way, their targets – no matter the age – are scarred for years to come. It doesn’t take much to alienate a 12- year -old girl, but the antics written about in such books as Odd Girl Out can have an effect on them through college. Ideally, as those girls who are bullied get older, they grow stronger and learn from the torture they went through. But not all learn from it, and not all grow stronger. Some go to desperate measures to fit in; some go to extreme measures to disappear from the world.
Yes, bullies and mean girls have been all over the news, in articles, books, movies – everywhere. But is it really hyped? Lifetime made a movie of the book Odd Girl Out. I had trouble reading the book – it brought back memories from my middle school days and dealing with my own bully. However, the movie looks at what happens when teens have access to the Internet, cell phones, etc. Modern technology allows mean girls to be even meaner. The situation has changed in a big way since I was in school, and can be much more effective and more hurtful. I do believe bullying, especially with girls happens more than most people think.
The lesson to take from the hype that is there happens to be an important one. Parents, both of the bully and the victim, do not always realize how serious the bullying is, and often ignore it. Don’t lessen the importance of this issue. Women and girls have faced it for generations and it is progressively getting worse. Take notice – and talk about it. Share your experience of bullying or being bullied with the next generation!