Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Like a lot of men I find the idea of mean women to be completely contradictory. I mean women, almost by definition, are kind and nurturing, aren't they? Apparently not, in some cases.

Every girl I've talked to about it has horror stories of other girls who gave them grief in school. Sometimes the bullying is physical, sometimes it takes the form of a whispering campaign aimed at separating the victim from her friends.

A really evil girl will go even farther. She'll try to change her victim's perception of herself. If the aggressor succeeds, even when the target is grown up she'll be a wallflower with limited career possibilities and no self-esteem. It amazes me that evil girls will devote so much energy to damaging girls they hardly know.

I'm dying to know what happens to mean girls when they get to be say, 25 or 30. What percent of them mellow out?

If you have a daughter, and send her to school, then I offer you this picture (above) of the girl who'll greet her in the schoolyard every day. This photo gives me the creeps. It displays a combination of natural meanness stoked by teen aggression hormones. No wonder your daughter hates school.

Oddly enough, surly Goth girls usually aren't the biggest aggressors. Maybe my artist's bias is at work here, but I reason that if Goth girls have a sense of style, which is a form of art appreciation, that this implies a yearning for higher culture. Am I wrong?

Meanness in young girls is shocking and appalling, but in older women women it's sometimes tolerable, provided you don't have to come in frequent contact with it. Maybe that's because nature has already applied its penalty. Maybe because it's sort of funny. Women like this tend to establish little kingdoms where they rule over small, alcoholic husbands and rebellious teenagers.

But there's a serious side. Imagine what it must have been like a hundred years ago in third world countries like China. Older women were sometimes merciless slave drivers who had no pity for the poor girls who worked for them.

You see it in some men, but it's more unexpected and therefore more disconcerting in women...that restless energy, that hungry need to go for the jugular of people they scarcely know.

I love this picture (above). I've used it in two blog posts. When this kid grows up...man, just walk on the other side of the street and never, ever give her the wrong change!


Craig said...

The movie MEAN GIRLS by Tina Fey (she's also in it) really captures that mean girl culture. Also, THE LITTLE PRINCESS from the 90's also has a mean girl/mean woman plot that pays off come-uppence with devine retribution.

Hon said...

Evil girl? not that evil :)

Anonymous said...

Fun post. Interesting too because as a female who spent a great deal of adolescence experiencing how horrible girls can be, the depths of rottten-ness and the desire to psychologically destroy people that some women harbor is something I've known for a long time. I've never had the idea that women are naturally nurturing and caring. Sure, they are, but they can be vicious, unforgiving and relentlessly critical.

I chalk it up to lack of physical muscle. See, men have the ability to hurt physically...to fight, to dominate by means of force. Women do the same thing but verbally, and in my opinion, more effectively!
Also, men will duke it out and the tension is diffused. With women, the misery and drama is unending. Ever seen, over the years, how some husbands end up stooped over and silent, surrendered to the years of hen pecking? That's more effective than repeated punches in the stomach.


Niki said...

High school 11-12 grades was hellish

Anonymous said...

I love mean girls! I'm the kind of guy who's generally annoyed by excessively happy and optimistic people, but there's something about mean girls that I find really hot. They're rare where I live, though.

Mean Girls is the only teen movie I like... it's brutally realistic and consistently hilarious. The plot is based on Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar. The actress who played the leader of the mean girls in that movie based her performance on Alec Baldwin's performance in "Glengarry Glen Ross," and it remains one of the best performances I've ever seen in a comedy.

The uncut version is way better than the edited TV version, though. There's a lot of subtle phrasing in the dirty jokes that makes the movie ten times funnier.

"Boo, you whore."

Dobie said...

(Scary lurker coming out of nowhere to give her two cents)

Such a good post and a good topic! I think girls tend to be mean because they're always struggling for what little power they can get their hands on, and there's no sense of "community" among girls like you sometimes find among men, like a sense of "brotherhood." So no one wants to help each other out to reach their goals. Whether it's getting the top job or the hottest boyfriend, (ugh, high school...) girls don't like to see other girls succeed. They'd rather bring everyone else down around them to improve their chances of getting what they want.

Also I think the stereotype of females as always nurturing comes into play a lot too, maybe the mean girls we see really aren't that worse than the mean men out there, but since people aren't expecting it they worry about it more. Women aren't "by nature" anything, besides people who are prone to being mean and nice and everything in between! So I don't think nasty behavior should come as more or less shocking depending on the gender of the person.

I'm a girl and still in high school myself, and even though I've experienced relatively little outright bullying like in the "Mean Girls" sense i still see it manifest in all sorts of creepy ways. Even with my best friends, there still is this unspoken competition that never goes away. Girls are just so jealous of one another!
(Thanks for this post though, I'll be thinking about it for a while now...
You always make the most fascinating posts, I've been lurking and reading for years. I can't believe I'm only getting around to commenting on one right now!)

Anonymous said...

On girls: it's no more true that they have some "nurturing" biology that would make them inherently nicer to other girls than it's true that boys' "protective" qualities would make them more "naturally" protective of all other boys-or children or women.
Some girls have very strong maternal instincts, some don't(whether they become mothers or not or love their kids or not). Some simply are "nurturing" because they're nice people who feel caring towards other human beings, and because their families brought them up to care about people and be considerate. That goes for the male contingent too, of course.

In caveman terms the "nurture" thing comes into play in two situations, seems to me: nurturing one's own mate or one's own offspring (and sometimes not even there for many societal/nature/nurture reasons). NOT extending to all & sundry other women/kids/etc.

As far as your average "mean girls" go it can get really, horribly nasty. There are various reasons, many having to do with the insecurities of adolescence, plain old power trips, other things...but mainly I'd assume it's about nascent sexual competition.

It's been a conclusion in books I've read that girls are much better off in an all-girls environment for school-from grades 7-12 at least. Personally it certainly was true for me: in 7th grade the bullying was straight out of "Mean Girls" and it was utterly brutal. That was in a coed private school. In 9th grade I went to an all-girls school and there was NONE of that crap at all, zero. It was really all about the classes and pleasant socializing, which was a relief. Not like The Snake Pit.

There were btw loads of boys around but they were extra-curricular. There were also plenty of cliques-but no bullying. Even the "top" cliques were friendly enough. Sexual competition removed during school day=no evil competitive BS.

Finally, what's this mean:" Maybe that's because nature has already applied its penalty."? Older "mean girl" women are easier to take because-nature has applied its penalty? Meaning they've aged, or-? Never would have thought of the natural aging process as a "penalty" for mean girls. If so, it's a punishment equally applied to the very nicest, loveliest girls too. : P

What puts you in mind of all this?

Jennifer said...

Good post, Uncle Eddie.

What's sad is this "mean girl" behavior still exists among grown women! I've witnessed incidents that I thought would have ended after high school during my college years AND my work years.

I've seen the "mean girl" behavior with straight women and gay men, but I haven't seen this behavior with straight men and gay women.

I think that Cynthia has a point about the lack of muscle to cause this behavior. Typically the boy confronts the aggressor and they beat the hell out of each other.
The next day, everything's cool.
The girl, on the other hand, doesn't confront her aggressor, so the problems persist. The aggressor continues with her attack since she's not stopped. The mean girl almost never picks on someone that calls her out aggressively.

Peter Bernard said...

I have known a lot of women and a lot of girls and I can count on the fingers of one hand the ones that weren't really mean and backstabbing. Most of the women I've known would gladly cut off their own nose to spite ANYthing, just to keep in "spitefulness" practice. And you can never prepare for the sudden shift, when they go from lover to hater, since it's never for a logical reason and will often be as destructive to themselves as to you.

I'm saying all this as a feminist, of course.

Craig said...

I think that sometimes the meaness of peers can be what drives kids to the safety of cartoons. I certainly know more than a few "grown-ups" to whom kids show hosts and their cartoons were a respite from the real world of torturing bullies. As a side note, if you know the answer to "Say kids, what time is it?" you might enjoy looking here:

Emily said...

I hated high school.

lastangelman said...

You know how girls and women are supposedly attracted to bad boys? I've wondered to what extant does that work with guys - being attracted to bad or mean girls, girls who will treat them like week-old kitty litter or worse. Myself, I hate mean girls. Nothing but trouble.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Craig, Jorge: I saw Mean Girls but missed The Little Princess. I'll try to check it out.

Hon: Haw!

Cynthia: I have seen the kind of guys you describe on the street! (Sigh!)

Niki: I'm surprised your worst years in this regard were that late.

Dobie: Fascinating about the girl jealousy thing! Also, you have some great caricatures on your blog. Mind if I reprint a couple here?

Anon: No kidding? The all girls school was better? Actually I think boys are better off in an all boys school, at least til grade 11.

What put me in mind of this? The picture at the top of the post!

Jennifer: Fascinating!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Peter: Wow! You should write about experiences like that, good and bad, on your blog. I love to read about the real experience of people in the world, undiluted by ideology or pre-conception.

Emily: I sympathize.

Last: Ditto.

Kali Fontecchio said...

THey put tacks in your chair, gum in your hair, tell everyone you're a whore-

oh the HUMANITY! When will it stop?!!!!

Getting beat up by a girl is horrible too. Oh, aaa-gon-yyy!

Geneva said...

The girl that bullied me to all hell and back mellowed out seriously by the end of high school. We actually became friends. Friends in that sense where you always ensure that you never spend more than a certain amount of time around her at once, for fear she'll decide she hates you again and will lunge for your throat with no provocation.

Fun post!

John A said...

I remember as a kid, I found myself strangely attracted to the girl that played Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka nd the Chocolate Factory. Maybe it wa the red dress and cotton stockings. No way would I have ever found a girl like that in real life attractive, but as a fictional character, she was hot. This fettish for evil fictional women must persist in our culture, hence the evil femme fatale,"Panther Woman" types that appear in comics and movies since the 1930s.

A.M.Bush said...

haha funny

Anonymous said...

"Getting beat up by a girl is horrible too."

Tell me about it!

buzz said...

That is one M*E*A*N baby!

Jack G. said...

As for mean:

There's that mother who posed as a boy on MySpace to befriend a girl and then reject her. The poor girl couldn't take it and commited suicide. This mother is totally unrepentent about what she did.

Also, men will duke it out and the tension is diffused. With women, the misery and drama is unending. Ever seen, over the years, how some husbands end up stooped over and silent, surrendered to the years of hen pecking? That's more effective than repeated punches in the stomach.

That's very true.

I'm baffled though how anybody can be that way. Probably because it's not in my nature to do things like that. I'd feel guilty all the time.

I wonder what percentages of the female species would qualify as mean?

Lester Hunt said...

"Like a lot of men I find the idea of mean women to be completely contradictory."

Oh, Eddie, you are so, so lucky!

3awashi thani said...

i always thought it was an anmal thing, girls hate other girls expetialy when they might pose a competition against prospective mates :P

Jenny Lerew said...

"Oh, Eddie, you are so, so lucky!"

Take it with a barrel of Morton's salt, Lester. Eddie's not entirely as naive as he writes-only idealistic. Or wishful-thinking inclined.
; )

Peter Bernard said...

Oh, Uncle Eddie, I used to do just that back when I had strippers on my local tv show but they taught me to only mail my rants to a small circle of friends. I recently had a kids tv pitch ruined by a stripper! How she fit into my kids tv pitch, I'll never know. The girl on my show now is very sweet and nice though.

Someone asked about guys liking bad girls-- that used to be me. I used to think "Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill" was a playbook for romance but I learned my lesson.