Apr 16

“Mean Girls” Often Become Mean Women

Mean Girls, the 2004 comedy written by Tina Fey that’s now a new Broadway musical, was based on info from Rosalind Wiseman‘s 2002 nonfiction book Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence.

Part of the summary by Publishers Weekly: “Acting as a liaison between ‘Girl World’ and ‘Planet Parent,’ Wiseman helps parents understand their daughters’ friendships, the power of cliques and the roles of girls within them (including Queen Bee, Sidekick, Torn Bystander, Messenger and Target)…The second half concentrates on boys, sex and drugs as well as what to do if your daughter needs professional help.”

Several years later Cheryl Dellasega applied her focus to Mean Girls Grown Up: Adult Women Who Are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees, and Afraid-to-Bees. The following excerpt uses the term relational aggression (RA):

In adult women, it seems apparent that RA becomes much more deliberate as well as subtle…If a bully is the Queen Bee, her sidekick is often the Middle Bee, who isn’t directly aggressive, but who creates a context where women with a tendency to respond aggressively to threats will do so…

…(T)he Afraid-to-Bee adult woman demonstrates the victim role perfectly. Unlike an adolescent girl whose forming identity is vulnerable to the slings and arrows of a bully, the Afraid-to-Bee is more aware of her abilities and often knows that her tormenting Queen Bee is unreasonable but lacks the confidence to respond assertively. She is truly afraid to be her own person.

And Meredith Fuller‘s Working with Bitches: Identify the Eight Types of Office Mean Girls and Rise Above Workplace Nastiness (2012) further examined these issues. Mean women on the job:

  •  The Excluder (ignores you)
  •  The Insecure (obsessive fault finder)
  •  The Toxic (syrupy, slimy, 2 faced)
  •  The Narcissist (“I’m the Star, you’re the servant”)
  •  The Screamer (angry shouter)
  •  The Liar (gamey troublemaker, never to be trusted)
  •  The Incompetent (steals your work while making you do her job)
  •  The Not-A-Bitch (really competent & she’s got your number!)

Why so mean? Fuller explains the three main reasons (Psychology Today):

• Because they project their unwanted parts onto the other women (especially their fear, envy, jealousy, suspicion, resentment, rage, anxiety or lack of self esteem & confidence)

• Because they can get away with it…

• Because they don’t have the interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills to recognize or alter their behavior.

What to do if victimized? Dr. Ellen Hendriksen (Scientific American) offers tips:

  • Know it’s not your fault. 
  • Make immediate corrections. “If the bullying isn’t entrenched yet, call out the bad behavior when it happens…”
  • Don’t confront the bully. However, if the bullying is entrenched…don’t confront the bully…A confrontation just shows the bully that the crusade to get under your skin is working…”
  • Find strength in numbers. “…(T)urn to your colleagues, family, and friends to help validate your sense of reality and remind you that you don’t deserve this cruel treatment.”
  • If you take formal action, keep it about the bottom line. …Often the bosses know exactly what’s going on, but the bully has spent time cultivating that relationship (read: kissing up) so they’re ingratiated to authority. To bypass this, go two or three levels higher.”
  • Don’t accept mediation. “…[It’s] ineffective in cases of workplace bullying…(T)he bully has nothing to gain from mediation.” Alternatives include “a transfer of the bully, disciplinary action, or at the very least, an investigation with protection for you. If you get none of these, which is unfortunately probable, start planning your exit.” Or get your own transfer.
  • Stroking egos can buy you time. “…(U)se it judiciously…while you figure out how to leave.”
  • Don’t prolong your suffering; get out of there! Unfortunately, according to a 2007 survey commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 62% of employers did nothing about a bully in their ranks.”
  • Stand up for others.Once you’re free of your bully, use your experience to help others in the same predicament.”