Since Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabe’s debuted a decade ago, society has slowly become aware of the mean girls phenomenon. In her book, Wiseman focuses on the ways in which girls use relational aggression and form cliques.
Relational aggression is a kind of social torment that often exists without parents and teachers even noticing. Girls use backbiting, ostracizing, rumor spreading, name-calling and manipulation to inflict serious psychological harm on their targets. The result often leaves girls bewildered and upset with no clear understanding of why they are being targeted.
And now social media has given mean girls an entirely new avenue to harm others. In addition to in-person bullying, mean girls also engage in cyberbullying. They attack others online using gossip, harassment or hurtful comments. Girls also are hurt when social media is used to post pictures of events and social activities that they were left out of or excluded from. In the past, this information may not have always been on their radar.
There are a number of reasons why girls engage in relational aggression including everything from climbing the social ladder to peer pressure. And yet adults often don’t view relational aggression as a big issue. In fact, most adults have very little sympathy for the girls who are targeted and often think being mean is just a normal part of girl behavior.
But research has shown the effects of bullying can be devastating and long lasting – even for mean girls. For instance, girls who are relationally aggressive are often vicious, controlling and manipulative. These traits can lead to long-term unhappiness and even depression. Moreover, mean girls are never satisfied with themselves or others, which also can lead to addictive behaviors and even eating disorders.
To spot mean girl behavior, you have to not only observe how a girl interacts with other girls but also observe how she feels about herself. Here are the top six warning signs that a girl is engaging in mean girl behavior.
She struggles with envy. Mean girls want what other girls have. Whether it is clothes, looks, boyfriends or even grades, mean girls are willing to go to any extreme to hurt the person that has what they want. For instance, a mean girl may spread rumors, boycott a girl’s parties, talk behind her back or even take steps to destroy her target's relationships and grades. Mean girls also struggle to acknowledge anything good about other people due to envy.
She is appearance-focused. Mean girls are often overly concerned with their hair, their clothes, their face, their make-up and their weight. Likewise, they pick at these things in others pointing out everything from acne and weight issues to clothing choices and hairstyles. Mean girls will even withhold friendship based on these issues. And when a mean girl talks, she will often talk about other girls in a mocking and demeaning way.
She is status-focused. Mean girls are often obsessed with what others think of them. They consider how everything looks to others including where they live and how they dress, to what car they drive and which guy they date. They also have a strong desire to be popular and at the top of the social ladder. As a result, they will do anything to get there including using other people. It is not uncommon for a mean girl to befriend someone based solely on where she lives and how she dresses. Additionally, means girls will bully others who threaten their status. For instance, if they perceive another girl as a threat to their status or popularity, they have no qualms about attacking her relationally in order to eliminate the threat.
She has friendship troubles. One surefire way to spot a mean girl is to look at how she relates to other girls. If she is regularly in little skirmishes with other girls or is surrounded by drama, there may be more to it than just normal conflict. Mean girls often are more like frenemies than friends backbiting and gossiping about the girls they claim are their friends.
She belongs to a clique. Oftentimes, mean girls have an exclusive group of friends that they do everything with. They may even dress alike at times. You will know a group is a clique by the fact that it is so hard to be accepted by the group. Additionally, there are usually unspoken rules to be part of the group like a person’s looks, hairstyle or clothing choices. Lastly, mean girls are not interested in making friends with new girls or hanging out with anyone who is not part of the group.
She has issues with control. Some mean girls are very controlling. In their relationships, they are clearly the ones in charge. As a result, other girls willingly follow their lead or risk being forced out of the group. Meanwhile, other mean girls are followers. They will do anything to remain part of the group including becoming bullies. To these girls, what others in the group think and say is a priority to them. Because these girls often fear losing their status in the group, they will often bully others to fit in or be accepted.