Before the term “bullying” became popular, there were just plain old “mean girls.” Kind of like that movie with Lindsay Lohan and Tina Fey but not very funny if you were the one it was happening to. The thing about mean girls is that sometimes they don’t outgrow that meanness and become mean women. In fact, when their lives don’t turn out the way that they had hoped they would, they often become even meaner the older that they get. Their jealousy and insecurities grow larger to the point that they can’t even be happy for anyone else anymore or carry on a conversation without having to make fun of others.
We teach our kids basic rules about bullying. Don’t “take the bait from the hook.” That means don’t let them get to you. It’s easier said than done because not letting them get to you on the outside doesn’t mean that they won’t get to you on the inside. We also teach our kids not to just sit back and watch other kids get bullied. We tell them to stand up for their friends. As women, we need to follow this same advice.
Too often we just make excuses for these adult bullies. We don’t want to get into confrontations with them because that isn’t the “adult” thing to do. So we sit back and listen to them make snide comments about the teachers at the school, other parents (who are often our friends), and even some of the kids in the neighborhood. Mean women tend to have no limits as to who they will ridicule.
We tell ourselves that these women are insecure. In polite conversation, we make excuses for them and say that we feel sorry for them because we know that they must be miserable on the inside. But what we would really like to do is run over them in grocery parking lot. (Which of course we will not do, because we are not mean ourselves).
It’s one thing to be opinionated. Everyone should have opinions. It’s also perfectly acceptable to engage in a little friendly gossip or competition. It’s something else entirely to be utterly, incredibly mean-spirited to the point of constantly hurting other people’s feelings on purpose.
Facebook really empowers mean women. It gives them a huge platform to make their snotty comments. Others “stay out of it” so that they don’t get unfriended or pulled into the fray. Even more, it gives the mean women further ammunition to pick on you because they see so many of the details of your life.
I know this post won’t all of a sudden turn those mean women into Pollyanna’s. They won’t change. What I do hope this post will do is 1) reassure those women who deal with people like this on a daily basis that is happens to all of us–even as adults, and 2) encourage women to stand up to this type of bullying and make it clear that it isn’t acceptable.
The next time you hear one of these women running down one of your friends, tell them you don’t want to hear it. If you are in a group, don’t just quietly hope the subject will change. Change it yourself. Tell her afterward that if she is going to continue to talk like that, you don’t want to be around her. Even if you can’t change her, maybe she’ll learn that if she doesn’t shut up, she won’t be a part of the group anymore.