No time for the bitchiness backlash

In this 1980’s teen classic, mean girls play for high stakes --and one of them pays ultimate price. Recently a gorgeous young friend asked me if there was a beauty backlash going on. She had been subjected to nasty, unsolicited comments about her hair and weight by other women. I wasn’t surprised. Nasty comments couched in seemingly helpful or self-righteous tones are common ways some women try to cut others down to size and establish dominance. When I was younger it used to happen to me – and surprisingly it still does.
 
No matter how often it happens, it always takes me by surprise.
 
I have always had a lovely group of friends growing up. We never behaved that way. We dressed for Friday nights with none of the nasty competitiveness you read about. I encountered a mean girl or two, but they were easy to avoid and ignore.
 
Bullies want attention and status
I was lucky, and now I understand why. My group was popular, cohesive, and non-confrontational. The wannabe mean girls knew this and had to restrain their behavior. They couldn’t really be that mean or they would have become pariahs — and they knew it.
 
A recent study by the University of California Davis says a teen’s popularity dictates  how much bullying they will do. The research says the most popular kids don’t need to bully or torment others; they already have social status.
 
In a similar study done in the Netherlands and quoted on WebMD, researcher Rene Veenstra said"bullies aren’t looking to be loved, but they are looking to be noticed.”
The Dutch study included almost 500 grade-school children between the ages of nine and 12. It stated that “children who bullied were often motivated by a desire to increase their popularity, and that they chose generally unpopular victims to avoid losing social status. Boys who bullied tended to seek the approval of other boys; girls who bullied sought the approval of other girls.”
 
Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence contends that cute girls are mean because they can be.
 
My mean girl tried and failed
I am not sure if there is universal motivation, but I do agree most bullies are looking for attention at some else’s expense.
 
Mean girls use social sabotage
Most of us have encountered a mean girl. A girl in our group in high school was a mean girl to me. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care what her problem with me was. I was never anything but nice to her, but she was as mean as she could be to me — without getting caught out by our other friends. She still goes out of her way to be unpleasant whenever I see her, even after all these years.
 
She once tried to cause trouble for me by repeating something I told her in confidence. At the time I confided in her, I was unaware of her venom. I was a little shaken that a teacher had attempted to touch me inappropriately. It was a minor incident as these things go, but unsettling nevertheless. I swiftly exited the room and resolved never to be near that person again. That was the end of it, or so I thought. She was the first person I ran into as I left the room, and I confided in her after swearing her to secrecy. I also had told her that nothing had happened. I had fled unharmed and annoyed. I warned her to avoid the guy.
 
This mean girl promptly reported that I was “spreading rumors.” Luckily for me, she blabbed to someone in authority who knew us both well. When this person asked me what had happened. I told him exactly what had happened and I wanted the matter dropped with no drama. And so that was the end of it.
 
I have never spoken of it since — until now. She simply wanted to cause trouble for me. Mud sticks, even if nothing had happened — as she well knew. I did not want that type of gossip attached to me. Thanks to an intelligent administrator, she failed to drag me though the mud, but I know that was her intention.
 
They are social snipers
Women like her are snipers; they lie low and take shots from the cover of friendship or innocence. They mask their intentions. They define the words catty and bitchy.
 
Studies show women are reflexively competitive with other women
My friend who feels judged by other women is not imagining it. In a recent widely-reported study, women admitted to passing judgment on other women within 20 seconds of meeting them. Women look at how fat another woman is, whether she wears too much makeup, and whether she had her roots done. The study included responses from 200 women aged from 18 to 45. So if you think mean girls grow up to be nice, think again darlings, many of them stay mean.
 
My friend is 25 and she was harassed by women her own age. One of her so-called friends told her that she should not try to be the same weight that she was at 20. Please! She is only 25. She is working toward her fitness goal through exercise and healthful eating.
 
On another occasion, a woman whom she had just met at a party felt compelled to
comment that “colouring hair is not natural or good." She directed this to my friend who had been receiving compliments on her pretty blond highlights. This might sound minor, but she attacked my friend in a conversation at a party, and it felt hostile. She didn’t want to defend her grooming choices, or even discuss them at social event.
 
My advice was to avoid women like this. Who needs the bad attitude? I reminded her that the women at our fitness club (we worked out together in Toronto) were lovely and supportive. So are the beautiful and talented young women she grew up with – so why put up with nastiness.
 
The best way to deal with this bitchy backlash is to learn to shut it out and not let it get to you. Surround yourself with women who share and support your values. The last thing a woman needs as she struggles to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle is a negative friend. I am sure a lot of my own confidence comes from growing up surrounded by beautiful and supportive women who were quick to reject catty behaviour.
 
Often mean girls grow up to be mean women
Sadly many mean girls don’t outgrow being mean. Recently, on a popular reality show I saw a group of women attacking another woman. They were criticizing her for working hard to stay young and fit. The woman they were discussing looks fabulous. The venom the other women directed at her was astounding. I was amazed when they brought up her age and questioned whether she was menopausal. The woman leading the attack is only five years younger than the object of her scorn — and has had all of the same cosmetic procedures. It’s not unusual, I know few women who have not had to deal with the occasional mean girl.
 
Cultivate friends who reject the cookie-cutter coven mentality
I adore my women friends. We all have our own style. We are far from the
cookie-cutter coven some women seem to want to belong to. Even at my age I am still surprised when an attack comes from some random woman who takes a shot at me about my looks or life style. Now, it doesn’t get to me. I just have no time for the bitchiness backlash.
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