Why are girls so nasty to each other? What happens between the ages of about 8 and 12 that they go from being best friends five minutes after meeting each other, to being manipulative and cruel the minute they meet each other? Is it a combination of what they see in the media and how they see the women in their lives interact?
I am loathe to admit it but I wonder at the behaviour of grown women sometimes, myself included, and think they we may be more to blame than we care to admit. I recently watched on Ms 9’s first day at a new school as a really gorgeous and beautifully dressed woman tried to strike up conversation with one of the other new school mums. The other mum, dressed in jeans and t-shirt like the rest of us, looked hard at this woman, offered a monosyllabic reply and turned away. I could see the first mum looking a bit hurt. Every afternoon since I’ve seen her at pick up standing a bit away from the other mums, which makes me feel sad.
In a small local boutique yesterday I was completely ignored by the owner and her staff. I went in to buy shoes, a little fetish of mine, and this shop has a great collection. In every other store I went to yesterday I was greeted in the friendly fashion I’m getting used to here in the mountains. Not this shop though. Both owner and her obnoxiously loud friend very pointedly looked me up and down and literally turned their backs on me. Given that I have quite a thing for shoes it was a very big mistake on the part of the owner. I searched on-line and found the shoes I was looking for and I won’t go back to that store. What was so offensive about me? I was wearing jeans and t-shirt and I am not a size 10.
On the television at the moment we are seeing tiny, skinny, over made up personal trainers tell terribly overweight and depressed single women (and men) that if they lose weight, they’ll find love. But not until they’ve been publicly humiliated and pitted against each other so that there can only be one winner. There was recently a magazine cover for one of those awful women’s magazines, depicting Elizabeth Hurley and Shane Warne’s ex-wife in their swimmers declaring “bikini wars”. Whether these two women are actually at war, only they can say for sure. It is my opinion that Shane Warne’s ex is almost certainly at peace now she doesn’t have to worry about her husband’s constantly wandering eye!
So I think we set girls up early to be nasty to each other and it starts around age 11 or 12. Ms 9 just started a new school and came home on the first day with 3 new friends. By the end of the week she’d been invited to a birthday party and had a whole new social circle. Ms 12 started high school and was immediately thrown into the cutthroat world of teenage girls where one wrong step can impact to the point that you are an outcast before you know what you did wrong. Throw text messaging and social media into the mix and you are in a minefield so dangerous you barely know where to walk for fear of a catastrophic explosion!
I don’t know why this happens and why, to some extent, it follows us into adulthood. One theory I have is that women are always set up to compete with each other. As a divorced woman I often find that my single status alone is considered something that will make me a predator, seeking out other women’s husbands so I can seduce them. This is absolutely not the case. In the media we are shown pictures of women heavily airbrushed and told this is what you should look like, the worst of these are the “six week post baby body” photos. We have television dating shows where hundreds of women are lined up and compete with each other to have a man they’ve never met choose them as their girlfriend/wife.
Is it any wonder that girls turn on each other? This is what they see. I am trying to teach my daughters to negotiate their way in the world without stomping on other people, especially other women. To do this, I am taking a good look at my own behaviour. I am, after all, the first female role model they had and it’s up to me to do my best to show them the way. Wish me luck because I am really going to need it!