It's Time to Start a 'No Mean Girls' Coalition
I wasn't bullied, but there were certainly girls who were mean to me because I wasn't a cheerleader or on a sports team or wearing the best clothes, and, to be honest, I just never understood it. Why would someone want to purposefully ignore you, or laugh and point at you, or talk behind your back? Whatever. I grew up to kick ass anyway, but it would have been nice not to have felt hurt during those very tender and hormonal years.
Yesterday, my 5-year-old daughter encountered her first "mean girls" situation. She wanted to play with a few older girls who were out on the sidewalk in our neighborhood. She ran right up to them in her eager and jaunty way and asked to play. One of them in particular gave her a sideways icy look and said the group would be unavailable because they'd be going inside in a minute.
Madden, ever game, said she'd be perfectly willing to go inside, too. This led the haughty girl to make even more excuses about why my daughter shouldn't join in. The other two, thankfully, seemed to think it would be just fine to have little Maddie there for a while, so she stayed and I walked home.
A few minutes later, Madden came running in the house to get something one of the girls said she needed. Fine, no problem, happy to oblige. A few minutes after that she came running back into the house to get some other random thing for one of the girls. I didn't like the pattern that was developing.
"Are they playing with you?"
"Um, sort of. Well, not really."
"Why do they keep sending you running back and forth to our house to get things when they're standing right out in front of one of their houses and could get it themselves?"
"I don't know, Momma."
That was it for me. I knew this wasn't working out. I said the girls didn't really want to play with her in the first place, and now they were just sending her off on errands to get rid of her. I could feel my hackles going up, and I don't even know what hackles are. I started getting that sick mom-worry feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's not time for mean girls yet, is it? She's only 5!
It occurred to me as I stood there in the kitchen, preventing myself from inappropriately marching down the street to give the mean girls what for, that I had no idea how to handle such treatment when I was younger, and I have no idea what to do for my daughter now. Thus, I did the first thing people do when they don't know where to turn these days: I fretted publicly on Twitter.
It was amazing how many moms responded with their own worries for their daughters. It made me wonder, is it true that women and girls are catty? Is it really an inevitable part of our nature, a flaw of our gender, to gather up in cliques and be spiteful to each other, or does the female sex have an unfair reputation when it comes to this issue?
Sort of offhandedly, I tweeted "We should all start a No Mean Girls Coalition to teach our girls how to be kind to each other AND to stand up for themselves." That seemed to hit a nerve, because lots of mothers said they were ready and willing to join.
Someone pointed the Kind Campaign, of which I was unaware. Apparently, the young female filmmakers of a documentary called "Finding Kind" also have come to the conclusion that we need to be proactive in teaching our girls about relationships with each other.
Yes! We need a dialog. We need to come together in some purposeful and meaningful way to make sure our daughters are kind and compassionate to others, understand what being a good friend means, know how to recognize when someone is taking advantage of them and feel confident enough to walk away. So ... any ideas?
"It seems that society has concluded that girls are catty and mean to each other and that it's never going to change. People fail to realize that these experiences are detrimental to a female's growth, self-esteem and ability to form healthy and functional relationships. The cruelty that exists among females is a serious issue that needs immediate attention. The goal of the film is not to point the finger at the 'mean girl,' however, because we have all been on both sides of this issue. It's about collecting stories and perspectives from females all over the country and using these stories to spread awareness and start a dialog about the issue," says Lauren Parsekian, a Kind Campaign founder.