When I was in the seventh grade, my dad took my two younger sisters and me to see Mean Girls. He had no idea what he was getting himself into, and you could tell he immediately regretted the fact that we were in that movie theatre. On the drive home, however, he made a point to discuss how the movie could leave us with a positive message. He encouraged us to embrace people regardless of our differences and to treat other girls with love and respect. He mentioned that high school is a vicious place for teen girls, and that his hope was that we would never strive to be popular, but that we would strive to be good friends, leaders, and women that defy stereotypes such as those in the film.
To this day, I still love Mean Girls. It's always good for a laugh or to remember that Tina Fey is incredible. This weekend I was reminded of how relevant the themes of the movie are-even in my twenties. While out to dinner, I overheard a group of women discussing other women. They were hateful, critical, and crass. First, they mocked the morning rituals of an acquaintance of theirs. "She's so pathetic. She spends an entire hour doing her hair and makeup." Who are we as women to judge others for anything, especially something as inconsequential as the time we spend applying makeup? Some women feel beautiful with a bit of tinted moisturizer, others need to fill in their eyebrows, bake their cheeks, contour their entire face, and line their lips. It is not our place, nor our right to hate on women for their preference in personal appearance. We should embrace that each of us is different. These women were rambling on about how she seems confident, but it's pathetic that she cares so much about looks. Maybe to them looks aren't important, and that is perfectly fine; it is also completely acceptable that their acquaintance take pride in her hairstyle and eyeshadow. There is no rule book that says you are more confident if you wear eyeliner or if you don't. There is no mandate that confident, empowered women don't spend time getting ready in the morning.
The table of women on whom I was eavesdropping continually compared themselves to others. They would start their sentences off by listing an accomplishment of their own, followed by putting another woman down. "I have an executive MBA and run an elite team; I can't be bothered with her emotional trauma. It's not my fault she's making bad decisions and wasting her life." I have many issues with this statement. First of all, putting someone else down to make yourself look better is pathetic. It is petty, weak, and immature. Secondly, as women, we are often under a microscope when it comes to our feelings. We cannot put down other women for expressing their emotions or for going through tough times. Also, education is great but having an MBA doesn't give you permission to talk badly about others. Especially if this person you are railing on is your friend. As women, we need to support one another. If your friend is suffering from "emotional trauma," it is 100% your job to be there, to be her support system in some capacity, even if it is only offering a kind word.
The night continued with them discussing an ex girlfriend. "She's such a bitch. I can't believe we were ever friends with her." I'll spare you the rest of colorful language, but suffice it to say that this ex friend of theirs was completely mutilated by every degrading slang word you can think of. I detest that we as women can call one another "bitch." Perhaps that is a persons sentiment at a certain time, but I think that that kind of phrasing is dangerous. We need to guard the hearts of other women, and labeling them in such a crude manner is not helpful. There are nasty people in this world, but we need to not discuss them in such hate filled manners because hate only breeds hate. We cannot allow ourselves to be catty girls who stoop to the level of name calling. The conversation continued with hateful, women-shaming tones but I eventually had to disengage. The negativity was overwhelming.
As women, we have a huge responsibility to empower one another. Our words and actions cannot have a place in a burn book. We must remember that making others look bad does not elevate our personal status in the world. This is not a mind blowing, revolutionary concept, but it seems that kindness to other women, especially women who may be different from you, can be hard to come by in the modern day. Mean Girls sheds light on the horror of teenage bullying and popularity, but the harshness of female competition doesn't end at 18. If anything, high school is merely the tip of the iceberg. As we compete for jobs, men, followers, compliments, and accolades, we only get craftier in our hatred and meanness. When discussing the movie years ago, my mom made a comment that mean girls at our school would watch the movie and not realize that they were the mean girl. They could watch the movie one hundred times and never identify with The Plastics. We want to be the nice girl. We want to be the girl with the good heart and the good intentions, but sometimes, when we allow ourselves to be self aware, we realize, I'm Regina George here. Don't be Regina George. Don't be those women at the restaurant next to me. We cannot allow ourselves to be those women. We cannot put down other women. We must build one another up.
Until next time,