The New Political “Mean Girls”

I feel bad for the conservative/Tea Party political women who haven’t gotten past the kind of high school behavior most of us hated.  It takes soooo much energy to keep that whole “mean girl” shtick going while trying to work and raise a family in the real world.

Even though middle school and high school are a couple of decades back in my rear view mirror, I still remember the taunting and teasing I took at the hands of my school’s mean girls. But as I made my way to graduation, I figured there would come a day when, as grown-ups, we’d move past that.

When it comes to today’s political world,  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Mean girls are still out there and loaded for bear (though not their beloved mama grizzlies).

According to a vocal few, conservative women are “hot” and progressive feminists are ugly “freaks of nature.” Liberal women are “fat and nasty.”  And, apparently, we’re a LOT stupider than Tea Party women, who believe  they’re the keepers of common sense.  Progressive women are “trust fund socialists” and liberal feminism only involves a bunch of  irrelevant older women.

WHEW! I need to put on some Kevlar for those kind of attacks!

Some “smart girls” want people to think they’re the only women who know anything about politics and that the rest of us should just be ignored.  For some reason, the most vocal of the bunch are apparently afraid of  a little actual political conversation.  Which is too bad, because  I know plenty of women who don’t always agree with me on politics but they’re never catty, rude or mocking in the way that a vocal handful of conservative standard bearers have become.  I don’t know who created The Real Housewives of 2010 Politics, but it’s getting old — I guess just like us!

A Newsweek article a few months ago by Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes (which was the basis for the movie Mean Girls), as well as Mean Girls Grown Up: Surviving Catty and Conniving Women, commented on the left-over mean girl tactics that growing numbers of women are resorting to:

“In our culture … we get rewarded for mean-girl behavior, so we see adults behaving in ways that we typically assign to teens … Getting attention is the most important thing.”

The funny thing about mean girl behavior, though, is this — it turns out that if you’re talking about what nature expects, the mean girl mantle is something we’re supposed to outgrow by our mid-twenties.  The current group of political mean girls seems to be enjoying the attention they’re getting from their heckling and I don’t see any sign of it slowing down, even as they march toward their idea of what an “older woman” is.   If the media would stop giving these mean girls the attention they crave, I bet we could actually have some multi-partisan female discussions!

I just want to give these gal flame-throwers a little head’s up on one thing — we live in a flavor-of-the-day world, so the attention they’re loving now will surely be gone as quickly as it came.  So if they want to make a difference for whatever they believe, some other tactics might be in order.  But the women who stand out as the worst mean girls in the bunch aren’t about real change.  They’re more concerned with the bright spotlight of celebrity.

One other thing.  The new crop of “smart girls” needs to be careful about tossing around phrases about irrelevant “older women.”  It won’t be that long before they cross over into the world of oldsters, and generations of their daughters and granddaughters will be more than happy to remind them of that.  Unless, of course, they’ve got pictures hiding in their attics.  But we all know what happened to Dorian Gray in the end.

As for mean girls, things don’t usually end well for them, either.

UPDATE: It turns out I’m not the only one ruminating on the whole political mean girl phenomenon.  My fellow mom pundit Jill Miller Zimon has a few things to say at her place, Writes Like She Talks!

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11 Responses to “The New Political “Mean Girls””

  1. Jill Miller Zimon Says:

    One of your best, Joanne – one of your best. Thank you for taking the time and care to write it. Incredibly well-said. You know, for a politically irrelevant older liberal feminist woman.

  2. Corey Feldman Says:

    I think this ties back to your Obama/Sidwell post. We claim to want our children to learn, yet we fail to provide a safe environment for that to happen. The story you linked to about Phoebe Prince makes me sick and to want to home school my kids. I don’t think Bullying ends in your twenties. It often changes and becomes more subtle. Sadly I doubt it will end unless we can somehow teach a generation or two, how to treat everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender… with respect.

  3. annie Says:

    Bullying never ends. The idea that we reach some point in adulthood where we stop encountering people who still use schoolyard tactics, or that we outgrow our reactions to them, is wishful thinking.

    One of the first principal’s I worked for was a bully. It nearly cost me my job but for the intervention of my district supervisor. Mean girls become mean women.

  4. Cindy Samuels Says:

    This is a great piece. It’s just sad.

    When we are left alone, most women can have civil conversations and respect one another’s issues. We all know what we have in common and are proud of it. But the cynicism of these “mean girls” CAUSING the problems not just manifesting them; building the walls — well let’s hope your “flavor” prophecy emerges soon. Macarena? What?

  5. Gloria Pan Says:

    What is alarming is that the Smart Girl Summit is part of the institutionalization of this behavior and messaging – here’s an infrastructure in place to support and encourage a vision for women to get them to work against their own best interests. Individually, mean girls never prosper, but here’s a machine for creating a never-ending supply of new mean girls who ultimately hold us all down. Do we need our own summit to criticize the conservative vision of women and women’s lives, where we can use strong words to make sure the public knows the empress has no clothes.

  6. PunditMom Says:

    Gloria, you make an excellent point about the institutionalization of this behavior. One has to wonder how those who act this way would discipline their children if a note came home from school saying their kids had done the same thing? Do we really want kids to see adults calling others names and belittling them for having different beliefs? And is the only way to battle this institutionalization to play that same game? I sure hope not.

  7. jodifur Says:

    I think this behavior will continue as long as it is rewarded. In the media, with “face time,” etc.

    Great post.

  8. Elizabeth Says:

    Now that you’ve said this so well, the next step = we move on to focusing on policy and on what needs doing, not on the meanies? To what degree is the changing-the-focus ball in our court?

    Re institutionalization – there’s always the annual Young Feminist Leadership Conference – put on by the Feminist Majority Foundation. Hasn’t gotten the same kind of media play as Smart Girls just did, but it’s definitely there and has been for a while, empowering many.

  9. PunditMom Says:

    I actually wonder whether it will ever change, given the comments I was just seeing on Facebook, touting the new movie about conservative/Tea party women and how it’s great because those women are so much more attractive than liberals.

    Sheesh.

  10. Elizabeth Says:

    Well that gives us a way to connect with all the rest of the population, who aren’t so shiny and attractive either! ;)

  11. Jessica Gottlieb Says:

    You have always been my favorite socialist.

    Well… besides my mother.


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