I find it hard to name a “chick flick”, romantic comedy, or general film/TV show featuring girls that does not have its token mean girl – usually in the form of a bitchy blonde cheerleader. There are other forms, of course: the evil stepmother, evil stepsister, mother-in-law, frenemy, witch, or just a spoiled brat. This character is so persistent that it has become a tired stereotype – one of the many over-used stereotypes in Hollywood.
And then there is reality TV: Real Housewives, America’s Next Top Model, Jersey Shore, etc. that thrives off of the drama of female-female rivalry. However, this stereotype transcends Hollywood, as well.
“If women ruled the world, there would be no war, but a bunch of jealous countries not talking to each other.:
“Do not try to understand women; women understand women, and they hate each other.”
There are a million and one things wrong with both of the quotes above, the most obvious being that they ooze of misogynistic asscrackery, generalizing women as a dysfunctional group who cannot even support their own kind. The men – male producers or douchebags in general – that get to call the shots in cultural stereotypes and tropes have no problem making women seem like they are divided amongst themselves, and will not discover any sort of community until they are in a stable, co-dependent relationship with a man. Notice that in these films and shows, the female-female wars are motivated by two things: vanity, and/or rivalry over some guy. (Let’s disregard lesbians for now..)
I understand that women at various points in their lives feel at competition with other women, especially if they are vying for the affections of a romantic interest. However, doesn’t this dynamic also apply to men? Everyone is under pressure to be the best in everything: looks, achievements, career, success, romance, intelligence, wealth, status, respect, having an awesome body, and the list goes on. We are all under pressure! Why make women seem like the only crazy ones for feeling it?
It is very flawed to drive home the point that only girls can be mean, and not guys. My high school bully was male. He made inappropriate comments about my “flat chest” (talk about creepy!) and made fun of my (admittedly) frizzy hair. Many of my male classmates threw around words like “slut, bitch, cunt, whore” to put down girls they didn’t like.
The possibility of mean boyfriends is also largely overlooked by popular media. A guy’s meanness is mistaken for love: If a guy is mean to you, it means he likes you! Or at worst, he’s a jerk. I once dated an emotionally abusive guy who would constantly give me backhanded compliments and make me feel insecure about my appearance (“Be careful how much of that you eat…you don’t want to lose your figure.”, “You’re inner fat whale might become an outer fat whale…” <<<Yes, that actually came out of his mouth! And more gems.) Yes, he was my boyfriend and not my sorority sister. (Not that I had a sorority sister, as I wasn’t part of a sorority.)
And let’s not forget that guy-on-guy hate is a thing, too. In my middle and high school experiences, boys were just as vicious when it came to gossiping and verbal bullying. I overheard many of them put down their peers behind their back (“he’s butt ugly”, “he’s gay” <- a choice insult at the time, “he’s a sissy”, etc.) The guys wanted to prove themselves, and sometimes turned to insults to achieve status.
In my personal experience, it is usually girls who have been supportive to me. I’m still best friends with my best friends from high school (making that 8 years.) I met even more great gal friends in college. My boyfriends came and went but these girls have stood by me through the most difficult times. I have a total of five close female friends who provide me with unconditional support, and I always try my best to return this support.
Even outside of the close-knit circle, I find random acts of kindness among females. Girls lend one another tampons and pads. Girls look out for each other in bars and nightclubs, even when they don’t know each other. (Where I’m from, it is actually common to ask a girl “Are you okay?” when she appears isolated or so drunk that she seems out of control.) My friend once called a cab for two girls who were drunk and couldn’t find their way back home.
The persistence of the mean backstabbing frenemies who call each other bitches, sluts, and whores in Hollywood films subtly normalizes this same verbal abuse in real life. In other words:
So dear Hollywood, we are aware that you do not think highly of us, but please stop calling us bitches, sluts, and whores through your characters’ mouths. We do not appreciate it. Sincerely, women who like being friends.