Why Girls Bully Other Girls

Being a female is an inherently competitive situation. And unfortunately, this competitiveness starts at a very young age. Early on girls get the message that they must be pretty, smart, and sweet. And they can't simply be pretty, smart, and sweet, they must be prettier, smarter, and sweeter than the next girl.

Beauty pageants, fashion magazines, and popular media all portray women as being incredibly beautiful and impossibly slim. These so-called “ideal” women set real girls and women up for failure. And fear of failing at being perfect is what fuels the competitiveness seen among girls at such tender ages. Girls often equate being perfect with being popular; and if perfection is what it takes, then so be it.

Simmons writes that popularity is, “a cutthroat contest into which girls pour boundless energy and anxiety. It is an addiction, a siren call, a prize for which some would pay any price. Popularity changes girls, causes a great many of them to lie and cheat and steal. They lie to be accepted, cheat their friends by using them, and steal people's secrets to resell at a higher social price.”

Girls compete for relationships, and the competition can be merciless. They rate each other on a scale that measures how many friends a girl has, how popular they are, how pretty they are, and how committed they are to each other. And because it's a competition, someone has to lose in order for someone to win. A bully will ensure that she's the winner by choosing the loser or losers.

Essential

Try not to let your own experience with girl bullies prejudice you from responding to your daughter's unique situation. Times change, and what worked or didn't work when you were young may not be helpful. And be careful not to internalize your daughter's experience; the focus should be on her, not you.

The popular bully girl will expect and require that the other girls in her group back her up in bullying a less popular girl. The bully threatens the other girls with exclusion; if they don't comply and carry out the bully's punishment, they risk the same (or worse) punishment.

Today, girls bully frequently and with increasing cruelty. And while the average girl bully tends to bully only other girls, she picks her target the same way a boy bully does. She will look for a girl with less power and personality, lower social status and grades, or who is less attractive.

Similar to boy bullying, girl bullying seems to be a display of strength versus weakness. The female bully or queen bee retains her top of the social ladder status by undermining other girls and creating fear in her social circle so they acquiesce to her wishes. It's a rather warped, yet disturbingly effective, survival of the fittest of the young female social jungle.

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