It’s very fitting that I’m writing this post on national Mean Girls Day. Why? Because it’s about some catty wenches. At least that’s what popular media makes friendships amongst women out to be. The title of Mean Girls couldn’t be more accurate. Each one of the girls in the movie takes no consideration for their friends’ feelings, but instead thinks of ways to outshine the others or achieve the most male attention. While these girls may band together to take down other women, they also show passive aggressive tendencies to each other and when threatened turn against them. While this movie may be a comedy (an excellent one at that), it reveals a strong theme in American culture: the constant competitiveness amongst female friends. This competition is centered around achieving male attention according to Heldman and Wade. It’s a commonly promoted image that women are only as valuable as men deem them, so in this hierarchy, the most powerful women are the ones that successfully capture men’s attention on a consistent basis. The woman doesn’t even have to be having a relationship with a man, she just has to inspire sexual attraction in several men.
How this competition has played out in the internet age lies within social networks, primarily Facebook. For all intensive purposes, Facebook is a stage where people present an idealized version of themselves. Just think of how many people untag themselves from unflattering photos or meticulously edit their “about me” section. It’s a place where peacocks go to display their feathers, and let people know what they’re all about, or at least what they want people to think they’re all about. I admit there are many people who do not necessarily use Facebook for this purpose, but I think it’s a large enough trend, especially amongst the younger demographic, to focus on and discuss.
It’s on this stage that women put forth pictures of themselves “all dolled up” as my mumsy would say, but “all slutted up” is a bit more current. Tiny mini skirts, heels, a pound of make up, and a perfect pose: this is the image they put forth. Or if they’re unsatisfied with their bodies, a close up shot of their “come hither” look. These photos are usually intended to attract male attention, but more importantly they’re intended to make female friends on the interwebs jealous. These images are supposed to say, “I’m the hottest bitch out there, and all of the men that will be after me will confirm my status as a beautiful, valuable woman.” It’s usually not that blatant, but it colors many of the photos uploaded onto Facebook.
Outdoing another woman is often seen as the best way to make yourself feel better. “Don’t be sad! You’re so much prettier than her,” is often used as a comforting statement when a boy a girl is interested in likes someone else. What’s interesting is that the boy who is responsible for the girl’s heartbreak is not mentioned. The girl that he prefers is instead highlighted even though she’s an unknowing third party. This defaming of the other girl further stresses the female friendship. The competition for the man’s hand polarizes the two girls who believe that only his interest is their validation. When holding one person’s opinion with such a high regard, it usually makes others substantially less significant. The other girl pales in comparison to the one who holds your value in their hands. Women’s superfluous adoration of the male opinion cheapens the image of all females. The other girl is already of less interest because of this.
Add in that she’s your direct competition for that so-called value and a nemesis is created. Without the emphasis on male superiority in determining worth, movies like Mean Girls wouldn’t be scarily true. I’m not knocking Mean Girls, it’s an excellent laugh, but it points out a not so laughable reality that women in the U.S. are catty and turn their backs on their sistas because they believe they have no worth until a man wants a piece.