Girls are mean.
It makes me cringe because it’s not true.
A girl can be mean, but collectively, girls are not mean.
And the more we say girls are mean, the more these words stick to the walls, stick in our minds, and then inevitably, they cause a collective belief system.
These words can influence. Influence how girls feel about themselves and how girls are treated.
It’s not a fair statement. If you are like me, you know many fantastic girls and women.
Smart, funny, intelligent, strong, loving, kind, giving, powerful, girls and women.
Have they ever been mean? Probably – haven’t we all? This is a human issue, not a female issue.
Of course young girls have mean moments - I’ve been through it, I’ve experienced it.
I have three young girls and professionally I’ve worked with young girls, so I’ve heard it and I’ve witnessed it.
Girls sometimes demonstrate mean behavior, but too often it’s because they’ve been taught to limit their self expression. They’ve been taught to be selfless which limits their ability to express what they feel or need.
In their young lives they felt sadness, pain, and anger, but this sensitivity was considered negative and called “drama”. Sensitivity is a female gift (of course men have it, too, but in females it’s heightened), but in our society sensitivity is considered weak.
It can be a struggle for girls, and women, to share intense feelings in a society where females are expected to be “kind” and “polite” all the time.
Females have great difficulty speaking their mind and sharing their emotions without being shamed or ridiculed. This can lead to them swallowing their unspoken beliefs, anger, and pain.
Inevitably, this swallowed pain comes out as passive aggressive behavior, talking behind people’s backs, and even worse, feelings of self loathing, guilt, or depression.
Bullying is an extreme example. Bullies bully because they hurt and because they are insecure. They feel powerless; they feel uncomfortable in their own skin. They are in pain and they want to spread their pain around. This behavior is not OK, nor should it be tolerated, but it’s also very important to understand why it’s happening.
Young girls need more space and understanding to share their feelings – to say what they mean, to disagree, to be bold, to be authentically themselves, and to be accepted. Their sensitivity and intuitiveness needs to be recognized and celebrated rather than ridiculed.
If you tell your daughter that girls are mean, you are telling her that she is, too. This is such a disservice to her understanding of what it means to be female.
Females are truth tellers. They feel the truth in their body. They feel other people’s pain. They feel anger when they or others are mistreated. They feel love intensely, they laugh loudly, they share joy.
They give birth to children and they are creativity gifted. They are leaders, athletes, caregivers, influencers, mothers, nurturers, and protectors.
So why do we say that girls are mean? This only pits girls against each other, creating a distrust, a need to compete, and a desire to emotionally and physically harm (reality television gives us plenty of this).
What you believe is what you see, and what you imagine becomes your reality.
So let’s honor who we are and choose our words more carefully.
Let’s see our daughters as gifted sensitive beings with unlimited potential, and let’s talk about meanness as behavior rather than an overriding character trait.
Cathy is the CEO of Be U, Inc., co-host of Zen Parenting Radio, and the author of The Self-Aware Parent. She and her husband Todd have three girls, 11, 9, and 6. Click here to "like" their Facebook page.