Monday, February 2, 2009

Mean Girls

The little clowncars did cheerleader training last week, where they spent a week learning cheers and then did a little cheer session with 120 other little girls at halftime of a basketball game.

And while they were cute (and they were very cute), you could see the beginnings of cliques and competition and an obsession with hair and clothes and social rank. Boys grow up learning how to compete, how to win and lose and move on regardless of the outcome. I don't think girls get that kind of training. Perhaps I'm being sexist. But my experience has been, when girls compete, they get mean. Some of them do, anyway. There were mean girls at the cheerleading training. And these girls are like 6 and 7 years old!

My youngest is strong-willed and independent enough to develop a healthy self-image on her own, I think. But my oldest is already trying to style her hair and clothes like the big girls every morning. I fear she will get sucked into the whole social status abyss.

And while they were cute (and they were very cute), watching them quite literally made my stomach hurt with anxiety.

It is so much easier growing up as a boy than it is as a girl.


Gordo said...

You're not being sexist at all.

I heard a piece on CBC a couple of years ago about a researcher who studied bullying. Boys are the typical type: beat you up for your lunch money, etc. But girls are the nasty ones: they beat you up psychologically. Wounds from head games cause more damage and take much longer to heal.

The kids learn their roles very early on in life, too.

Hilary said...

You reinforce my gratitude for having boys. Just wait till they start dating..

meno said...

You know, i think there are difficulties for both sexes.

But those mean girls will be left in the dust by the smart girls. Not that it won't hurt in the mean (!) time.

Eric Shonkwiler said...

My first reaction is: hide them! Lock your kids away. You can let them out in a few more years, and re-use the cage when they reach dating age--you know, 20.

I feel some part of your pain. I shudder at the thought of what my sister is exposed to, but she's already old enough and tough enough to deal with most of it. The girls are lucky they've got you. They're bound to come out okay.

Anonymous said...

Growing up as a girl and as a boy are two very different things. Girls are bitchy, manipulative, passive-aggressive. Not to say that boys aren't like that as well, but they tend to be much worse at it, and much likely to expend as much energy in such pursuits. I'm afraid to affirm what you already seem to know well; the years ahead are probably going to be tumultuous for Shay. You seem to have given both girls a great background, though, and all there really is to do is be there for her (and hope!)

All else I can suggest is finding the girls someone older to play with and spend time with, one who isn't concerned with all of those things. It might not seem like much, but my "big sister" growing up was always loving and helpful when I saw her, and though she was (and remains) more of a girly-girl than I am, she went through everything before me and was able to assure me that most of it didn't matter much in the long run.

I've always been worried about having girls, too. Boys are easier, but I think in my heart of hearts, I'd like a daughter.

paula said...

I grew up with two sisters. I wanted boys and was ashamed of that want. I have two boys and believe me, beyond the punching for no reason thing, they can be cliquey, passive aggressive and so on, but I do agree that the level of meanness with girls is rougher. I read this study once that really freaked me out- it had to do with "when they don't think they are being observed" and the markers for aggression among the girls in the study were much higher than the boys. This, here, is what I think of as anthrpolgical stuff- the reality of girls being unable to express their competition in "healthy" ways. Competition is normal- but if it is subverted, it can be ugly.

Have you thought of getting them tennis lessons? Ha!

But seriously, because of my life with my sisters, and my personality, I was the sort of girl who likes to shoot pool (and win), arm wrestle (ah, lose), and express my competetive nature in open, honest ways. This gives me comfort. What I cannot stand, (and don't have to deal with much, cause I mostly only associate with my female friends where we give each other support and compassion) is shadenfreude, passive aggressive stuff. I went to boarding school, and twice smacked girls in the face.( Not good- it was fine at my public school in Indiana, but boy, what an adjustment.) But man, they were being so nasty, and thought they could. I don't do nasty. I do nice, and if you are not nice, I might hit you. Not that this is good, but it is who I am. Outward, honest aggression appeals to me more than, "I like your purse (snicker snicker)" when they are actually mocking you.

Another thing to think about and is my reality with my boys, is, they are not "popular".They have a few friends. I say, that's all you need. A few friends. The whole popular thing is a bit of a soul sucker, boys or girls alike. But the girl thing is so much more loaded for me, as a once-girl.

Anyway, I may have made myself look bad here, but I'm not really so bad. I love women, women who love me back. I love men, boys too. I just don't like social ambition or unkindness.

My post "why I am a tennis fan discusses passive aggression in women, albeit in a silly manner. But it is from the heart.

Noel said...

Now it's scary when the mean girls become mean teens. I've grown up around girls having an older sister, her friends and my own best friend, her sister and their friends.

Girls in catfights get vicious. At least with guys, there's almost a code of fighting. With girls, it's claws, nails, teeth and hair.

And groin punches. Lots of groin punches.

Clowncar said...

Gordo, I think you're right. It's learned behavior, and it's learned early.

Ouch, Hilary. Why you gotta mention dating? Now I have a headache.

Your're right, meno, and i don't mean to imply that being a boy (or raising one) is easier. but hey do have fewer hoops to jump through. And es, hopefully, smarts will trump beauty and popularity in their lives.

Dating age is 30, Eric. Not 20. And I need to fight against my instincts to keep them in a bubble - after a point it's nhealthy, I know.

Gee, Bliss. "finding the girls someone older to play with and spend time with, one who isn't concerned with all of those things." Sounds like you. Will you come live in our attic? Please? We'll pay you in tamales....

Paula, I love your lines "I don't do nasty. I do nice, and if you are not nice, I might hit you." And I agree, the problem is not aggression, or competition, but subverted aggression and competition. Express it honestly, get it over with, move on. But girls are taught to be "nice" and so must express it in other ways. Yikes.

Oldone said...

Clowncar, you may consider giving your oldest some slack. She is smart and has great study habits. It may be that she will realize very early that being an egghead is preferable to being a "hottie"

Vulgar Wizard said...

And yet, my husband doesn't understand why I want a boy instead of a girl!