It seems as if there’s been an almost brand-spanking new resurgence regarding the question of girls (women) and competition. Usually, there’s some homage paid to that movie (you know the one–where the girls are mean to each other), some discourse, and a wrap up conclusion that this type of destructive behavior in women can be linked to societal norms that prevent us from fully growing comfortable with self-expression, determination, and a willingness to compete in a healthful manner.
In my own Sunday morning musings, I thought I might take this just a step further. Forget the societal constructs (yes, this coming from a sociology major) for one moment, and let’s just reflect upon the possibility–yes, as remote as this may be–that there are simply people, regardless of gender, who are mean. There are no revelations. In this world, we are confronted with angry, insecure people, who regardless of gender will set out to make others miserable. Or at the very least, feel marginalized.
Now let’s take it back to social theory, in a sense. It is my firm belief that such behavior is ultimately born out of the very human need to belong. Whether it be nationalism, membership of an organization, or even parades that celebrate culture, for many it is not enough to establish identity by who we are. No, we must clearly state who we are not. For the “mean girls” (women, females, people, etc.) it’s more about saying, “I am good and acceptable because I don’t wear those clothing.” Or, “I’m OK because this particular group of people say I’m not like her” (him, them, etc.). Thus, the mean girl out of a painfully weak sense of security, must differentiate herself by drawing boundaries between who she “is,” and who she “is not.” If such is the case, no amount of discourse, workshops, professional development, or what have you will extinguish this most basic human desire.
Unless of course, we acknowledge the finite and temporary nature of everything. This brings me to some of my recent research of Buddhism. Very preliminary and basic at this point, but I was rather moved by the belief that most of our suffering originates from our need for things. How to reconcile this with a Western culture that essentially states everything we are and should hope to accomplish is just within our reach–as long as we keep pushing? Now I don’t quite have the answer, but I do have this to contribute:
Perhaps if we could all, on some level, come to realize that much of what seems incredibly important is actually temporary (fashion, “in friends,” the perfect home, job, partner, the list goes on…), only then can we move beyond the crisis of mean. Or, at the very least, not be affected by it. We are only here for a certain amount of time, and the next fifteen minutes of our lives are not guaranteed. In those final moments, will the shoes we wear or the cafeteria table we sit at really matter? Maybe for some, the answer is a resounding yes. But for those on the fence, well again, Sunday Zen musings…