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Mean girls: A common breed of bully

When I watch TV and read the news, I hear about countless tragic bully stories. The large majority of the ones I’ve come across recently are boys bullying boys because of sexuality, gender identity, or because they’re overweight. There is another big pool of bullying that happens that rarely gets touched upon aside from the one Hollywood movie that labeled this phenomenon Mean Girls.

I need to preface this by saying that not all girls bully one another nor is the following true of every group of girlfriends. However, we all likely went to school with at least one group of girls like this but it often goes under the radar.

Way back in 2004 Tiny Fey and crew made a comedy about a clique of girls that had a lot of in-fighting. Given the tone of the movie and the creators, many wrote it off as comedy. The dynamics portrayed among this group of fictional high school girls is highly common and far more destructive than the move lets on.

Girls bully one another in a much different way than boys bully one another. They coat low-blow insults in sugar, or wrap a cutting remark in a figurative bow. Essentially, they find subtle ways to erode one another’s self-esteem (a tactic that boy bullies tend to implement a little more blatantly). There is generally a hierarchy in those groups of girls and if that order is ever threatened, bullying becomes exacerbated. If this group of friends is the one a girl has had her whole life, she may grow up believing that this dynamic is how all groups of friends work, thus ingraining in her a tainted her idea of a healthy friendship.

This is not the kind of bullying that any legislation or increased vigilance on the part of the school can help solve. Stopping this kind of bullying starts at home. If you have a daughter (or other young female loved one) who has self-esteem issues, one possible cause just might be her circle of friends. Are they supportive of her? Do they equally reciprocate efforts of friendship she makes? Does she get super dolled up whenever her girlfriends come over, even if it’s just to watch a movie or do homework?

If this is the case, your first inclination might be to suggest she change groups of friends. While this is the ideal solution, it usually isn’t as easy as that. However, that can potentially do more harm than good. The best thing any parent or loved-one can do is to help the girl get involved in activities to build her self-esteem and to love her up at home. This will build up her self-esteem while facilitating an easy transition from a destructive group of friends to a healthy one.


Guest contributor, Alex Levine.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. As a teacher of young children, I have to say that I disagree with your statement that increased vigilance on the part of teachers and schools will not help bullying stop. There are some great projects out there including the Challenge Day program ( which helps students in high schools communicate more effectively with one another and opens up the possibility of creating positive communities among diverse groups of students. I believe that bullying stops when we as a society, including parents, teachers and other students can stop the cycle of bullying violence. I have seen girls as young as three say hurtful words to each other and I do not allow it in my classroom. Teachers can play a huge part in helping girls grow up to be self-confident and not bullies.

    Also in terms of press, the movie Mean Girls was based on a book called Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. As far as I remember, at least when the movie came out, there was a great deal of talk about the book and the movie. Perhaps the media has moved on since then, but I’ve seen a lot of attention payed to cyberbullying and recently Rebecca Black and Kiki Kannibal have brought attention to the kind of bullying girls (and guys really) can do to each other online.

    (also you might want to have someone proofread your posts. :D I caught “than the move lets on.” (I think you meant than the “movie” let’s on) and also “thus ingraining in her a tainted her idea of a healthy friendship.” with an extra her)


  2. Hi Jeni-
    I truly appreciate your commentary. While increased vigilance by teachers might help by showing that bullying isn’t tolerated at school, it might just displace the problem. To me, this is more of a band-aid for a much bigger problem. As a lifelong student of psychology and anthropology, I believe that bullying is symptomatic of deep personal and/or home life issues. If bullies can’t be bullies at school, they’ll do it somewhere else as long as their inner turbulence remains unresolved. Teachers already deal with so much, to deem them the bully police seems unfair. A couple of my family members and many of my friends are teachers, so I see the emotional toll it takes on them to deal with this stuff.

    As you yourself point out, we as a society need to address these problems. This is a very cyclical issue; as long as we have really unstable parents, we are going to have troubled kids (such as 3 year olds who say hurtful things to one another…heartbreaking). I believe we as a society need to make changes to increase the mental and emotional wellness of our country. I’ve had some amazing teachers so I completely agree that they play a huge part in the lives of their students, but is this really a fair burden to be putting on them when this is the responsibility of parents? Many selfless teachers (thankfully) take on the role of surrogate parents and help build the self esteem of kids who don’t get it at home, but that’s a lot of weight to carry on their shoulders on top of the responsibility of educating overcrowded classrooms of children. Our education system might improve if teachers were allowed to be exactly that: teachers. Not parents, not hall monitors, not police, and certainly not stand-in psychologists.

    Yes, “movie” should have been “move” and there was an extra “her,” both of which I should have caught that in proofreading. But, let’s is a contraction for “let us” so “lets” was correct in this context. I’ll be sure to give my writing a little more TLC next time. I’m usually all over typos so I actually really do appreciate that you pointed out these hiccups in syntax!

    Genuinely and respectfully,

  3. gwah! My typo correction had a typo. Sorry about that :D

    “Our education system might improve if teachers were allowed to be exactly that: teachers. Not parents, not hall monitors, not police, and certainly not stand-in psychologists.”

    That’s a really good point. Teachers of young children, as I am, also have to feed, change clothes and diapers and clean up messes, so I hear you loud and clear. And I know that even if I step in for the three to seven hours I might have with a kid every day, the fact is that they do go home and spend more time with their families then they do in the classroom. But that doesn’t mean I’ll throw up my hands in the air and let stuff like this go. I was bullied as a little girl and I simply won’t stand for it. Maybe if I can be an example for my students, they’ll be able to have a role model to look to when they have to stand up for themselves.


  1. […] publications, but on the Being Latino platform. Our writers have shared statistics, stories of mean girls, personal stories, and even when we as Latinos say hurtful words to and about our very own. We read […]

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