Out of Town

We moved 1000 miles away from our friends and family and just had a new baby....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mean Girls and Parents

About 2 years ago, I read the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls. That book, Queen Bees and Wannabees offers amazing insights on the ways that girls relate to each other, to boys, and to their parents. I think it should be required reading for all parents of girls, teachers, and principals. Even very young girls can be so mean to each other. They start the cliquiness young and can be very cruel. Whether it is not inviting another girl to their birthday party, ignoring a girl in the halls, or not letting someone sit with them at lunch, all these things can have a massive affect on a girl's self-esteem.

Even more importantly, I hope that frum people don't think that it doesn't happen in our communities. It most certainly does, and in some ways, can feel worse. As the author, Rosiland Weisman, points out, it can feel even more of a betrayal when someone religious is doing the excluding.

I have worked in a frum girl's high school, and I have seen how cliquy they can be. There is immense snobbery about clothes, parents, money...all the same things that non-Jewish or non-religious girls can be so mean about. This ties into another serious problem among frum girls: eating disorders. We are seriously deluding ourselves if we think that frum girls don't have these problems. In both the Modern Orthodox and Yeshivish communities, there is enormous pressure to be thin. And it only gets worse as girls get into dating, where one of the first question a boy or his parents will ask the shadchan is what size does she wear.

Well, Ms. Weisman has come out with another book, and this one is arguably even more important. Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads discusses the dynamics between parents that can have a big impact on our children. As a parent of young children, I am only starting to feel it myself, but I can see it among my peers or even at the park among strangers. When parents, especially mothers, feel they have to compete against everyone, seem more together, skinnier, more organized, and more popular, everyone loses. So many people revert back to their high school personae when they beocme parents.

Mothers have a huge pressure to be, or at least appear perfect. Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect mother, but mothers who work outside of the house feel that the stay-at-home moms look down on them and vice versa. And, unfortunately, it is true. There is so much judging going on between mothers. Although some of the examples she gives in her book do not hold true in the frum community, the underlying themes are definately there. There are for sure Queen Bees in my son's school, just like there are outcasts. Go to a PTA event at any frum school, and you will easily see who the moms are that have the power. And for the most part, they will be the moms with the perfect sheitel, with 5 kids under 9 who are in a size 4 for the bris of their latest child.

And you will also see the outcasts, the moms who are recent ba'alei teshuvas, or divorced, or overweight, or gerim, or poor in a wealthy community. Some of these people desperately want to be accepted, and that is probably the saddest part. And no matter what they do, how much they volunteer, they can't break into the inner circle.

I would like all parents (mothers and fathers), PTA presidents, principals and teachers to read this book. It could really help them understand the dynamics in their lives and schools and hopefully try to fix them.


Blogger SephardiLady said...

Adding these books to my future reading list.

Our local park definitely has its Queen Bees and it can be rather frustrating that some of these ladies are still in the 7th grade and cannot so much as say a "Good Shabbos" with a smile.

June 08, 2006 8:47 PM  
Blogger Outoftown said...

Seriously. It is unbelievable that you can be standing a foot away from a woman who has a child the same age as yours without a hello. It would be ridiculous enough in secular society, but people who claim they are frum do it. Insane.

June 09, 2006 8:15 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

When I am at the park during the week, I always seem to have great conversations with the non-Jewish ladies who are their with their children. When I am at the park with the clickish group of frum ladies, I hope that I remembered to bring a magazine.

June 09, 2006 12:42 PM  
Blogger cool yiddishe mama said...

Thanks outoftown for telling me about the sequel to Queen Bees and Wannabe[e]s (pun intended). I just saw Mean Girls a couple weeks ago b/c my friends' 14 year old daughter brought it over to my house. As we were watching it, she was telling me about her classmates and how they act so much like the girls in the movie (she goes to a frum school, by the way). She has told me that "no one" wants to talk to her, except for this one girl who will "only" talk about Harry Potter when they are alone. She is at the point, B'H, where she has decided that she is done with "getting them to like her" and she is sticking with being herself.
Adding the books to my reading list right now.

June 13, 2006 8:51 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Just letting you know I was able to get the Mean Girls movie and the sequel book from my local library. I'm hoping to view the movie tonight. (Too bad the book was unavailable).

June 20, 2006 1:42 PM  
Blogger Outoftown said...

You know, that Mean Girls is definately a comedy and not at all an accurate representation of the book, although it does contain some of the anecdotes from the Queen Bees book. I think I am going to buy both the books (they are less than $25 together at Amazon).

June 21, 2006 11:01 AM  

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