I was working with a group of freshmen girls when one of them abruptly asked, “Ms. K, were a mean girl?” Before I could answer three more girls –who in complete irony are mean girls themselves– turned to look at me as if they were waiting for a “yes.” But, I didn’t know what to say so I told them to turn around. — This is what teachers say when they don’t know the answer.
12 minutes later the assignment we had been working on was complete. I braced myself to give an answer I’ve been searching for for years. I told them, “mean girls are people who, for various reasons, aim to intentionally harm others. This was never my prerogative. But, somewhere in my carefully crafted comebacks and eager wit I often find my words offending and even hurting others.” Satisfied with what had poured out I prepared to wrap up the lesson when the youngest of the bunch asked, “well, are you sorry?–I mean were you sorry you hurt people even when you really meant what you said?”
This is the constant battle of being female. If you are intelligent, you are ‘aggressive’, ‘rude’, ‘condescending’ or perhaps even a ‘b*tch.’ If you are naive then grow accustomed to a life sentence in the bubblegum category of ‘ditz’ and ‘floozy.’ There’s no room to just be. Sometimes, I’m sorry I hurt people. But, other times it’s both warranted and necessary for progress.I didn’t have an answer. So I told them to turn around.