Are You a Mean Girl? It Might Be a Survival Skill

Whether you have been a victim of gossip or the one whispering in the corner about someone else, you know what mean-girl behavior is. Yes, Lindsay Lohan popularized the idea in the hilarious and hits-close-to-home blockbuster, but the truth is that “Mean Girls” have been around much longer than modern-day high school drama.

One psychology professor at the University of Ottawa, Tracy Vaillancourt, now theorizes that mean girls may have been around since the beginning of time. In fact, seemingly petty behavior may not be as superficial as we think, the professor muses. Though some people have criticized the paper for its lack of evidence, the theory is worth exploring: Are we mean as a means to survive?

Part of the Pack

It used to be, Vaillancourt summarizes, that women worked together to raise their young. Way back when, the female pack was essential to survival. Kind of like the way female lions all raise the young together. The group acts collectively to make sure the youngest generations eat and, basically, live. So when one woman becomes ostracized as a result of gossip or other passive-aggressive behavior, so would the support of that network, and, possibly, her viability.

Women are, for lack of better terminology, in competition for men. More specifically, we’re in competition for their, um, goods. We want to procreate. Vaillancourt theorizes that women have been slut-shaming – read: making a woman feel bad for her sexual behavior – in order to knock others down a peg, making them less of a competitor in the sexual arena.

The value of sex was – and may still be – put on a pedestal, so to speak. When one woman became more “sexually available” to men, it would devalue sex for the entire community. Vallaincourt says this would lead to women policing those promiscuous women, shaming them, hurting them, ostracizing them. In this way, the mean girls in the community could further guarantee their genes stayed in the chain of life.

Still Uncool

While Vallaincourt’s paper itself begs a few questions, it is interesting to compare our world today to their world then. Don’t we still work as a group, in some regards? Admit it, mothers: You rely on your mommy friends for advice when you run into a weird diaper situation or for support when you cannot seem to manage children’s tantrums. And while you may not feel teasing a woman for her outfit is a survival skill, it may just be in your bones to do so. Gut check: It wasn’t cool then, and it still isn’t cool now. Whether being a mean girl is a natural tendency or not, ostracizing a woman makes you more than mean – it makes you barbaric.