Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change, by Bonnie Burton


Our friend Bonnie Burton Burton has a terrific new book out called Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change. In it, Bonnie explains the "mean girl" syndrome, and why even nice girls sometimes can be mean to other girls. I'm saving it for my daughters.

Written for all teen girls, this insightful book discusses different types of girl-on-girl cruelty, why it happens, and how to deal with it. With details on various forms of abuse common between girls—including betrayal between friends, cyberbullying, hazing, and the silent treatment—this useful guidebook will help teen girls understand why they show aggression to each other, cope with difficult situations, gain confidence, and work together as teams, while also suggesting when to get help from adults when situations get out of hand. It includes quotes and inspirational stories from famous role models who have had firsthand experience with girl meanness, such as Jane Wiedlin, founding member of the Go-Go's; Jenny Conlee, bandmember of The Decemberists; and Tegan, bandmember of Tegan and Sara.
Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change


  1. This book is or isn’t about giggling, doing each other’s hair, and talking about boys?

  2. thanks for coming out with the book after i got into college. thanks life thanks. T_________T xD

  3. I heard an interesting story… A middle eastern woman told me that women in her part of the world stuck together, because they had to. Being oppressed in many ways, they formed unions even with each other being strangers. But here in the U.S. females are in competition.. we are not enslaved by patriarchal society our sexuality is on display at all times and the fight to gain the attention of men makes the dynamics of female bonding much different. I don’t know, just an observational point…. kind of.

  4. Jim H –

    take 2 paracetamol (Tylenol), burn all your belongings, then take 3 days in a sweat lodge burning sage.

    if your still alive in a fortnight, make an appointment.

  5. I’d like to read this, but I would like to cut thru the suspense and say, why is this emblematic of this generation? The title acts like it “twas ever so” but I never experienced this in my puberty… never. Was I 16 for some magic women’s liberation moment or what? 1974 was a time warp? I didn’t experience “mean girls” nor was I one of the perpetuators. My girlfriends meant the world to me. We had our ups and downs, but not this ritualistic paranoia. It was “boys” who were the big mystery and intimidation to me.

    Why is female sexual competition the last word in female relations these days?

  6. the snide comments mocking girls and our sexualities are really un-called for. It’s really sad that guys can’t even have a serious conversation without mocking us.

  7. @Quesie – either a time warp – or there’s a chance you were the bully and oblivious to it (not picking a fight just a possibility).
    For me – growing up in the 80s it was brutal all through elementary school and junior high. It wasn’t until I moved in high school – started working and saving for college that it got easier. Completely removing myself from the cliques helped a lot – that and I pretty much told everyone to bugger off.

  8. Quesie – I often wonder that myself. Was I just too oblivious to notice the alpha girl game? Was I not pretty or cool enough to qualify for the competition? I don’t identify with this stuff at all, and I grew up in the 90s.

    But then I think I’m missing out on the world that Anon #7 is talking about, also. Yes I’m unhappy when I’m not desired by my mate. I’m also unhappy when I am hungry, when I am uncomfortably hot, and when other basic human desires are not met.

  9. I really don’t care anymore
    About all the jim-jams in this town
    And all the catty girls makin crazy sounds
    And everybody puttin everybody else down
    And all the dread bodies dolled up in gowns

    -Heroine, Lee Rood / The Velvet Undertone

  10. Most of my friends in school were girls. I know – shocking that a gay man in high school in the 70s would have mostly female friends. There wasn’t really any discernible competition/meanness/bullying. I would guess that it was because none of my female (or male) friends had the slightest interest in dating. We were all smart and quite capable of entertaining ourselves. Once you remove the quest for mating, people of all sorts seem much nicer.

  11. The problem I see is that people who are mean to others are probably the least likely to bother reading a book like this.

  12. And the reasons can probably be all boiled down to exactly the same reasons guys are mean to each other…

  13. “Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate each other and themselves.”

    I think Mencken said that; at any rate, it’s quite true.

  14. It includes quotes and inspirational stories from famous role models who have had firsthand experience with girl meanness, such as Jane Wiedlin, founding member of the Go-Go’s; Jenny Conlee, bandmember of The Decemberists; and Tegan, bandmember of Tegan and Sara.

    I love how being a band member makes you an expert in … pretty much anything else!


  15. Sounds potentially insightful for both girls and boys. As far as I remember, the stupid meanies were evenly distributed between genders.

    I don’t think peer pressure/competition is a mystery. We buy into the idea that nice people are meek and always end up losing, that kind people are boring wallflowers (“nice girls/guys finish last”). We reward the vixens and the ‘bad boys’ with our attention, desire and envy. Being popular is more celebrated than being genuine.

    We ought to teach both our girls and boys that standing alone and being rejected by peers is not the worst thing that can happen. Betraying your own personality, true friends and itegrity is. We need to stop seeking others’ blind acceptance so damn desperately. Being honest, fair and sincere might not be openly rewarded, but it is what you carry within you day after day.

  16. My teen years weren’t so bad but my early adulthood was RIFE with mean girls. In high school I ran with the same people I had since elementary school, but when I went to college and then out into the working world it was like Lord of the Flies with the ladies. It was very difficult for me to form significant relationships with girls who were my peers because I was on guard all the time against catty attacks and a bunch of stupid crap and now, many years hence, I have finally learned that I can be friends with and actually enjoy friendships with other women. Seems to me that the cattiness and whatnot really start in when the first steps of freedom have been taken and there’s the very real element of sexual competition in early adulthood. Some girls never grow out of it. As for myself, while I was never a “mean girl” I did learn that in order to minimize the danger of being cut down or pre-empted it’s easier to simply not compete. For the purposes of time frame reference, I graduated high school in 1993.

  17. yes indeed Sekino that was a great comment that im gonna have to read to my ten year old daughter in the morning before school.

    currently im having to deal with this problem with my daughter being the victim of attack by the girls at her school. she just happens to be the tallest most beautiful girl in the 4th grade, and thats just the start of all the blessings shes been given and to make things worse shes not a fighter and has been taught to love her enemies. its heart breaking to recall that children are the most cruel people i know.

  18. I think that the structure and nature of schooling has a lot to do with the way that teenage girls relate to each other. It is no coincidence that the sort of bullying that occurs in schools also occurs in the army and in prisons, because they have a lot of things in common with each other. Herding people together in any place where they have restricted choices leads to a form of competition which expresses itself in very similar ways: there are 10% bullies and leaders, 10% bullied and loners, and a huge swathe of others in the middle.

    I was in my twenties before I realised that adult women are not like teenage girls. To that point most of my close friends had been male, because I found it so hard to trust other women. In my twenties I discovered that women could be the most supportive and caring friends too.

    Unfortunately, I think a lot of women are so damaged by their experiences in school that they never properly trust other women again.

  19. Dating a guy at university, one of his housemates said about me to him, “She wouldn’t be pretty if it wasn’t for all that hair.” True or not, she didn’t want to date him, so I never could figure out why.

  20. The problem isn’t that women are mean to each other, it’s that some nutcakes want to deny reality. They want to somehow believe that women are better at life on this Hobbesian world than the men. So they create some vision of a perfect person who can somehow make decisions without offending the losing side.

    If we didn’t have the crazy vision created by feminist dreamers, we wouldn’t have a problem when women fail to live up to it.

    As I tell my wife when she complains about not being able to clean the house to her insane standards, “Come over to the dark side…”

    1. If we didn’t have the crazy vision created by feminist dreamers, we wouldn’t have a problem when women fail to live up to it. As I tell my wife when she complains about not being able to clean the house to her insane standards, “Come over to the dark side…”

      Where to begin, O Anonymous? You think that obsessive housecleaning is an aspect of feminism. That’s…..poignant.

  21. I grew up in the 1970s, but it was in high school that this “sting” was first felt, and that was early 80s. Rather than give in and join the many cliques making these judgments and mean and taunting comments, I went my own way. Polo shirts and deck shoes were NOT for me. I was the only punk rocker in my grade, and it was kind of lonely, but people still tell me to this day how proud they were of how I always did my own thing and was strong enough to stand on my own.

  22. as interesting as your story sounds, johnphantom, it’s not cool to post an advert with little connection to Mark’s post

  23. #24 Gaudeamus, It’s interesting hearing your story, because the order of my experiences were reversed – I was picked on by the other girls from about grade two all the way to early highschool.

    My view, all the way through school, was at least if a boy didn’t like you, he’d hit you or steal your toy or something, and therefore let you know about it, instead of being NICE to your face and mocking you fiercely behind your back.

  24. Someone should right a version for grown-up women,too. My husband and I were discussing it just the other day how much meaner women are to each other than men are. They judge other women so much more harshly than men judge each other. They compete against each other, especially concerning how they look, viciously. It’s a very strange difference between the sexes.

    Like if I’m getting dressed to go out where I know there’s going to be mostly other women, I feel I have to work much harder at looking pretty than I do when I’m headed somewhere that’s going to be mostly men. You’d think we’d want to show out more for the men than the other women, but that’s not how it works. Men are much more easy going and less catty than women. If my shoes don’t match my bag or if my hair is a bit messy, guys aren’t going to snicker behind my back or probably even notice at all. Girls certainly wouldn’t miss it.

  25. Thanks for posting a shout out for my new book, Mark! I hope it helps a lot of girls (and women for that matter) to cope better with mean girl situations and not become mean girls themselves. I know that even now I still find myself falling into mean girl antics — silent treatment, gossiping, etc. So it’s always an ongoing issue with women at any age.

  26. @#7
    “We are not enslaved by patriarchal society”? I disagree. We are brainwashed by the patriarchal society to please men, at varying degrees of self-destructiveness. Programmed to be happy as long as we’re desired by men.

    And men are not programmed to revolve their lives around being desired by women? Tell that to any kid who saw their father five days out of the month because they were compulsed to be as professionally successful as possible.

  27. To throw my own two cents in: girls need a book like this.

    Like many folks, I was a camp counselor in high school. My kids ranged in age from around 10-13. The boys could, of course, be mean to each other, but it was *much* worse among the girls.

    The major difference that I noticed was that boys would get picked on by the other boys, but they were still allowed to hang.

    The girls, on the other hand, would completely shun a girl that was getting picked on, which was really devastating. We always had a few girls that had to eat lunch with the counselors because otherwise they’d have no one to eat with. It was really unbelievable how cruel the girls could be to each other.

  28. Hmm this has provoked some thought for me. Without even reading the book. This evil bitch girl crap is probably why i never trust another woman even now i’m grown up. I never understood why my so-called friends turned on me when i was @10. i don’t think there was a reason, i guess they just could. I never trusted them again, and never had any real friendships with women, even though i do have female friends now, i can never let them get close. Its interesting that i been carrying that baggage.

    On the other hand i’ve had a lot of good male friends instead, and i wouldn’t swap them for anything. The one thing about male friends is that they don’t try to understand you in order to manipulate you. Unless they are assholes, but if they are assholes they don’t hide it like girls do. Therefore, you never get tricked. I like em plain & simple.

    On the third hand, i’ve never been able to have a proper relationship & i’m 42. Hey that could be an entirely different book! But i’m pretty sure this kind of stupid girl against girl evil had a lasting effect on me. I shoulda been stronger, but hey, i wasn’t. Or maybe i was, by turning my back on them forever. Something in the middle might have been better though.

  29. Anyone who says they’ve never experienced a “mean girl” is a moronic liar.
    No one is free from suffering, and no one is free from insult.
    You have experienced a mean girl, or else this book wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t buy a self-help book from a person who’s never helped themselves in a situation they’ve never been in.

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