Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

What this world needs is a new kind of army - the army of the kind. ~Cleveland Amory

A few days ago, I was thumbing through some magazines and stumbled across a new piece of work known as The Twisted Sisterhood written by Kelly Valen and based on her 2007 New York Times essay. The story is essentially about "mean girls," and Kelly's lifelong battle with female-friendship intimacy as a result of a horrible experience she had when she was a college freshman. The watered down version goes something like this: Girl goes to college...girl enters sorority in an attempt to fulfill part of her social life...girl goes to frat party with her "sisters"... girl is raped by frat boy while other frat boys watch..."sisters" make mockery of girl for it and kick her out of sorority....girl grows up and gets married and has children, but she still struggles to trust females and has a major girlfriend-ship gap in her life... girl (now woman) turns her tragedy into some awesome research on female relationships, gets published, gets famous, but most importantly, hopefully gets healed.

This kind of female petty behavior is no new concept. All of us gals have been on one side or the other or possibly both. For a long time, we've accepted this type of behavior, but it's about time that we realize that it's not innocent or harmless and is in fact pretty life-ruining. On Guiltless, we discuss ways to love ourselves. Well, I think that in order to appreciate ourselves honestly, we need to treat each other kindly and fairly. Kelly Valen has taken this problem into her own hands and is spreading the message that females need to stop being cruel to one another and need to start start being supportive of each other. Amen, sister!

Throughout her research, Valen delved into the dark world of girl on girl fights. First of all, on a positive note, research has proved that girlfriend-ships actually boost our immunity! Bring it on, Flu season, my friends will kick your ass and win the battle! YEA!! (Ok, sorry got excited about my awesome friends for a sec...let's continue...) Valen's research shows that females are socialized to use what psychologists call "indirect aggression." The internet has made this much worse, because now people can hide behind computer screens and throw daggers with keyboards. Especially for an adolescent who hasn't learned his/her lesson yet, the lack of responsibility the internet provides can be particularly dangerous and hurtful to victims of "indirect aggression." She also found that this type of behavior can begin as early as (gasp) ages 4 or 5. Finally, research shows that the part of the brain that regulates emotions and creates memories is highly affected by these types of bad memories and can influence behavior for years. What is this negativity doing to us, to our world?

Throughout Valen's research, she found that the mother-daughter relationship is extremely important in forming friendship behavior. I have been blessed with a mother (and father) who taught me how to enjoy being kind to people, and I am so lucky to have an amazing group of girlfriends that I've had for a lifetime. But I have definitely experienced "mean girl" drama, and it ain't pretty...In fact, I still get a pit in my stomach when I revisit the memories.

I've learned so much from my friends: how to be supportive, trustful and trustworthy, appreciative, and how to believe in myself. After reading Kelly's work, I felt such sorrow for both the mean girls and the girls they were mean to, because the energy spent on negativity could be put to such better use and positivity in the opposite direction. I know that Valen's research and book will reach our population, and will hopefully influence female relationships in the work place and social world for the better. But my biggest hope is that it reaches elementary schools and high schools where frenemies are born.

Being Guiltless is not only about not beating yourself up for eating a cookie or skipping a work out. It's about being honest with and kind to yourself and to others. It's about cultivating a positivity among an entire community and using that energy to create unstoppable love and friendship with ourselves and each other. I'm proud of Valen for taking hold of the reigns and revealing her story to the world in an attempt to make it a better place.

What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you think this type of negativity influences how we work/live/love? Do you think that "frenemies" could be a source of some eating disorders or other physically harmful acts? What is your girlfriend-ship status? If you're a guy, what's your perspective on this girl drama? We love hearing from all of you!


  1. Love and appreciate your sentiments! I would like to encourage women to strive to find and build friendships that aren't simply about convenience (as in, we have kids in the same school) or networking/social status (what can she/they do for me?) but are truly about support, love and fun. It may be your sister-in-law, or a woman a generation older. It may be your teenaged daughter. Wonderful women are everywhere.

  2. Great post! I would love to read this book. I have seen the whole spectrum of female relationships in my own life and in those women around me. While very positive bonds can exist beautifully ( i can't imagine what i would do without most of my girlfriends!!) there are definitely some very nasty, back-handed relationships out there, based on jealousy, envy, and sabotage. Seek out those who support, uplift and help you grow, and say goodbye to those that bring you down! Here's to amazing female friends!