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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid, Feminism

Published on Oct 24, 2007 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

“Mean Girl” Behavior is No Joke


A number of Comments which I have not posted are filled with withering scorn about the choreographed “mean girl” behavior which was adopted as a group strategy to intimidate or demoralize Nonie Darwish at Wellesley. I explain the phenomenon in my 2002 book “Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman.”

Let me say that a) it may be partially hard-wired since some female primates display deadly and heartbreaking aggression towards and competition with other female primates. This includes killing a rival’s infant and indenturing her services on behalf of one’s own infant; b) while male-male aggression is so much more dramatic and homicidal than is whatever females do to each other, this does not mean that female “indirect” aggression is without serious and life-long consequence.

Research, including my own, has shown that female-female slander, gossip, ostracism, and competition all play a significant role in bullying and in socializing western girls into conformity, as well as in global phenomenon such as female honor killings, dowry burnings, acid-attacks, and female genital mutilation practices, etc. “Indirect” female aggression often has serious and life-long psychological consequences for girls and women.

Think about it. But, if you’re a man, (and haven’t been socialized as a girl), or if you haven’t studied the research, and don’t have a wife, sister, or daughters of your own, you might not “get it.”

In my opinion, a lecturer does not deserve to be challenged in a hostile way. A lecturer deserves respectful attentiveness. The university is not the Jerry Springer show. Students and outsiders who attend a lecture with the intent to disrupt it have no place in the academic world. Such behavior characterizes bullies, goon-squads, Nazi and fascist “brownshirts.”

Substantive questions that are challenging are totally acceptable if they are presented in an adult manner and are based on facts. Big Lies have no place in the classroom. The fact that some students believe that a Lie is morally equivalent to the Truth is very tragic.

I know that I sound like the Emily Post of classroom manners but civil discourse is crucial to civilization. A discussion of ideas is not like a football match with a cheering, drunken audience. There should be no “sides,” no applause, no boos, no catcalls–and yes, no talking while the lecturer is talking, no whispering, no eye-rolling, no disruption or distraction from what the lecturer is saying.

Civilization 101.


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