Study Guide

Mean Girls Women and Femininity

Women and Femininity

HUGE GUY: Nice wig, Janis. What's it made of? 


JANIS: Your mom's chest hair!

Janis's edgy style makes her stand out like a sore thumb at North Shore, and makes her a target of barbs like this one. At North Shore, like most high schools, appearance is everything, and girls aren't supposed to dress like Janis.

GRETCHEN: You can't wear a tank-top two days in a row, and you can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week. So, I guess you picked today. Oh, and we only wear jeans or track pants on Fridays. Now, if you break any of these rules, you can't sit with us at lunch. I mean, not just you; like, any of us. Okay, like, if I was wearing jeans today, I would be sitting over there with the art freaks.

Cut to Janis and Damian. She's putting cold cuts on his face, and he's doing an impression of Sloth from The Goonies.

GRETCHEN: Oh, and we also vote before we ask someone to eat lunch with us because you have to be considerate of the rest of the group. Well, I mean, you wouldn't buy a skirt without asking your friends first if it looks good on you.

CADY: I wouldn't?

Look, we're not saying that society's treatment and expectations of women is to blame for this totally bananas conversation, but can you see Aaron and his soccer teammates having a conversation and litany of superficial rules like this?

Okay, so maybe we are saying Western culture's conduct towards women is to blame, at least in part, for the crazypants nature of "Girl World."

GRETCHEN: Ex-boyfriends are just off-limits to friends. I mean, that's just, like, the rules of feminism.

Nope.

REGINA: Get in, loser. We're going shopping.

CADY (V-O): Regina's like the Barbie doll I never had. I'd never seen anybody so glamorous.

That glamor is a huge part of Regina's appeal—to almost everybody. She's viewed by much of the North Shore student body as the feminine ideal because she's attractive, popular, rich, and hard-to-obtain. Even Damian concedes earlier in the movie that, "She's fabulous, but she's evil."

MRS. GEORGE: Just want you to know, if you need anything, don't be shy, okay? There are no rules in this house. I'm not like a regular mom. I'm a cool mom. Right, Regina?


REGINA: Please stop talking.

MRS. GEORGE: Okay.

Ironically, a "cool" mom is the thing Regina seems to need least. It seems like she could really use a positive female role model and a mom who's more interested in helping her grow into a adult instead of buying her stuff.

KAREN: God, my hips are huge!

GRETCHEN: Oh, please. I hate my calves.

REGINA: At least you guys can wear halters. I've got man shoulders.

CADY (V-O): I used to think there was just fat and skinny. Apparently, there's a lot of things that can be wrong on your body.

Cady's unique position as an outsider to American culture—and especially how it routinely teaches women to devalue themselves and each other—allows her to move through the North Shore student body. It makes the movie's plot possible.

CADY (V-O): In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it. The hardcore girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears. Unfortunately, no one told me about the slut rule, so I showed up like this. Cady walks into the party in a bloody wedding dress with gnarly fake teeth and a long black wig. Everybody thinks she's hideous, terrifying, or both.

Cady's Halloween costume further cements her as an outsider who's able to view the social jungle at North Shore with fresh eyes. The idea of wearing lingerie and some mouse ears as a "costume" seems ridiculous to her, but totes familiar to the movie's audience. It also demonstrates how women are sexualized at every turn. Even holidays about candy corn.

CADY: Gretchen thinks you're mad at her because she's running for Spring Fling Queen.

REGINA: Oh, my God. I'm not mad at her. I'm worried about her. I think somebody nominated her as a joke or something, and when nobody votes for her, she's gonna have a total meltdown. And who's gonna have to take care of her? Me.

CADY: So you don't think anyone will vote for her?

REGINA: Cady, she's not pretty. I mean, that sounds bad, but whatever. The Spring Fling Queen is always pretty, and the crazy thing is is that it should be Karen, but people forget about her because she's such a slut.

When Ms. Norbury refers to "girl-on-girl crime" at the junior girls assembly later in the film, this is what she's talking about. These are Regina's friends she's talking about. Ouch.

NORBURY: Well, I don't know who wrote this book, but you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.

Preach! If that whole P.J. Calamity's thing doesn't work out, Ms. Norbury could have a meaningful career as a women's retreat leader.

MATHLETE MODERATOR: North Shore, who do you select?

TIM: The girl, dude. The girl.

KEVIN: Contestant Krafft.

MATHLETE MODERATOR: From Marymount, Miss Caroline Krafft.

MARYMOUNT CAPTAIN: We pick the girl, too.

Even at an academic competition, women are treated as less than their male counterparts. Both teams assume "the girl" is the weakest player solely because of her gender. Not cool.

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