Girls Bullying Girls Who Are “Too Pretty”

Lady Gaga says bullying is for losers

Lady Gaga says Bullying is for losers

I’m told I’m good-looking, but I think I’m more average. But that could be a remnant of how often I was bullied in middle and high school.

That’s from a woman who commented on my blog.

But being bullied doesn’t mean you aren’t attractive.

Plenty of women are bullied because they’re “too pretty.”

In fact, the more beautiful a young woman is, the more likely she will be bullied.

Paula Porizkova, teased for being so ugly.

Paula Porizkova, teased for being so ugly.

Paula Porizkova was relentlessly harassed during her childhood in Sweden. And then she moved to New York and became a supermodel.

At a homecoming rally kids held up a giant poster with Brittany Mason’s picture and chanted, “You are ugly.” Years later she was named “Miss Indiana.” And then she became a model/actress. (Years after she had contemplated killing herself.)

Brittany Mason, teased for being so ugly

Brittany Mason, teased for being so ugly

In high school Lady Gaga was thrown into a trashcan, among other things. “The scars don’t go away,” even with stardom, she says.

Why are attractive women so often the targets of girl-on-girl bullying?

A woman’s worth is often tied to her appearance. Perceived success with men and with life are tied to her looks, too.

Next to “goddesses,” the bullying young women don’t feel so great about themselves. So they seek to diminish her status and her self-esteem, too.

Bullying is never about you. It’s about the harasser’s own issues.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 20, 2016, in body image, feminism, psychology, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 59 Comments.

  1. Good post! Seems as though many folks (most to some degree?) feel a need condescend to someone else as a means to mask their own insecurity/inferiority complex.

    I recognized that in myself years ago and deleting it from my personality is still a work in progress–but there has been much progress, mostly as a result of research for the writing of my novel. I now try to have empathy for everyone, but it’s still damn hard and frustrating at times.

    • “many folks feel a need condescend to someone else as a means to mask their own insecurity/inferiority complex.”

      Too bad they don’t find more constructive ways to love and empower themselves. Because bullying doesn’t help with the root problem.

    • I appreciate your open response. As someone who gets all sorts of condescending remarks thrown at her, I can say that I feel people pay more attention to tearing me down than trying to actually build themselves up. Ironically, I am the sort of person who offers praise and compliments without reserve. Why would anyone want to interfere with a source of goodwill? Humans are mysterious like that. Best wishes on your novel.

      • “I feel people pay more attention to tearing me down than trying to actually build themselves up.”

        I guess it’s easier to tear people down. But it doesn’t solve the root problem, does it?

        “Why would anyone want to interfere with a source of goodwill?”

        That happens a lot with feminists and trolls. And it happens a lot with women and trolls.

        Sounds like an interesting topic to write about. Just off the top of my head I’m thinking about how a lot of men don’t feel that good about themselves, the only thing they can hold onto is “Male supremacy.” And how do you create a sense of yourself as being “male superior”? Put down women.

        Of course, in their bullying, They are actually being an inferior human being. Hardly human at all.

        It’s about the bully. Not about the person who is their target.

  2. Yes, that’s quite common, not only in high schools but also in workplaces. You’ve perfectly pointed out the reasons…”A woman’s worth is often tied to her appearance. Perceived success with men and with life are tied to her looks, too.” Harsh truth.

  3. Though I have never actually experienced a first-hand account of this happening – I can understand the reasoning behind it. Girls typically make fun of other girls for being too pretty by degrading the threatening girls with negative comments that aren’t true. This, at some mindset, makes them feel better about themselves – showing they have some self-worth. In the movie, Mean Girls, Regina George constantly puts down her “friends” by telling them they can’t do something like wear hoop earrings or telling them they’re stupid – essentially putting down their self-confidence in order to be at the top of the food chain. The issue with Regina was that she put them down in order to always feel like she’s more superior.

  4. I do agree that girls tend to have this bullying behavior. I have seen it happen in high school. The most attractive girls had the most problems. There was girls who were bullies but people preferred to call them “haters”. It was girls hating other girls for being pretty and finding excuses to put them down. Maybe putting others down made them feel prettier than them? Whatever it is, its as if girls are in a competition with each other and it should not be that way. Guirls are always trying to be better and prettier than other girls. You can see it happen on television. In beauty competitions they often put each other down rather than lifting each other up. The same is with reality TV shows and social media. You don’t really hear much about boys bullying other boys for being attractive, I wonder why that is. Maybe media has influenced too much of this bullying behavior within girls?

  5. Brittany Mason is from my area and I was fortunate enough to meet her a couple years ago. She’s still killing it within the modeling industry and it’s been eight years since she was Miss Indiana. The fact that people bullied her so much blows my mind. She’s very sweet, humble, and compassionate.

  6. In humanities class, we used a film that discussed “beauty.” (Then we moved to truth and goodness.) But the images and comments by Paulina were so poignant, about trying to find the “perfect” beauty. She ended by saying (and showing) that by taking the most commonly accepted standards of “beauty” and fashioning or finding the PERFECT example was really telling that “beautiful” was thus “average.” Like pieces of everyman/everywoman. I ponder this: the cheekbones of each “perfect” one, the breast size, the height, the weight, the chin–all leading to ONE COMMON DENOMINATOR. And that we call “beauty.” Neat, huh? It makes all those models, she quipped, “common”–or average.

    • That’s a good point. It’s kind of boring when everyone looks the same. Variety should be the spice of life. In her book, The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf points out that we don’t expect children to all look the same in order to be beautiful.

  7. Isn’t usually the heavier children, with glasses, shy, not very social, good students (nerds), probably unattractive. with a reserved behavior that get bullied?

  8. Having had two sons go through high school without much difficulty, I have been shocked to see the differences with girls that my daughter is now experiencing. There seems to be a constant competition to be the most beautiful – and there is a lot of nastiness that goes with it. Thirteen year-olds at school with so much make up on they are practically unrecognisable.

    A friend of mine commented on how they all look identical – their individuality covered up by layers of foundation, black eyeliner and mascara. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with make up, but being naturally pretty doesn’t seem to be enough.

    It seems to be less about attracting the opposite sex as it is about popularity. If you want to be part of the popular crowd, you have to step into line and look and behave in a certain way. Those that don’t try to keep up with the expectations are teased and bullied or – worse – ignored!

    • The extent to which girls are bullied for being “too pretty” probably varies from place to place. But a number of supermodels were bullied. I wrote about a few in this post, I was recently listening to Gisele talk to Charlie Rose about being bullied before she was a supermodel. There is such a fine line for many women, trying to be attractive but not so attractive that other women get jealous and angry with you. It’s a difficult double bind!

  9. It’s true that this typical type of bullying is often seen among girls, and I’ve seen the situation one of my friend was bullied for being attractive. She was the one who was being noticed first and even some guys were so crazy about her, and then that made her such a figure that everyone disliked. I think there is no reason to bully an attractive girl at all except for just being attractive and pretty; yet, there is nothing she can do with that. We are told so many times that looks don’t matter, but we know that it’s fact that somehow they make a change among girls like you said, “A woman’s worth is tied to her appearance.”

    • It can create a huge double-blind for women: damned if you don’t look beautiful and damned if you look too beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

      • It’s exactly how you said it. I wish I could see more women lift each other up instead of making it into a competition. If a woman meets another woman, whom she believes to be more beautiful than herself. Then that thinking process of how people are going to compare them will start kicking in because we are so focus on judging one’s beauty appearance. This eventually makes herself feel more insecure and “threaten” by the other so, they end up “hating”(as we seem to call it nowadays) the pretty woman and bully her so that she doesn’t get to feel pretty if the other doesn’t. I think it’s pretty messed up. Any woman should be able to feel pretty in their own skin and not bring down others just because of their own insecurity/or other reasons(i.e. jealousy,etc).

      • Luckily, many women do lift each other up. But unfortunately, there are still too many who Bring each other down.

  10. Matthew Cleveland

    I think you’re extremely right about bullies acting out because of their own insecurities. However I don’t think that it only goes the jealousy route. I have noticed that I tend to be meaner to people who exhibit qualities I dislike about myself. I think that insecurities really fuel bullying of almost all kinds, it’s easy to redirect one’s own self-loathing towards others, either those who have what you want, or those who remind you of yourself. It’s really sad to think about how we often put people down for no fault of their own.

  11. I do agree that, “Girls bullying girls who are ‘too pretty’” I had a same experience that when I studied in a private lesson.One girl who was same class with me bullied me after she made a group with 2 more girls. She was jealous then made gossips then spread to other 2 girls. I was not close with them, so I did not have the chance to tell true. Therefore, the gossips become true for them. She just bullying that in class one guy liked me and I used better stuff than her. I did not show off my stuff, but she saw my stuff then she always undermined me whatever. At that time, I really harassed, so I had a depressed disorder. I strongly agree that not only girls, the women tend to bullying women who are too pretty or better than her.

  12. I understand why so many girls feel like they are being bullied by other girls because I myself have been bullied before. In 5 grade, i was bullied by a group of girls, all because of one girl. She did not like me because the boy she liked had a crush on me. At that time i didn’t really understand way she didn’t like me, because I was really shy and didn’t really talk that much but now I think i know why she didn’t really like me. After reading this blog I feel like because the boy she liked didn’t like her she felt like she wasn’t pretty enough that’s why she had to pick on me, to make me feel bad about myself. “Bullying is never about you. It’s about the harasser’s own issues. Next to “goddesses,” the bullying young women don’t feel so great about themselves. So they seek to diminish her status and her self-esteem, too.” Understand if you are getting bullied, the most be something you are doing right.

  13. You have an impressive and inspiring blog. So glad we found you xx

  14. Competitiveness among woman, especially when it comes to what might be perceived as a limited number of men to go around can turn hostile, which is unfortunate. Another reason it’s important that we stop to value ourselves according to how much we are desired and focus on satisfying our own desires.

  15. I see this a lot in society today and I don’t see any point in it really how can making another human being feel awful about themselves make you feel good about yourself? My “friend” tries to do this to me all the time to try and make herself feel better or look good to somebody else luckily I’m pretty unflappable. One situation stands out in my mind, we decided to get tattoos she went first and got it on her arm I wanted mine on my hip so I had to slide my pants down so the artist could get to the spot I was basically hanging out in my underwear for two hours which I had no problem with it comes with the tattoo territory you are going to see skin and many parts of the body while other people get theirs done. Well my friend was the only one in that whole shop that had an issue constantly making jokes at my expense for two hours finally towards the end of my session my artist told her to get out of his shop because she was being really rude I agreed and she left very hurt. I’m slowly distancing myself from her because the bullying just hasn’t stopped and only so much can roll off your back. I love the last line in this post its something my parents told me all the time growing up which still holds true today.

    • Well, it only creates the illusion of superiority, nothing substantive — which is why they have to keep doing it: because it doesn’t create anything real.

      And bullies are often supersensitive about insults towards themselves, even if deserved, as reflected in this:

      “my artist told her to get out of his shop because she was being really rude I agreed and she left very hurt.”

  16. I have seen women bullied time and time again because of their looks. A common misconception is that only women who are considered unattractive or socially awkward are bullied. This is simply not the case. In middle school my best friend was considered popular and pretty. She stood out because of her looks and received a lot of attention from the opposite sex. I think this made the other girls feel jealous and insecure. She was bullied mercilessly by her female classmates. Even though my friend was kind and beautiful she would get called names like slut, anorexic, ugly, and bitch. I think she was bullied because she was too pretty.

    • I think that attractive women get overlooked because of the stereotype that is only unattractive girls that get bullied. But it’s really harmful, regardless of how good-looking you are. Thanks for sharing about your friend.

  17. Leanna Candelaria

    I’ve seen this happen before, numerous times, and I find it very sad. I have a friend who was model when we were both in high school and she was always bullied in class for wearing too much makeup or showing people her pictures. I was with her at one of her shoots when she got an anonymous text from someone telling her to kill herself because she was “ugly” when I always believed her to be very pretty. I definitely agree with the statement that women who are seen as more attractive tend to get bullied just as much, if not more, than women who are seen as less attractive in society. I think that insecurity and jealousy has a lot to do with why girl-girl bullying exists. Those who feel inferior might experience a short-lived sense of empowerment over the attractive women whenever they bully. It’s really sad to think about how often it has happened to girls who don’t deserve such horrible treatment.

  18. I’ve personally seen this a lot back when I was in High School, when I would walk through the halls and classrooms, I would hear girls degrading other girls. Groups of girls gossiping about how “ugly” someone is. I really don’t think it’s right, I feel like anyone who bullies another person just has a lack of confidence in themselves, and don’t know how to love themself. I feel like girls are always trying to compete with one another, which I think they do to make themselves “feel better about themselves”. I do think that people who bully have been bullied at some point in their life by someone. Which is why they do what they do, to feel strong, and in control. I think it’s important to value ourselves and love one another, because no one is perfect and no one will ever be, we all deserve to be respected by the people around us.

  19. I’ve personally seen this a lot in today’s society as social media has become so popular everyone has opinions on everything and aren’t afraid to comment hateful or diminishing things under women’s posts. I truly do believe it is stemmed from low self-esteem, that it comes from a place of envy. Take for insistence make up and being a MUA (make up artist) has become such a huge thing on Instagram and contouring your face or wearing false eye lashes etc, women have to have such negative opinions like “you wear way too much make up, such a cake face”. Or just plain bringing them down because they don’t wear make up or they prefer the natural look. It could be because they want to look like that or they wish they knew how to blend eye shadow so effortlessly. It’s sad because women wear make up because it makes them feel good about themselves or it is therapeutic to some, its a shame that women feel the need to bash other women and make them feel bad for doing something they really enjoy doing.

  20. As a male, I never even thought about women being bullied by other women for being “too pretty”. Within males, I have never seen an instance where someone was bullied for being “too handsome”. No doubt, there can sometimes be envy between males, but even that is uncommon as far as my experience goes. Personally, I see better looking males as more of a “goal”, especially since there are always ways to improve myself (exercise, eating healthy, etc.)
    But after reading this article, I can see how bullying between females can happen. The “too pretty” females are constantly pushed to higher and higher expectations, in effect lowering their self-esteem because the people around her are never satisfied. This is also accentuated by the fact that in our society, females are more expected to maintain good looks than are males. Jealousy between women also is a factor, since some women might develop some dislike or hate against other women that are “better looking” than them. If society lessened the amount of value they put on good looks, it would definitely decrease the intragender bullying.

  21. AWESOME POST! I absolutely love it!!!!!!!! Bullying is something that irks me to my core. Growing up I was always teased for having big lips, and big butt, and breast (because I was the first to develop in my class). It was horrible. I would always try and laugh it off but inside I was so self conscious. I use to wear overalls to cover my breast and tie a sweater around my waist to cover my butt. I couldn’t really do anything about hiding my lips. Now everyone is getting fillers and butt injections and breast implants. Ironic? I love how this post mentioned that the people doing the bullying are really the ones with the insecurities. I always tell my daughter that when she deals with a jerk at school. One of her friends is so beautiful. She transferred to the school last year because she had to leave her other school because of bullies. She was being teased because she has green eyes. How crazy is that. These kids tortured her because she has big beautiful green eyes. I am forwarding this article to her mother so she can read it. There is too much “girl on girl” bullying. Why do you have to put someone down to make you feel better about yourself? As women we should be lifting each other up, empowering one another, and accepting each others differences.

    • I am glad you liked the post, and I hope that it can help as many people as possible. Too bad that the people who put others down in hopes of building themselves up so often can’t figure out that it’s not having the desired effect. Their self-esteem is no higher afterwards.

  22. I feel that those type of girls who bully other girls about being “too pretty” are obviously because they have insecurities themselves. They make fun of other girls beauty to basically put a bandage over their insecurities. I totally am against bullying, I love to help others and help make them feel loved and help them love themselves and focus on bigger and brighter things and not just worrying about how they are going to get past the next day without breaking down because they already know they are bound to get bullied about something no matter what. Kids who bully I feel have had been raised poorly, without love and given minimal attention from their family. Girls always need more attention and always need to be complemented and reminded how beautiful they are constantly because sooner or later they will just feel unnoticed and begin to isolate themselves. Girls really need to learn how to become respectful and caring for each other because it just gets worse each day.

  23. Like other comments, I also agree that the reason why girls who bully other girls for being “too pretty” is because they have their own insecurities. The only reason how I could understand is that maybe young girls (or any girl) put other girls on some kind of scale of being better than each other and in my opinion, “beauty” is a top (or one) priority as a young insecure individual. As for the bullying, I feel like it’s a way of putting the other down so you feel “better” or “higher” than that person. It’s also a possibility that some men are a factor as to why women need to feel “superior in beauty”. Young women are exposed to ads and media that over-obsess over women that are beautiful, products that can make you “beautiful”, and also clothing that can make you “beautiful”.

  24. I have always seen the interesting situation of bullying the prettiest girl, and the simplest way of depiction is reading the last line!! Beautiful females are always objectified and put atop this target that allows others to bully them, this obviously is an insanely childish thing to do. Yet according to the article and throughout the media, it is inherent that an extensive amount of adult women are still affected by situations similar to this. I’m saddened to see how people’s insecurities are so strong that they feel the necessity of covering their own by demoralizing another’s self-esteem/well-being/feelings.

  25. I was was bullied for being a dark beautiful and afro latina . people felt like I was supposed to be ugly because of my skin

  26. Sorry I’m commenting on an old post.

    I just wanted to add that I believe pretty girls being bullied stems from this notion that prettiest girls are bitches, fake, airheads. A girl that is very pretty can’t also be kind, smart, and genuine. This puts us in a double bind. Girls are supposed to be pretty most importantly but also nice, yet if you’re too pretty people may not take you seriously or assume you’re not a good person, therefore don’t care about hurting your feelings. Resulting in bullying.

  27. I admit I have been guilty of talking badly about a girl that I thought was pretty. A lot of my friends did it as well almost every girl at school. I have also been the victim of bullying when I was in middle school people would call me names and guys would also bully me all the time in class but now I realize they did it because they supposedly “liked me.” How did guys learn to be mean to a girl they like? Why do girls put down other girls for being pretty? It’s a combination of things. A lot of times I will hear girls say, “look at that hoe.” Just because someone is pretty doesn’t mean you should put them down to make yourself feel better. Many times, I’ve noticed that the prettier girls may seem like they have it all but underneath they are battling with their own issues. The world we live in is an unfair place but if you try and think before you say something we could make life a little better for everyone. Who knows what you say to someone might stay with them forever so don’t be someone else’s bully.

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