The Queen Bee
In our last newsletter we discussed indirect bullying as a more passive form of manipulation of others through aggression. This week I want to discuss a more specific form of bullying used primarily by girls. Although, there is some point of view that question gender difference I will contend that, at this time there is a difference in the expression of aggression and that difference is evidenced in the imbalance between boys and girls in suspension data and enrolment at ‘behaviour’ schools. That is not to say there is a proportion who adopt behaviours that are not customary to their gender and I suspect, over time adjustment to the, albeit slow changing of our environment in regards to equity this imbalance will evolve. But, for now the discussion is about a specific behaviour of girls.
This work was first discussed by Rosalind Wiseman in her 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabes and this was followed up by Valarie E Besag Understanding Girl’s Friendships, Fights and Feuds. In my work with girls at my last school we produced a program under the supervision of an outstanding teacher, Fiona Bell that attempted to help alleviate this problem with some success and some interesting observations I will share.
The underlying feature of the queen bee phenomena is fear and control and the way this is achieved is through the exploitation of the dynamics of cliques. Cliques are complex and everyone with them has a function. These positions are hierarchical with the power concentrated towards the apex of the group, the Queen. These positions are not static but girls can move up or down but for those with a poor sense of themselves they are really stuck in the one position.
Wiseman describes the queen as “a combination of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and Barbie.” The queen is popular, usually ‘pretty’ and has a level of personal power that allows her to dominate others including boys. Others do what she wants, she reigns supreme. In our work, we identified what we called ‘hives’ and discussed the role each had in the hierarchy. The group of ‘Queens’ saw no problem with what they were doing and if anything formed a very unhealthy elite within the school.
The power rests in her ability to isolate and exclude others. The fear of rejection is her weapon, she can easily enmesh or exclude and will do so to other individuals as the situation requires. The victims are in a state of unease not knowing how to know just where they fit. These girls are skilled at either manipulating the teacher or slipping under their radar. When challenged they are reluctant to take responsibility for their actions.
Being Queen comes with a cost. Although they gain power and attention their position requires constant commitment and this can make them feel isolated and trapped in their ‘image’, they lose their sense of self.
This is the deputy sheriff, the 2IC of the hive. The Side Kick mimics the actions of the queen making sure she doesn’t overstep her position. In a sense she does the dirty work for the queen thus placing some distance away from the ‘crime’ for the queen.
Although any challenge to the queen may come from the Side Kick this would be risky and so she is happy to take orders form the queen. She gains a sense of power form the queen but at the expense of expressing any opinions of her own.
The position of the Banker is interesting. This girl uses information as currency to acquire her position in the group. She gathers ‘secrets’ and ‘gossip’ treating everyone as her confident, she is friends with everyone. Then she uses this intelligence to consolidate her position.
Bankers are good strategists and even the queen is reluctant to upset her. Her information gives her power and security; she is rarely threatened or excluded but although she may appear harmless the girls all sense the danger she poses.
The Banker plays a dangerous role because she becomes vulnerable to everyone and, if exposed the trust she trades in is lost.
Of all the members of the group, The Floater is probably the only authentic one. She is friends with everyone and easily moves amongst them. Because she doesn’t base her self-worth on the acceptance of others she is comfortable within herself.
Her peers like her and she does have influence over others but she never uses it against others, she is always positive.
The Floater has the ideal position and if anyone can challenge the queen it is this girl.
The Torn Bystander is an insecure member of the group. She is desperate to belong and gives up any sense of independence for the sake of keeping the status quo in place. She will apologise for the Queen and the Side Kick’s behaviour even if she knows she is on the wrong side of a disagreement. This creates a conflict for the Torn Bystander as she is not good at saying no to her friends.
This desperation to keep the group together means she has to give up any sense of personal power.
The Pleaser / Wannabe
These are the foot soldiers of the Queen and Side Kick because they will do anything for the Queen so they belong to the group. Their weakness is the fear they have on disapproval. The opinions of the more influential members of the group are more important than their own.
This rejection of their own importance for the sake of being accepted makes these girls feel insecure and have trouble developing effective boundaries.
This is the victim, the person on whom the Queen and Side Kick can demonstrate their power. The Victim can be a member of the group or an outsider, it doesn’t matter. All that does matter is that she is humiliated and excluded. The result is a feeling of helplessness with nowhere to turn for support. Any girl who does feel an empathy for her risks the same treatment.
The Victim may, or may not try to mask the feelings she has over the rejection, she might say she doesn’t care but the Queen picks her Victims well knowing they are not likely to fight back.
In the next Newsletter I will discuss the particular tactics the girls use to establish control over others and how to support girls who become the victims of the Queen.