Cliques ‘n’ Shit

I run a website where I am writing a fictional love story based on a well-known icon. It started out as just fun and really was, until a bunch of overzealous fans tried to take over. They were a nasty little clique, ewww; women in their 30s and 40s still playing the high school Mean Girl game. At first, the popularity of the site was extremely flattering. People loved the story and gushed over the site’s beautiful layout. They clamored for me to write more. I was having so much fun interacting with my audience and sharing my creative gift that it took a while to notice that a few of the women commenting were really just looking for their own platform to shine. I could almost see them chomping at the bit to share their own version of my story on my site. Now I’m happy to inspire, all creative artists inspire, but I viewed it tantamount to how Li’l Momma jumped on stage after Jay Z and Alicia Keys performed their hit song Empire State of Mind at the 2009 VMAs. You remember that award show, don’t you? The Video Music Award show where Kanye West tried to steal Taylor’s Swift’s moment in the spotlight by interrupting her award acceptance speech and being a complete ass. What kind of classless wannabe jumps on stage to enjoy the accolades of another person’s performance? What kind of fool tries to downplay someone’s accomplishments while they’re being praised?

Besides the scheming for the spotlight on my site, there were all kinds of underhanded, dishonest behavior going on. I was receiving emails behind the scenes like crazy. Online, certain members subtly attacked the personality of the leading lady in my story; they found her wanting as compared to themselves. Of course this was all going on amongst the group of “regulars.” Right before my eyes, they’d formed a little clique on my site that didn’t include me.

Often you’ll hear men making this complaint:  women are catty and competitive with one another. They tear each other down rather than lift each other up.   You see this stereotype promoted in our reality TV shows. I really think it all started with the dreaded The Bachelor, and that was all she wrote. The door was opened for disgusting competitions for love like MTV’s Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, Real Chance at Love . . . I can go on and on. But is this art mimicking life? On my site, the women competed for the love of my leading male character. Some of them considered themselves a better candidate than the one I had created and they were dying to let me know.

I created a site to share a story and naturally I expected support from those who claimed to love the story. Why was I instead getting cliques and shit?

How did I deal with my clique? Well, at first I ignored them. I told myself I didn’t have time for high school games. I welcomed people to comment on the site and actually loved the lively discussions we often had about human nature. My characters deal with real life issues and that often triggered deep conversations where people expressed strong opinions. I didn’t mind that at all. However, I don’t do gossip. I ignored the emails asking me to pick sides behind the scenes of an online discussion. If a person could not address me face to face, what was the point of me even thinking about what was being said behind my back?

Sadly, ignoring the childish behavior didn’t work because the behavior escalated. By this point, I had lots of members, but the members of my unwanted clique spoke pretty much only to each other and made everyone else feel unwanted. If someone came on with a thought or comment that didn’t match their line of thinking, they made it very clear that the thought was unwelcome and yes, that included me. You see, their daily participation on my site consisted of bawdy comments about how much they wanted to fuck the leading man in my story. Even though there was a very real plot and storyline that could be appreciated and explored that was pretty much their sole interest in reading.

I had already expressed my personal vision about what the story meant to me, how much I disliked sexual objectification and how I wanted all the characters in my story to be seen for the truly human, multi-faceted “people” that they were. Seemingly in defiance to my wishes, they objectified my leading man all the more. To each their own, right? But it was becoming like the classroom where only three students participate or better yet, where the three bullies in the back made it impossible for any of the other students to get anything out of the lesson. At one point I was having a discussion with a member, and someone in the clique told me to take it to “private email.” The clique was running my classroom.

Things came to a head when I decided to ban one member who was consistently disrespectful and argumentative. Of course, since she was a member of the clique, one of the other clique members wrote me an email begging me to unban her. I kindly and very clearly advised her to stop enabling and allow this person to deal with the consequences of her actions. This little bully had been warned several times about being nasty and I had had enough. Her self-appointed intercessor told me that she totally understood and had no tolerance for bullying behavior. But lo and behold, I found this champion of the underdog laughing and cheering on this bully as she lambasted people on Twitter who dared disagree with her, calling them all sorts of horrible names.   And as if the universe was trying to tell me something, I even stumbled upon her blog while doing a random Google search. What was her blog about? Why, she was writing a story; a story very similar to my own:  same plot, same story line, same leading man with herself as the leading lady.  She had never mentioned a word to me. Who were her only members? The members of the clique. When I confronted her on her hypocrisy, she played the offended victim. So I banned the entire clique. Good riddance, or so I thought.

The ringleader refused to go and spent hours logging onto my site through a proxy server so that I could not see her I.P. address. She put up taunting comments letting me know she was still able to log on despite my banning her. Yet another member of the clique emailed me in distress. She couldn’t log onto my site!!!! Had she done something wrong? No, not really. I mean, she had been a member of this “secret” blog and I had read her comments comparing this “new,” “better” story to my own. I read her complaining about my leading lady and saying how much she liked this one better. Was she just trying to fit in with what I had come to view as  a rotten batch of apples? I didn’t have the time or interest to wade in the shallow waters and figure it all out. I sent her an email that clearly proved the ringleader, someone who she thought was her friend, had been telling me all along that she wasn’t trustworthy.

Did she believe me? Nope. She actually asked the ringleader if I had created the email to try to divide and conquer them. I found it amazing! Once I revealed the machinations of the person who was actually playing them against each other, rather than realizing that they had joined ranks with an untrustworthy person, it actually made them a tighter group. They banned together in solidarity against their accuser, myself. Was it easier to believe the lie that their clique was good and loving and meant well than it was to see the truth about the basis for their friendship, about themselves?

Predictably, three of the clique members are now writing their “own” story.  I’m not hating.   People always think they can do it better.   I suppose that’s how we ended up with all these different religious denominations.  But it pains me to see women doing this to each other, and I wish I could say this was the first time I’d seen this play out online but it’s not. I once belonged to another blog where certain members were banned for not following the rules and criticizing the blog owner and her writing. They basically accused her of plagiarism. These were women in their 40s and well into their 50s. Did they leave quietly? Hell, no. They made the owner’s life hell for almost a year, creating fake blogs in her name, cyber-stalking her on every social network where they could find her, harassing her with hateful, anonymous emails and attempting to get all of her members to abandon her blog and come on over to “their side.”  Yes, of course they created their own blog for no other reason but to compete with her.  They were united in their collective hatred of her for daring to oust them from her site. When I tactfully pointed out that any writer would dismiss a person from their blog who accused them of copying their story from someone else, they cyber-stalked me.

So the question I have is:  Why do some women do this?  Why do they attack other women?  Why would grown women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, women with children, careers, loving partners and supposedly a fulfilling life band together and spend hours creating, not because they had the drive or desire, but just to compete, put down and prove themselves as “better than”  other women, especially women they supposedly once admired? I’d expect this behavior as some sort of weird right of passage in high school but adults?  WTF!   Is it society’s fault? Have we been trained by society to compete with each other? Has society conditioned some of us to only feel happy when we are dragging each other down? Is THAT how some women measure getting ahead?

I realize this particular piece is coming from a very hurt place. Of course I know not all women are like this. I’m speaking about the ones who are and I consider it a very real problem. When I have experienced this kind of behavior from other women, aside from feeling very bewildered what I felt most of all was of course attacked and yes, strangely enough, abandoned.

14 replies on “Cliques ‘n’ Shit”

I don’t think this behavior is universal to men but I think to a woman its particularly hurtful when it happens because we expect solidarity from each other. You know, men have their boy’s club and we women want to think that we can depend on each other, too.The clique behavior is maybe a way for some women to bond because hey don’t know how to “get together” otherwise? I’m thinking ou tloud here ’cause I’ve faced that in the work place and I have never understood it. I’m always like Hey, your’e a woman like me! Why are you doing that?

I’m so sorry you had to deal with such juvenile behavior but if it makes you feel better it’s probably because you’re a talented writer and they were just jealous and that doesn’t excuse their behavior because there’s no excuse but just FYI, people don’t usually do that to someone they don’t think is talented. :) Is that ME being cliquish?

Something someone mentions below about men starting wars and stuff. I mean it’s all the same to me and I don’t see any difference. The bitchiness that men attribute to women is based on insecurity and that’s the same reason they need to have pissing contests all over the world and their cliques are armies and corporations, political parties and stuff. Also a couple of people below mentioned anonymity and yep that’s part of it. Online women seem to let out their aggression maybe it’s ’cause we suffer from terminal “be nice” syndrome in real life.

Thanks for the compliment! What you said, it’s like when a black person is racist towards another black person or a person belonging to one group, attacks a person in the same group. The thinking is wow, how can you do this to me, we’re the same, right? At least that’s how I see it so I agree with you. As a woman, I expect to be treated well from my fellow women. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but I do.

I also agree with you that men and women act nasty towards each other and their own gender for the same reason, insecurity.

This has never happened to me online, thank God. But I went through it many times as I was growing up. It was my main reason for not having many female friends…I wanted to avoid the drama. At the time, I associated the drama with women/girls. Even now, it’s hard not to immediately associate this type of behavior with women even if the sex of the perpetrators is not revealed.

I believe that girls are socialized to behave this way. It is a moderately socially acceptable way for girls to act out their anger/aggression. But it also falls right into the human nature of gossip, which is truly genderless. We *all* talk about each other. Some folks are just a little nastier about it.

I wish I knew why some women in particular were like this – seemingly professional at being exclusive and mean. But I haven’t got a clue. I first experienced it when I was in the 3rd grade, but there was no real mean component. Sixth grade is where things got bad, and I tend to refer to this phenomenon as 6th grade behavior. It really does strike me as juvenile.

Coco is right about the internet/anonymous thing, too. People have even less inhibitions when they think there’ll be no real-world consequences. I’ve seen it happen quite a bit. Which is why I don’t frequent comment sections at any site that doesn’t have strict comment policies and some sort of comment approval/monitoring/moderation system. I’m too old for that crap.

Thankfully, since I grew up and got out of school, I have been around women who know how to be a friend. The catty, 6th grade behavior is not something I’m even around anymore. I love it! Almost all my friends are women now – the opposite of how things were growing up. I have found that a great many women and girls can be awesome and drama-free, not just the very few I knew when I was young.

As a way to prevent this type of problem in the future, the only thing I could suggest would be a strict comment policy. Comment moderation can be really time-consuming, but people will be people, otherwise. And when people are anonymous (IMO), they tend toward Lord of the Flies scenarios more than Little Women scenarios – regardless of gender.

Hi Jen, thanks for being honest about having difficulty NOT associating this behavior with women. I do think we’ve been socialized to act out our aggression this way; I agree. And you are so right that we all talk about each other! Its one of the points I was trying to make in my “That’s My Business” article, that everyone talks about each other.

I walk down the street and I always pay attention to the conversations I’m hearing and 98% of them are about other people, with the person criticizing someone for whatever reason. That’s just human nature but I think there’s a level it goes to where it become heinous and mean-spirited, and not just water cooler conversation.

I’m with you on not participating in any place where there are not strict guidelines about comments and such. That’s why on my site I wanted to nip that right in the bud, because I really have no tolerance for it.

It’s really nice to hear you say you have lots of positive women friends now who are mature and not at all like this. Maybe one day I’ll get to experience that. I tend to attract psycho people to me. I know the reason why, but its at times disheartening.

I’m happy to say that my site is now drama free. The first thing I did was make my story private so that only those who are approved can read it. Since the clique started their own blog, they now have a place where they can talk to each other without restrictions, which is how they wanted it. I viewed their behavior also as stuck in the adolescent stage where if there are rules, they must be broken. Both genders visit that stage and both genders run the risk of getting stuck there. Without rules we tend to regress to cavemen communication and when we don’t want to follow them, we just end up being anti-social.

I find this really interesting because on one of my professional message boards I’m a part of, the subject of cliques came up recently, too – and I thought to myself the same thing, how come these adult women are worried about cliques? Most of them are much older than me, and they still have issues with it?
It’s pretty disheartening, actually. To realize that no matter how long I’m anywhere, this will still happen? And I agree with the previous commenter, that it’s not only women that do this. We just notice it more because it has been labeled a “female” trait.
Default answers – insecurity? That’s what mom always said, right?

I mentioned above that there are a lot of adult bullies! I mean, where did our children learn it from if not from adults?

I agree its very disheartening, and there is something about seeing people like this bond over their negative, hateful behavior that’s even more sad. I think that got to me the most. I guess misery loves company and insecure people tend to feel more comfortable with each other.

I suppose if I dumbed myself down, played the hypocrite and gossiped too, they would have felt comfortable with me.

Some people need to cool it down.
But then, it’s hard to relate to this kind of situation, for me. I’ve seen it play out on other sites but I have never been a part of it – that I know of.

Even in the real world, I’ve tried to avoid this type of grouping. I’d been friends with certain groups of people but never close enough to qualify as a “minnion” or “queen bee” (or Queen B for the Gossip Girl crowd). :) And I would HATE to be a part of a bullying situation (one horrible experience is enough to make you hyper sensitive to that whole mess).

There’s so much anonymity to the internet now that the filter which kept us from saying some pretty horrible things has been taken down. We cannot see the other reader’s reaction to our words. That facial recognition and reaction is gone. And with it, I think people are becoming more Intense. The harshness is getting harsher.

And it’s so hard to hold the bullies back while letting the others through, those who actually would say what it is they are typing – to one’s face.

Having commenters and participants is fun and beneficial (Hi, Persephony writers!) but that’s only because the commenters and participants are making it fun and beneficial. Sometimes I wonder why CNN and Perez Hilton have commenting features because there is no.damn.point.

Maybe there is a commenting feature code type thing that would allow one to rate the comments being posted? Like Netflix. You could have a special “Way Harsh, Tai” button.

I’m sorry those women were bitches to you. But once they go off and do their own blogs and read their own comments maybe they’ll see how much work it is and how their commenter world just got a lot smaller?

And I would HATE to be a part of a bullying situation (one horrible experience is enough to make you hyper sensitive to that whole mess)

That’s so true. Because I had watched it and been the victim of it with the blog I mention at the end, when I saw it happening on my site I was like, O-O.

I think lots of people (I won’t say women even though that’s what I’m thinking) actually LIKE the gossipy, back-biting environment. I mean someone must be logging onto and watching those reality t.v. shows otherwise they’d stop making them and they wouldnt’ get so darn popular. Thanks for the suggestion about rating comments but I’ve made my blog pretty exclusive now. I had to, because what you mention is so true. It’s hard to let the good folks in and put the bullies out, because the bullies talk the loudest and are always trying to dominate, and they almost also make decent people reluctant to participate.

I’m sorry those women were bitches to you. But once they go off and do their own blogs and read their own comments maybe they’ll see how much work it is and how their commenter world just got a lot smaller?

Thanks for your compassion. Right now it seems they are having a great time just talking to each other and telling each other their stories, which was the desire all along. So I guess they’re happy :) They should thank me for giving them the inspiration and motivation but I know they won’t.

I find it really awful how these women behaved, it’s very shameful.
I honestly find the upringing of gender and of how women behave confusing. Why are women constantly held to a higher standard? What’s so bad about catfighting and backstabbing? Because if we look at what men do (war, rape, murder, domestic violence)? So.much.worse. And it’s not constantly mentioned and harped on about in our culture to prove that men are the weaker and less intellligent sex.

BIG DISCLAIMER (sorry for shouting): Of course women do those awful things too, and can be just as equally responsible for those horrible crimes. But men do more of that awful stuff in general it would seem. Also there are many men who don’t and never would.
I know men that are catty and chatty and behave cliquish. And I know women who do. People are people everywhere, and so you get shitty men and shitty women. I just refuse to have my rights hinged on the behaviour of people I do not know and am only lumped in the same group with, because we happen to share a vagina.

I find it really awful how these women behaved, it’s very shameful.

I like the way you put this. It IS shameful, isn’t it?

I honestly find the upringing of gender and of how women behave confusing. Why are women constantly held to a higher standard? What’s so bad about catfighting and backstabbing? Because if we look at what men do (war, rape, murder, domestic violence)? So.much.worse.

I have to agree and disagree in a way. Women ARE held to a high standard, don’t get me wrong. But there’s some doublethink involved because catfighting, backstabbing, war, rape, murder, domestic violence, it’s all bad and they all have their roots in the same sour soil, if you ask me. Ego centered behavior and insecurity.

I can only say for myself, I am hurt more when my “sisters” attack me. I feel an affinity to women because we share a lot of the same experiences. I also feel an affinity to human kind on the whole, but I like being a woman and so there’s something special there. When the relationship is honored it feels so good but when it’s shitted on it feels awful.

Meh – I think some people just never get past high school and thrive on stirring the pot. I think its deemed as a “feminine” trait so men can’t be called of how trivial their BS can be. There is a larger social conditioning that makes women more comfortable with doing it and even encourages it (hello reality tv) . Did you read the NY Mag profile of Roseanne ? She talks about this a bit, the ‘betrayal” of women like her, when she was under the impression they were all working towards a certain thing. Sometimes people are just out for themselves and just do what they can to get ahead. Its not about this idea of community, its about “my” needs.

I also think being online or being semi-anonymous allows for people to act a certain way they normally wouldn’t , which can be very freeing or a recipe for disaster. And people can get reeeaallly caught up in it to, but maybe not so much more then they would in some “real life” scenario.

The ringleader of the clique on my site, it was easy to see she needed lots of attention and constant supplies of it. When she described her relationship with her mother and how she grew up, it was easy for me to understand why. Then there was the one I describe as the “champion of the underdog”, she needed lots of attention; she was always telling flowery stories about dreams and such in the comments in cliff hanger fashion, designed to get people to ask her to tell more, and a few times she also threatened to leave and not come back but of course she always did.
So yes, I agree with you that it was also a case of not having grown up fully.

Sometimes people are just out for themselves and just do what they can to get ahead. Its not about this idea of community, its about “my” needs.

Boy aint that the truth. Yes, I did read Roseanne’s article and recognized that part of it as something that I had experienced. I think what you said above speaks a volumes, and it’s so annoying, especially when the person is going around talking about love and solidarity. But you can always tell when someone is selfish. The thing that I hate is selfish people who are also greedy.
They always want more more more even if they don’t give much of anything, especially not without a “price” — that part I think it pretty nasty. You better believe if a person is like this, they’ll get on line and it will come out and cause havoc where ever they end up. I always think they might do it more online than in real life because the consequences are delayed online, sometimes indefinitely, whereas consequences to that kind of behavior in real life are pretty much inevitable and oftentimes swift.

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