Historically, nearly all bullies in movies and TV have been boys and men. In 2008, "The Boston Globe" published a list of pop culture bullies; 12 out of 15 of them were male characters. This is proportional to what we find in real life -- we expect boys and men to be more naturally aggressive than girls and women. In the 1990s, however, Finnish researcher Kaj Bjorkqvist interviewed teenage girls about their social interactions. He discovered that girls are just as aggressive as boys, but in different ways [source: Talbot]. Instead of fighting on the playground, they play subtle mind games that can cause more damage than a black eye.
Children of both sexes are aggressive in the same way until about age four; they grab toys or push other kids [source: Talbot]. But according to researchers at Brigham Young University, a girl as young as four can learn how to manipulate to exclude other girls and become queen of the sandbox [source: Starr]. Even before kindergarten, girls start practicing "relational aggression." Instead of physically bullying weaker kids, female bullies verbally attack their closest friends to gain social status. The victim carries emotional scars after such attacks. Boys also bully others to gain social status, so both genders share certain motivations: the need for attention, fear of competition and often anger about how they're treated at home.
Maybe young girls should stop picking on one another to better prepare for future careers, though. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 37 percent of U.S. workers were bullied on the job. Sixty percent of the bullies were men, and the bully usually was the boss. What really was noteworthy as far as gender goes is this: Female bullies usually pick on other women. Although men in the workplace bully both men and women equally, 70 percent of the time female bullies target other women [source: Klaus]. This has to do mostly with gender stereotypes and how we expect women to behave. One possible reason is that women sometimes are considered more submissive and less aggressive, which leaves them open as targets [source: WBI]. Another reason could be that women are more sensitive to criticism, so they are more likely to bear grudges and then act on them [source: Klaus].
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