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Mean Girls

By Phillip Hickox - posted Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Virginia Trioli wrote:

Kimberley Kitching's death has exposed a battle within the Labor Party that is playing out in sexist language like 'mean girls'

It's a bit coy, isn't it? A bit retro, a bit high school? At the very least it's not at all honest.

School, in my view, is the basic training camp for females who are either bullies or are to become bullies, to refine their techniques, develop linguistic skills and skills at manipulation; skills aimed to remain hidden whilst causing psychological harm, destroying relationships and isolating their intended target. Eeva Sodhi noticed that as females got older, they became more sophisticated in the bullying techniques that they used.


Female bullying behaviour is known by a number of names - relational aggression, indirect aggression and horizontal violence. Covert and subtle forms of female bullying behaviour include ostracising, spreading rumours, gossiping, withholding crucial information. The covert and subtle aggressive interactions between prepubescent school girls and nurses are often referred to as "bitchy behaviour". The behaviours identified as being indirect were "socially sophisticated strategies where the perpetrator can inflict harm without being identified."

A recent, report by the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces found that women were twice as likely to bully another woman 66% than, they would a man at 32%.

We can get further insights into this bullying by looking at the female-dominated field of nursing where the rate is as high as 85 per cent as an article published in Marie Claire titled "The Mean Girls of ER Alarming Nurse Culture of Bullying and Hazing" demonstrates.

The culture of the mean girls in nursing is not sexist language or at all retro or a bit of high schoolish, because it is a very real problem, that exists in the real world. Nor is it cliche, as research in nursing literature since 1985 when the phrase "Nurses eat their Young" was coined. There is a comprehensive library in the nursing literature on female bullying and the research continually shows just how pervasive this issue is.

Nurses told me about numerous daunting behavioural patterns: colleagues withholding crucial information or help, spreading rumours, name-calling, playing favourites, and intimidating or berating nurses until they quit.

The prevalence of nurse bullying is staggering. Researchers say that at least 85 per cent of nurses have been verbally abused by a fellow nurse. Worldwide, experts estimate that one in three nurses quits her job.The Mean Girls of ER

Within the field of nursing, bullying has been for a long time associated with increased sick leave, high staff turnover, poor work performance and in some instances dire outcomes for patients. Director of the Workplace Bullying Institute Gary Namie PhD said that he had consulted in hospitals where nurse bullying has played a role in a patient's death.


...a bullying culture is bad for physical and emotional health. Nurse bullying has been linked to psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches and frequent illness, depression and anxiety, reduced productivity, absenteeism and fear of going to work, impaired relationships, poor quality of life, and suicide.

Female nurses are three times more likely to commit suicide than females in other occupations, for male nurses and midwives the rate was twice as high.

Skyrocketing nurse suicides are not limited to the United States. The United Kingdom has seen a massive proliferation of suicides over the past seven years. According to an article released by in April of this year, 300 nurses committed suicide over a seven-year period, from 2011 to 2017. Suicide increases in the UK come at a time when the national suicide rate has been decreasing since 1981………the article also noted the phenomenon of a "bullying culture" that leaves many victims afraid to ask for help for fear of retaliation. 

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About the Author

Phillip Hickox is a retired critical care nurse.

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