Honoring the Girl Code: Or, How Not to Be a ‘Heather’

It’s vital that women lift each other up, not tear each other down. Here’s why.
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The Heathers did not follow the Girl Code.

In the August 2013 edition of Ask E. Jean in Elle Magazine, the advice columnist laid out these rules of girl-to-girl kindness and support, aka “the Girl Code” (or as she dubs it, the “Advanced Woman Code”):

  • Never stay silent when a friend is falling for an asshole.
  • Never refuse to write a recommendation for the offspring of a friend (no matter how big an idiot the kid is).
  • Never agree when a friend says she’s flabby, baggy, saggy, lumpy, floppy, veiny, squishy, scrawny, etc., etc. Tell her to shut up. Tell her life is too short. Tell her to eat, drink and be merry. And finally…
  • Never treat other women disrespectfully: It gives men ideas.

The last one especially caught my attention, and reminded me of my patient, Cheryl. Cheryl is a fabulous woman at the top of her profession. She has good friends and healthy family relationships, including a good relationship with her ex-husband, with whom she raised a couple of reasonably happy and independent children. Cheryl’s professional success has come from hard work, savvy interpersonal skills and a very powerful brain. She is not someone who has hurt others on her way to the top.

Read The “Mean Girl” Is Going Extinct (Hoorah!)

In her personal life, Cheryl recently ended a romantic relationship with a man who disguised himself for several years as a fun and understanding colleague, but turned out to be a sociopath. Though difficult at times, she has stayed strong against his manipulative pursuit of reconciliation. Since the breakup, she has also discovered that many more stable men are also interested in getting to know her better and truly appreciate all she has to offer.

In spite of all of these positive elements of her life, Cheryl goes through many days and nights with a cloud of stress and frustration hanging over her. This cloud is created and maintained every day by one woman—we’ll call her Elphaba (Google this name if it doesn’t ring a bell). Using somewhat questionable tactics, Elphaba insinuated her way into Cheryl’s professional environment, and into the space directly above her in the chain of command.

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