Bullying Education My Story

Emma McGann Blogs About How to Overcome the ‘Social Hierarchy’ at School…

We’ve all had ‘that one friend’ who believes themselves to be higher up the social hierarchy than the rest of the kids at school…

Singer-Songwriter Emma McGann, wrote a guest blog for Ditch the Label on how to challenge the label of ‘Queen Bee’… Here’s what Emma had to say:

I was different from a lot of people when I was younger. I was the only girl in my circle of after-school friends – we played football, re-enacted wrestling matches and collected Star Wars memorabilia from cereal boxes. Most girls didn’t like me for it. My hair was always tangled, I never wore make-up and I dressed how I wanted. Most boys didn’t like me for it.

Socially, people never knew how to categorise me. Like that weird looking fork that’s bent and rusty and doesn’t fit with the rest of your cutlery drawer. But I still managed to fit in somehow – I had girl friends and boy friends and floated between different social groups throughout school. There were plenty of others like me too… we weren’t labelled chavs or nerds or mods or the popular crowd. We were just the uncategorised ‘weird looking forks’ that everyone used to keep around.

It’s so hard to just be yourself when you’re a kid because you constantly think you’re under everyone’s microscope. But really, other people are too busy worrying about their own problems. And if they do focus in on yours, they probably have bigger problems than you think. I think I’ve always been less susceptible to the criticism of others for one big reason – my Mum. She allowed me to hang up whatever I wanted in my room. I decided that something would be a dartboard. She endured my endless Cher/South Park/Karen from Will & Grace impressions. She rarely complained, no matter how much I barrelled around the living room playing Time Crisis with a Namco gun or how hard I trampoline-danced on my bed to the “Spice Girls” She let me be me and she taught me that labels are just… lame. I am grateful to have been brought up by someone that didn’t force gender roles upon me. So, shout out to my Mama Bear.

Not everyone tolerated my differences though. To some, I was an easy target on the bus ride home from school. To others, I was just another dot on their ‘irrelevant’ radar. And to some, I was the perfect recruit for their Army of Skanks Please forgive the Mean Girls reference (you secretly loved it). Yes… I fell into the ‘Queen Bee’ trap. A few times.

It is THE MOST TOXIC social experience and form of bullying I’ve ever encountered personally. But like any kind of trouble, if you can already see it coming you can jump out of the way. So, based on my own experiences here are 5 ways to challenge the label of ‘Queen Bee’… (please do not mistake for Queen Bey. You don’t wanna challenge her. Beyonce is better than everyone at everything).

1. Don’t hold onto anger.

Queen Bee’ is a depressing label. So don’t use it. There’s underlying reasons why that person is treating you the way they are. Don’t stoop to their level – you could make it worse. Whether you’re affected directly by the group you’re in or another group of people who target you, one of the biggest emotions we feel in these vulnerable moments is anger. Retaliation solves nothing and anger we keep with us over time only makes us more bitter. While I was uncategorically floating between social groups in school, some people didn’t like my presence. They’d judge me on my tomboy clothes, the bands I liked, the endless lyrics that I scrawled across my school bag, guitar case and school folders… I was a bit alien to some people; just that ‘weird looking fork’ still lingering in the cutlery drawer.

“Queen Bee’ is a depressing label. So don’t use it.”

4 years ago I bumped into a girl that went to my school. It was at a bar that my band was performing at that night. Back in school she was what I would describe as a grade A bully. After the show, she said hello and surprised me by apologising for her judgements towards me in school. Well… it was a good attempt at an apology by any means. Clearly, it was a real shot in the dark for her, but I appreciated her apology. And I did remember everything. But Que Sera, sera… Life moves on, people change and we don’t have to carry a big ol’ bag of anger around with us for the rest of our lives.

2. She’s not the fairest of them all.

Don’t be a fallback support for someone if their actions are undesirable or intimidating to others. If you don’t stand behind them, they won’t act on their own. Back in secondary school one group of girls I often found myself with followed the agenda of just one person. At lunch break, we would go where she wanted to go and naively followed as her backup for any playground drama that she dragged herself into (just think as cliquey as ‘Clueless’ but with less plaid). In a way, we were out to prove ourselves to her. It feels ridiculous to even type that, but such was the social pressures of the playground hierarch.

3. Don’t laugh if it’s not funny

“Don’t feel like you need to join in laughing at someone else’s misfortune and don’t play yourself up to be someone you’re not in front of your friends. “

If you can’t be yourself around your group, maybe they’re not the good friends you thought they were. I’ll never forget the day my best friend stood up to a group of guys at the back of our bus (Yes, there are ‘King Bee’s’ out there too). Whether they were throwing things or hurling comments, I can’t exactly recall, but one thing I do remember was that one guy in their group wasn’t laughing. He actually called out his friends and asked them to stop. He was clearly embarrassed by their actions. My friend had had enough too, stormed up to them and totally put the main culprit in his place. I admired her more than ever in that moment.

4. ‘Fly my pretties!’

If you enjoy following orders you can always enroll in the army… but don’t do other people’s dirty work. Don’t be a bully’s sidekick. Be a hero… or a sidekick to a hero. Robin’s not all bad, is he? As a kid, I was always terrified of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. Super creepy stuff. But what you might not know is that you could actually have more in common with them than you think. No, I’m not saying you’re a hairy winged beast… but maybe you’re a minion (and not the adorable yellow, dungarees-wearing kind).

It’s easy for bullies to offload their dirty work onto other people. One day there was a buzz at my door and my usual group of four girls were calling me to come out. Instead of the friendly visit, I was expecting, I was heckled on my very own doorstep. Two girls in the group had decided for whatever reason that they did not like me and no longer valued my friendship. They felt it was imperative to rock up to my place to tell me so. Having been lured out by what I thought was a friendly call was in fact, just the minions at work.

5. Escape the hive

By walking away from a friendship that is toxic, you may even lay a path for others in the group who feel the same. When I say ‘squad goals’ perhaps you think ‘High School Musical’… I know I do. Maybe you think of the type of friends who made your Summer unforgettable. Either way, friendships need to be nurtured. Not all friendships are as healthy as they may seem.

“It’s healthier for you to distance yourself from toxic people. Don’t feel the need to stick around if you’re not comfortable.”

One lunch break, I was asked by a friend to finish her homework. She said she didn’t want help but that she needed me to do it for her. I straight-up refused. Then, I was TOLD I would do her homework and when I refused a second time, I got a boot to the shin. Classy. Before then I don’t know how I hadn’t realised how controlling she had always been over our group. People rarely disagreed with her and apparently, when they did, she responded with violence. Although we made up afterwards, our friendship dwindled and was never the same again. But, it was definitely for the best.

To summarise, we need to embrace our differences and look out for ourselves and our friends. People who are labelled as the ‘Queen Bee’ need a look-out too because all too often, those who victimise others are often victims themselves.

If you’re experiencing problems within friendships and need more help, go to our Community or check out ‘Are They Really Your Friend? 15 Signs That Suggest Otherwise.’

Follow Emma on Twitter and check out her YouTube channel here.