Perspectives

180° Shift: The Mean Girl Myth

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  • (All photos by Asa Mathat)

Speaker

Alison Schwartz
Co-Founder and Editorial Director, Lulu


Read the full transcript below. (Transcript by Realtime Transcriptions.)

Schwartz:  I’m going to talk about the mean girl myth, which goes something like this: Girls are horrible. At best, they’re bitchy and back-stabby. At worst, they’re total bullies. And that’s not to say that bullying isn’t a very serious thing, because of course it is, and I would be the last person to ever say otherwise; but I do think we need to recognize that we live in a world that is glamorizing and normalizing pitting women against each other. And that’s alarming, because that’s not the way millions of young women interact with each other, with their friends, and with their peers.

At Lulu, we see something different and we see something more positive. Lulu is a mobile platform, and we’re using a new take on the old-fashioned Cosmo Magazine quiz, to capture, categorize, and make searchable girl talk.

We started with relationships, because that’s a natural, provocative, fun place to start. Relationships also account for about 78 percent of female conversation, which is scary, but true. So we’re starting with relationships, but we’re going to move into beauty and health next, and our users will grow with us; but before I go on, I want to take a quick second and talk about what Lulu is and how it works.

On Lulu, you pick a guy from a list of your friends and you categorize your relationship to him. Is he an ex-boyfriend, a friend, relative, a crush, and so on? You answer a few multiple choice questions about him, and a score is derived. And your score is aggregated with other scores on the app. And that’s how it works.

What we see is girls are pretty darn nice. What we don’t see, and contrary to popular assumptions, is that Lulu is the definitive app for horrible ex, crazy psychos everywhere; because if that were the case, we’d be a very niche product for a very niche market. What we do see and what we do hear is girls want Lulu to remain a positive, playful space, and the data supports that.

Since our launch in February, we’ve had 2.5 million reviews. Two-thirds of these reviews are girls reviewing guys as friend, crush, relative or someone they’re currently together with. The bulk of those reviews are girls reviewing guys as friends. Eighty percent of friend reviews are 70 percent or higher, and 40 percent of friend reviews are 8.5 or higher.

Only a third of reviews are girls reviewing guys as hookups and ex-boyfriends or, as I call them, the panic-inducing categories. On the whole, girls are using Lulu to shout out about the good guys. Even their ex’s, 70 percent of reviews of ex-boyfriends and hookups are 7.0 or higher.

At the end of each review, you select from a list of hashtags that describe a guy’s best and worst qualities. Consistently since our launch, and we have had 30 million hash tags used, the top five hash tags have been “will act silly,” “cleans up good,” “epic smile,” “respects women,” and “loves his family.”

You have to jump down to Number 22 in the cumulative use list to get to the most popular worst hash tag, “man-child.” The girls are pretty nice.

So in all seriousness, though, the one time girls do ask us to be from harsher or more severe language is in the context of abuse and violent guys. And that is something we’re chewing on, and that is something we’re thinking about; but what this shows, girls want to help other girls, and women are looking out for other women. This is not mean girls.

This is a list of ways that young women have described themselves and their friends. You might be interested to know, as I was, that my favorite is DeVito lovers. Danny DeVito is having a renaissance among young women. Like the Millennials have discovered the movie “Twins” finally, which is great; but what this list really shows me is young women are complex creatures. They are motivated by many things, they have different interests, different goals, and different things that get them up in the morning.

What they do have in common is they—a lot of nourishment and energy that goes into their relationships and their friendships, and they look at the world with a discerning eye. That’s what excites us at Lulu. That’s who we’re building for, not the mean girls. Thank you.

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