From Queen Bees to Mean Girls

May 26, 2004, midnight | By Katherine Zhang | 16 years, 8 months ago

Washingtonian author explores the world of teenage girls

When she was 22 years old, Washington, D.C., native Rosalind Wiseman founded the Empower Program, an organization created to address the issue of violence and bullying among teens. Her work with the program eventually led to the publishing of her book, Queen Bees and Wannabes. On April 30, the messages and lessons from Wiseman's book appeared on silver screens throughout the United States – in the form of the blockbuster hit Mean Girls.

Empowering teens

Wiseman initially founded the Empower Program to tackle the problem of teen violence. "I had just felt strongly about people not bullying each other," she asserts, adding that she wanted to create a program "that spoke to the root causes of [bullying]."

According to its web site, the Empower Program aims to "work with youth to end the culture of violence," and it achieves this goal through workshops at schools, hospitals and other locations for both educators and teens. "The Empower Program envisions a world where young people are empowered to stop violence…Empower's visionary, effective and comprehensive approach teaches youth to transform silence into action," the web site states.

Today, Wiseman speaks to many educators and students in workshops with the Empower Program. The program includes many courses, one of which is "Owning Up," an award-winning curriculum that relies on "hands-on activities, role-playing, writing, question and answer sessions and discussions to get to the root of problems," the Empower Program web site says. Other curricula include classes, designed for both boys and girls, that explore social hierarchies, violence, safety and other topics.

The world through a teenager's eyes

As a speaker with the Empower Program, Wiseman had the opportunity to communicate with both educators and teens but rarely had a chance to speak with parents. However, this did not stop parents from asking her for advice about their daughters. "What did the world look like in the eyes of their daughter?" Wiseman recalls parents asking. That question inspired her to write a book on the subject.

Published in March 2003, Wiseman's book, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, introduces parents to the world of teenage girls. In the book, Wiseman acknowledges the difficulties that girls face with peers, growing up, fitting in, boyfriends and more. At the same time, she recognizes and provides advice for the challenges that parents face in helping their daughters during this stage. Wiseman's teaching experiences from the Empower Program provided her with valuable insight and information for the book, and much of her research is based on these experiences.

Adaptation to Mean Girls

On April 30, the movie Mean Girls opened in theaters nationwide. Based on Wiseman's book, the movie focuses on the experiences of a naïve teenage girl, played by Lindsay Lohan, who is introduced to the world of cliques and complicated friendships in a Chicago high school. Although the movie is fiction and Wiseman's book is non-fiction, the script writer, Tina Fey, derived many of the subtle details in the movie from Queen Bees and Wannabes, Wiseman says. "I think [Fey] used it as a way to look at the world," she elaborates.

Wiseman points out that the scene where Cady, Lohan's character, accepts a friend's compliment of "You're pretty," only to be met with the friend's remark, "So, you think you're pretty?" is an example of the way Mean Girls reflected typical interactions between friends. "You're not allowed to accept a compliment because then girls will think you're full of yourself," she elaborates.

Overall, Wiseman says that she likes the movie. "I think it's pretty good," she asserts. "I think it's funny, but it's not preachy. That's a big accomplishment."

Advice to girls

After years of speaking to girls, Wiseman pinpoints knowing how to face altercations as extremely important for girls because of the number of times girls are hurt or ignored by friends. "I think the most important thing for girls is how to handle confrontations directly," she maintains. "Handling confrontations is very critical."

For more information on the Empower Program, visit

Click here to read Silver Chips Online's review of Mean Girls.

Tags: print

Katherine Zhang. Katherine Zhang likes French baguettes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, bookmarks, fresh boxes of rosin, Brad Meltzer novels, and of course, "JAG." In her free time, Katherine enjoys knitting, playing the violin, and reading - especially legal thrillers and books about people in faraway places and long-ago times. … More »

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