Mill and Mean Girls?!
The movie Mean Girls was the perfect parody of the ‘typical’ suburban American high school. The high school with all of the distinct cliques which never mingled and co-existed for nearly seven hours everyday in the same building. Everyone belonged to one of those pre-existing cliques-whether they be a part of the jocks, the band geeks, the art freaks, or the mathletes. To this Mill wrote in On Liberty,
“But society has now fairly got the better of individuality; and the danger which threatens human nature is not the excess, but the deficiency, of personal impulses and preferences” (p. 622)
According to Mill, these high schoolers have lost what makes them unique. High school has gotten to the point where we long to fit in and the opinion of particular cliques has taken the place of our personal judgement. So what happened when an innocent, fairly intelligent, home-schooled girl from Africa enrolled at one of these conformity driven high schools?
Well she started the school year off staying to true to her ‘individual’ nature, what many students may refer to as just being socially awkward. She didn’t know what it meant to go to a high school Halloween party-she actually dressed up as something scary rather than sexy. She was not ashamed that she was actually good at math and she spoke with students of various cliques. She broke all of the norms, something Mill would be so proud of. But then peer pressure set in and Cadi (the innocent girl) became a member of ‘The Plastics’ and basically the envy of the entire school. Although this is an extreme example Mill would nonetheless be very disappointed,
“He who lets the world, or his portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation” (p.621)
Mill also wrote,
“Persons of genius are…more individual than any other people-less capable, consequently, of fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of moulds which society provides in order to save its members the trouble of forming their own character”(p. 625)
However, the fact that Cadi altered her lifestyle in order to fit in did not change the fact that she was naturally really good at math. Can’t we be a part of a distinct group in school and still keep our individuality? What would Mill think about campus events such as Festifall where everyone tries to get students to join their groups-are we putting ourselves at risk of losing our individuality?