Thoughts On Female Competition

In my last post, a commenter by the name of Rifleman suggested I post on the issue of girl-on-girl catfights and female competition. He left a link to this blog post about it, which is a post made as a personal commentary on this article from NYTimes by John Tierney, with research about female aggression towards one another.

The NY Times article cites an experiment done by McMaster University to see how women react to another woman who is dressed casually and another is who dressed more noticeably and revealingly.

This woman had been chosen by the researchers, Tracy Vaillancourt and Aanchal Sharma, because she “embodied qualities considered attractive from an evolutionary perspective,” meaning a “low waist-to-hip ratio, clear skin, large breasts.” Sometimes, she wore a T-shirt and jeans, other times a tightfitting, low-cut blouse and short skirt.

In jeans, she attracted little notice and no negative comments from the students, whose reactions were being secretly recorded during the encounter and after the woman left the room. But when she wore the other outfit, virtually all the students reacted with hostility.

Ok, no surprises there. More from the Times article:

Now that researchers have been looking more closely, they say that this “intrasexual competition” is the most important factor explaining the pressures that young women feel to meet standards of sexual conduct and physical appearance.

“Women are indeed very capable of aggressing against others, especially women they perceive as rivals,” said Dr. Vaillancourt, now a psychologist at the University of Ottawa. “The research also shows that suppression of female sexuality is by women, not necessarily by men.”


Stigmatizing female promiscuity — a.k.a. slut-shaming — has often been blamed on men, who have a Darwinian incentive to discourage their spouses from straying. But they also have a Darwinian incentive to encourage other women to be promiscuous. Dr. Vaillancourt said the experiment and other research suggest the stigma is enforced mainly by women.

Now I see what this is getting at. We are now getting into the “Who’s fault is it really?” game. I’m not sure where exactly that men are the only ones being blamed for slut shaming or the pressures on women to look or be  a certain way, but it’s definitely not true. Men are not universally being blamed. And if they were being blamed universally, it’s flat out wrong. The male gender alone is not to blame for slut shaming nor are they are at fault for encouraging ridiculous pressures on women.

I have an issue with the agenda trying to be pushed on to women within that piece. This is basically just a way to say, “Ah-ha! It’s actually women’s fault for comparing themselves to each other!” Um, no. Not so fast.

“To a large degree the media reflects trends that are going on in society, not creates them,” said Dr. Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University. He found that women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies did not correlate with what they watched on television at home. Nor were they influenced by TV programs shown in laboratory experiments: Watching the svelte actresses on “Scrubs” induced no more feelings of inferiority than watching the not-so-svelte star of “Roseanne.”

Who in the heck ever said the media alone creates the trends in the first place? Wh-what are these people reading? No, the media doesn’t create the trends. The statement is true that they instead reflect trends, not create them.

So who does create the trends, then?

The beauty and fashion industries create products they want to sell. They push them in the market as best they can to make their dollar. But are they the ones who invent the trends, or do they gather information about what consumers want and make their products accordingly?

Women compete with each other and hate on other women when they feel threatened. When they see a sexually precocious woman, they want to tear her down, because she is limiting her sexual market….but why is that? Aren’t they just reacting to what they know men will go for?

So what or who’s fault is it? Men? Women? Society? The fashion and beauty industry? Nature?

Look, we can play this blame game forever. The point is, let’s skip that and stop the hating. Both men and women slut shame women and make negative remarks about the way women look. Yes, I said women do it too, and they can be just as cruel in their comments as anyone else can. It’s still wrong. It’s no more okay for women to hate on each other or to press incredible standards on each other than it is for men to do it. Forget about who’s being blamed and just stop the hating and judging, shall we?

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7 thoughts on “Thoughts On Female Competition

  1. Women are of course just as guilty for slut shaming women. The goal is to end the action, not place blame on to men, or anyone else really. We want the shaming to stop, and that’s all.

  2. Women also try to socially take each other down simply for their own validation. They rationalize that a woman is slutty or fake or whatever in order to make themselves believe she isn’t better than herself.

  3. Nice case studies and experimentation. I like these in that they give a true or at least realistic sense of what works, how they work and so forth.

    I personally find that women are by far more to compete and talk shit about their peers. I see it every day especially being that I work with 4 women and I’m the only guy.

  4. Uuhhgg! This so-called research is flawed I’m so many levels. First, the description of what is considered attractive is more based on our society than evolution. You don’t find all of these qualities being valued in all cultures. Also, both women and men can, and often do, internalize the notion of women sluts. And again, you don’t find slut-shaming in every culture. To the extent that women do this, it likely reflects there sexually repression and other forms of powerlessness. For instance, women are expected to sit back and attract men as opposed to actively engaging them. So women may begin to feel powerless and worry when another woman seems to be better at attracting. Oh, I could go on.

    • Every culture has expectations for proper ways and improper ways to dress/act/talk. What’s vulgar in one culture is often different from what is considered to be vulgar in another, but it’s the same principle that applies. Example: A woman isn’t breaking any social rules if she’s topless at a topless beach…no one cares, it’s appropriate. A person can wear a bikini at the beach, and I happen to live in a beach community and it’s appropriate to wear a bikini almost anywhere here. In some settings it is highly inappropriate to reveal a lot of flesh. It’s considered impolite behavior.

      • Just to add further, imagine the woman with a tank top and a large amount of underarm hair. This would likely generate commentary as well…she’s violating the social norm. It’s true that there would likely be less social commentary if she were ugly and obese. This is because an extemely unattractive woman acting in that manner would generate a sort of reflexive group pity….this will likely trigger a different response because it is also bad manners to publicly poke fun at pathetic people.

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