Study Examines Female Rivalry

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2004

The science of cattiness, from Study Examines Female Rivalry:

Participants in the study included 57 college aged women and 47 men, all of whom were heterosexual. Women were divided into groups based on what stage they were at in their menstrual cycle.

Test subjects were shown color photographs of 35 female and 30 male faces. The models for the photographs were students from a first-year psychology class. Before the photos were taken, all models had to remove any accessories, wear a black smock, and display a neutral expression.

Women at a high stage of fertility, with elevated estrogen levels, tended to be more critical of the appearance of other women. Their views on men, however, remained the same throughout the menstrual cycle.

I’m not surprised that men’s views stayed constant, but I didn’t realize they’d stay constantly high:

Men’s views also stayed constant. Men, however, rated other men more highly than all of the women did at any given stage.

Evolutionary psychology at work:

She explained that derogating another woman’s appearance was one competition strategy. Women also are derogatory on other issues, such as fidelity, promiscuity, and maternal aptitude.

“I think women are very critical of other women — for example, there are many magazines that make money by ‘derogating’ the stars, showing how famous female actresses eat fattening meals and look badly without makeup,” said Fisher. “To extend this to the workforce, it is quite possible that women do hold each other back by highlighting things colleagues do incorrectly to a boss, or through similar actions. The possibility deserves further study.”

In her book “Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman,” author and women’s studies scholar Phyllis Chesler came to a similar conclusion.

Chesler wrote, “As most women know, a woman can make life hell, on a moment-by-moment basis, for any other woman whom she envies, fears, or with whom she must compete for resources. For example, older women and all-female cliques tend to bully girls and women into submission; cliques shun any woman whom they view as prettier, smarter, sexually freer, or ‘different.’”

Chesler added, “Female rivalries tend to support, not disrupt, the status quo. Thus, in order to survive or to improve their own lot, most women, like men, collude in the subordination of women as a class.”

Leave a Reply