Today I was perusing the Internet when I stumbled upon an article in Jezebel. Immediately the article caught my eye because of its’ relevant subject matter concerning the “innate bitchiness in competition between women”. Oh boy do I love this topic, mainly because I myself have been a victim and perpetrator of indirect aggression.
I myself have felt threatened by the presence of female peers especially in the company of men. Tracy Vallencourt, a psychology professor at the University in Ottawa would state that these feelings of mine arise from
“Women use[ing] backbiting to demoralize competition and take sexual rivals out of the picture”
So, theoretically, the reasoning behind my jealous feelings and propensity for competition, are due to primal urges? I’m not sure about that and frankly I believe, as does Jezebel that researchers constantly try to relate strange human behavior to primal urges so no one is to blame. I believe that “cattiness”, and the passive aggressive behavior associated with it, is really only a product of gender construction. Women have been discouraged from the get-go to avoid being loud, vocal, and aggressive. We are expected to suppress any ugly feelings we may possess since that is just SO unladylike. This inherent suppression I believe, as Jezebel hints at as well, is the catalyst behind indirect aggression. We need to find an outlet for all of our pent-up frustration; therefore, it makes sense that women employ such covert strategies of aggression. I know I personally have suffered at the hands of malicious pre-tweens in middle school that viciously employed the weapons of exclusion, backstabbing, and rumor spreading. Embarrassingly enough, I have also been a perpetrator in acts of passive aggression towards other girls. Passive aggression, however, is not a singular trait of females. Anyone can be passive aggressive if you’re not a directly confrontational person, there is no inherent biological reason behind “catty behavior” in females.
Jezebel continues to make a relevant point that while indirect aggression is a byproduct of gender constructs, it is also a struggle for power. Marginalized by society, women are more apt to compete against each other since they are denied real influence and power in our society. The reason we fight against one another lies in frustrating helplessness of our situation. Dismantling the patriarchy may seem impossible, however, dismantling a fellow female peer’s self-esteem is an easier target for anger and frustration.
This is why consciousness-raising groups are so important; women need stop fighting against one another and channel their energy towards something bigger. I don’t want to feel threatened by another woman because I view her as a “sexual rival”. We’re not banal human beings influenced completely by our ovaries. Additionally, indirect aggression needs to stop being tainted by the derogatory connotation of “catty/bitchy behavior”. The prevalence of reality TV shows centered on fighting women such, as Bad Girls Club, are also not helping our cause. Shows such as these only perpetuate negative stereotypes of women’s aggression and turn it into entertainment and humor.