Why Are Women So Mean To Each Other? (An Evolutionary Approach to Female Aggression)

Let’s all agree to something. Men can be dicks at times sure, but women can be cold and heartless. This is especially true in the case of women on women aggression. Why do women act so bitchy toward each other?

I remember hearing one time that 90% of women’s friendships start with a compliment and 80% of the time that compliment was a lie. I’m not good at statistics, but that’s a lot of “fake” friendships. I could never get my head around this growing up.

I had a firsthand glimpse of this with my first girlfriends (I didn’t have sisters or girls as friends when I was younger). I would listen to my ex talk MAD shit about a girl. She would tell me how that girl was so annoying and rude and then when she saw that SAME girl, they acted like best friends! WTF?!

Figuring out why men and women are different was one of my original motivations to learn Psychology. I’ve had multiple girls ask me to write a post about why women can be so mean and fake at times. So as always, I decided to scientifically find out what makes women so “mean” to each other.

girl-fight

Boring is Better (The Science)

One Study I found assembled a group of women in a room. Half were friends, half strangers. They knew they were there to take part in a scientific study, but didn’t know what it entailed. All were being secretly filmed. As they waited, a hot blonde woman dressed in a short skirt, a cleavage-flashing top, and knee-length boots. She came in and asked the group what study they were there to take part in.

Later, the same woman was sent into a different group, but this time she was unrecognizable. Her hair was uncombed and put in a ponytail. She was wearing sweat pants, flat shoes and a comfortable sweatshirt. The different reactions the woman received from each group were staggering.

The first time the woman walked in she was greeted with eye-rolling and head-shaking as the women in the room traded looks of disapproval and shame. After the sexy woman left, some of them burst out laughing and made comments. One even suggested it was obviously her intention to F*** the professor. When the same exact woman entered the room dressed in a boring matter, she drew no reaction.

So what’s going on? Are women threatened by other attractive women? If so, why?

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It Isn’t Easy Being Pretty

A woman is judged on her looks in a way that a man never will be. Women are expected to use their beauty (or find a savvy ways to make up for the lack of it) in ways that a man can never understand. An attractive woman will not only attract a better mate, but studies have found that she’ll earn more and live longer, too.

It is unfortunate, but so much of a woman’s perceived value is placed on her physical appearance.

It doesn’t just affect us in our adult lives. Think back to that moment in school when pretty Suzie got more attention, not only from the boys, but from the teacher, too. In work, the pretty employee gets away with murder while you’re screwed over for simple errors. This may explain why so many ‘unchosen’ women feel so resentful.

men-ogling-a-woman

Why Do Women Act This Way?

Women nowadays are caught between two drives. There are social expectations for women to conform and be ladylike, pro-social, honest, valued and accepted with emotional composure. On the other hand, girls experience strong emotions of anger, jealousy, shame, sadness, and fear that they need to deal with. When women experience conflict, it is anti-social and frowned upon if they were to become physically aggressive like men. This leads to another type of aggression called “social” or “relational aggression”.

slut-shaming-cant-win

What Is Relational Aggression?

Social aggression is defined as “behavior directed to harming another’s friendships, social status, or self-esteem” which can be manifested in direct ways such as “social rejection and negative facial expressions or body movements” or in indirect ways such as “slanderous rumors, friendship manipulation, or social exclusion” (p.5???).

By using social aggression, girls can effect revenge, while appearing to be friendly and nice—thereby solving their dilemma.

Relational aggression has been used to describe behaviors aimed at damaging another’s friendships or feelings of inclusion in a peer group. It has been well documented that the repeated experience of relational aggression and victimization is associated with adjustment difficulties, including depression, loneliness, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

What Do Women Do?

Types of relational aggression include commenting on a girl’s flaws, how “slutty” she is, her looks, or some other trait like how she might be an “attention whore”. To ensure other people are influenced by her views, she will spread this gossip through social media like Facebook, Instagram etc.

This is supported by research. Women may be more sensitive than men to social exclusion, and when they feel threatened by the prospect of being left out, a woman’s first response may be to socially exclude a third party.

two faced

What kind of women are bitchy?

It has been well documented that the repeated experience of relational aggression and victimization is associated with adjustment difficulties, including depression, loneliness, anxiety, and low self-esteem. As such, they choose to employ tactics that would sabotage the other female’s reputation and self-esteem to “bring them down to their level.”

mate-poaching

Why Are More Attractive Women The Targets?

Women who are sexually attractive are at higher risk. When looking at this purely through the evolutionary context, it makes sense that “slutty” women get most of the abuse. Women that are sexually available are a threat to other women’s mate. Attractive women have a better chance at stealing other guys away because they are so easily accessible.

Given the importance of pair bonding to human reproductive success, it only seems plausible that both the ability to assess a possible threat to one’s relationship, as well as the subsequent appropriate emotional and behavioral responses to protect it, have evolved during the course of human evolution.

Jealousy is regarded by evolutionary psychologists as a basic, adaptive mechanism to protect one’s relationship and to prevent a partner’s infidelity (Buss, 1994). It arises when threats to the relationship are observed in the form of the presence of real or imagined rivals. Jealousy thus functions as a signal emotion, alerting the individual that action has to be taken to protect the relationship. When confronted with a rival, people will try to assess the threat this rival poses to their relationship.

References

Guadagno, R. E., & Sagarin, B. J. (2010). Sex differences in jealousy: An evolutionary perspective on online infidelity. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 40(10), 2636-2655. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2010.00674.x

Massar, K., Buunk, A. P., & Dechesne, M. (2009). Jealousy in the blink of an eye: Jealous reactions following subliminal exposure to rival characteristics. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 39(5), 768-779. doi:10.1002/ejsp.579

Pepler, D. (2004). Lifting the veil of silence on girls’ aggression.Psychology Of Women Quarterly, 28(4), 441-442. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2004.160_7.x

Reynolds, B. M., & Repetti, R. L. (2010). Teenage girls’ perceptions of the functions of relationally aggressive behaviors.Psychology In The Schools, 47(3), 282-296

9 Responses

  1. Julie Clarity

    So, when does it end? It hasn’t, yet, the relational aggression often sent my way, and I’m closer to 50 than 40. Just down the street reside not one, but three women in my age group who also have children in my child’s age group. I met each of them individually and was looking forward to seeing them all at a school function only to be ignored. Pointedly, by each. I had no idea they were buddies then, so did my usual thing of killing them with kindness when it was permissible.

    Luckily, I’m slightly autistic, though highly functioning, so seeing this happen over and over again, I’ve learned to just walk away from such folk. But I tell ya, the recent shenanigans of one of the women trying her best to demean me at every opportunity simply because my kid and I happened to be walking by and I am a polite neighborly sort were just hilarious. It was especially amusing to see how conflicted she became when I steadfastly refused to be brought down by her games and remained my usual kind, polite and joyful self. Now, she hides. Same with the other one, but that woman has something else wrong. She went all out in a subtle yet unusually nasty attack the revealed to me she is mentally ill, I was so surprised by it I accidentally let her make me feel bad and almost even broke down sobbing in front of her. I got away from her ASAP with a friendly “Have a good rest of the day!” once I realized what was happening and had erected my beautiful pale blue psi shield to deflect her emotional blows. I even accidentally mirrored the face she made as she yelled at me about something or another, out of nowhere. My thought was “Is she really yelling at me?” and had to do something to keep myself from laughing at her when I queried “WHAT?” in response, pretending I hadn’t heard the first time. Psi shields are great. And don’t even get me started on the third woman who also happened to be my child’s teacher last year. OMG That is one narcissist, for sure. Her last words to my kid before I pulled my kid from that toxic teacher in that toxic school were “I am better for you than your mother is.”

    So, there are some really mean ladies out there, even those in their early to mid-forties, and I can find no excuses for their behavior. I don’t even know why they are competing with me. I’m the oldest one of the bunch, and my aging is hitting while they remain in that golden time before age 46 when it all hits…the aging. Ah well. They will reap what they sow, and since they all seem to go to the same church, I actually feel very sorry for them. Their sin has found them out, if I were religious I’d avoid their church, and I don’t need any new friends, either.

  2. As a bloke that works in an environment with a lot of women we often discuss how hard it is for new female company starters to be accepted by other women. In regard to social aggression I did have a female friend try to sabotage my relationship with another girl. The comments she made about my friend would be very hurtful if she heard them and it did annoy me and played on my mind a bit but the next day I began to figure out what my friend was up to. Interestingly I have seen some female colleagues fall out with one girl as she got huffy over nothing, yet when the meet individually they are nice to each other though they would have to keep it professional.a few weeks back a girl emailed me saying people on her team were unhelpful and rude towards her it was bullying. The following week I asked her how things were and she said they are in great form. I told her bad form is no excuse to been nasty to her. She didn’t reply to that comment. I have also noticed women can be physically afraid of other women. I overheard a girl saying she was afraid of another girl. The people she was with said they girl had left and she had no reason to be afraid. She then said that this girl new where she lived and thus was still afraid. Another time a girl asked me to ask another woman a question as she was too much of a wimp to approach her.one previous female manager was so afraid of one girl on her team she used easily intimidate the manager by ignoring her and talking down to her. She could do it so easily she made the female look so week. In fact that female manager was bullied by other females too and in each time it made her look like a wuss.

    • The social dynamics of power with women is emerging and changing rapidly in this day and age with the increase of their independence. It is effecting men in an interesting way.

  3. I Prefer Males

    I Googled this subject after being near a woman in line at the grocery store who literally snarled and made a gruff noise at me. I don’t know if she felt threatened by my look. I am on the thin side and I have bit of a chest (not too big). On this day, I was just wearing jeans and a nice top. This lady was trim and in workout clothes with her baby in the cart so I don’t know why she would act that way. I typically get body shamed by larger women and I have come to expect that, but I was taken aback by this woman who was younger and skinnier than me. I have resolved to the fact, that women are mean and I prefer to be around friends who are male because I feel less judged by them.

  4. I am a female and I all my life have never been able to be friends with straight females. It’s usually the straight females who are the bitches and I pretty much nowadays ignore their stupidity. If I am friends with a female, I find its easier to get along with bisexual females or lesbians, because they think and behave more like guys in a way and don’t seem to get pleasure out of hurting another female emotionally for no good reason. I am actually bisexual myself and never did understand wtf heterosexual women were always in so much competition for and why they always got a thrill out of just plain bullying. I never partook in it and could care less. I do what makes me happy and if other women don’t like it or wanna gossip about it, hope they have fun cuz it doesn’t phase me.

  5. I googled this subject because, as a mom of two boys, I’m shocked at the way girls treat each other. My sons attend a small private school (about 80 kids, preschool through 8th grade). Middle school seems to be worse than elementary, but when first grade girls are calling each other “fat” and “pigs” and deliberately excluding one another, can you imagine what they’ll do in five years? And when the girls get tired of bullying each other, they get in a group and decide which boy they’re going to pour their wrath on. Many of these kids have attended school together since they were four years old and the cruelty is beyond belief. When my son got in the car in tears, saying he didn’t know what he did wrong, that a group of girls he’s known practically all his life were ignoring him, giggling and running away when he came toward him, snorting and laughing when he dared to ask questions in class, and talking about him in loud whispers, I said, “oh honey, I’m sorry, that really hurts, but it’s just your day. Tomorrow it’ll be someone else.” And I was right. So my son started saying the same type of thing to other boys when it was “their turn” and it became an inside joke. The girls were no longer getting what they wanted and have pretty much stopped bothering the boys, but they still delight in crushing each other. And now this has become a problem with their mothers. Just today I was put in an uncomfortable position because I dared to try and chat with two mothers (at the same time!) whose daughters must not be getting along this week. The tension was so thick and not being one who delights in this type of situation, I felt sick to my stomach. I happily spend time at school among the moms of boys and the moms who don’t allow their daughters to get involved. We get each other and for that, I am thankful.

  6. i’m 41-In my life every female friend i made–either fucked my boyfriends–wrote letters about me to mutual friends—saying that i was pathetic, negative and unbearable company. when i had a breakdown at 18—none visited me in the hospital and said my being depressed was my fault and i deserved it for being stupid—For years and years i blamed myself—Thought i was stupid, boring, undeserving of of friends and became a mouse in the corner—im ok looking–but starting to get wrinkly–and having had a beautiful child–my stomach looks like a stretched carrier bag—I don’t dress in an overtly sexual way—would never dream of stealing a married man–or any womans man–coz i know what it feels like to be cheated on with a best friend stealing my boyfriend—today i made the desicion to avoid women altogether–most can’t be trusted–most are stupid, vain, fake and bitchy–to all you super special women–who have been destroyed by women–I’m not one of them—I find you beautiful, sexy, intelligent wise and lovable and we are are the only ones that matter xxxxxx

  7. tired of stereotypes

    My entire life started at 5 …. jr high high school adult so called friends family everything. Even female therapy. Eff it all.

  8. Unfortunately They Really Do

    Most of the women do have very serious mental problems nowadays.

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