Lily Allen is irritating feminists again. Here’s what she thinks about how women are judged:
“I don’t think men are the enemy, I think women are the enemy. I know that when I’m sitting in a restaurant and a really beautiful woman walks in, who’s skinny, I instinctively think, “Oh she’s really skinny and beautiful and I’m really fat and ugly.” Every man I speak to always says they find that kind of woman gross, and they prefer a bit more meat on their ladies. So it’s more of a competitive thing. It’s weird. It’s just really unhealthy and we’re our own worst enemy. We should stop being so horrible to each other.”
Or as Callie Beusman at Jezebel has helpfully summarized:
“Ugh, women are so mean to each other. I’m jealous of other women. But it’s ok, men say they’re disgusting and I’m better. God, we should stop being mean to each other!”
Ok so Allen is as bad as anyone else on the bitching front but actually she’s right on the money in her analysis of women’s attitudes to each other. Recent research is showing again and again that it’s competition among women, not what men think, that explains the massive pressure young women feel about how pretty they are, how thin they should be and how they should behave themselves sexually.
As anyone knows who has ever been to school, university, or any workplace involving the female of the species, women can be hellish bitches, and if you’re a good looking girl you’ll likely get more stick than anyone.
And you might think men are the ones most likely to ridicule women for putting it out there sexually, but really, although men don’t want their partners to dress or behave provocatively in public they’re often quite happy for other women to, for obvious reasons. Women aren’t happy though – it’s women that do the slut-shaming.
This is nicely illustrated in a study by Canadian researchers Tracy Vaillancourt and Aanchal Sharma. In one of their experiments, pairs of women were invited into the researcher’s office ostensibly for a survey about conflicts in friendships. During the conversation a highly attractive female student would enter the room wearing either jeans and a t-shirt with her hair scraped back into a pony tail, or a sexy mini skirt, long boots, a low cut top and her long hair loose. This stooge would then pretend to ask the researcher the whereabouts of a colleague and then the two would leave the room together while the subject women were secretly videoed to record their reaction to the interruption.
Pairs of subjects who were interrupted by the stooge when she was conservatively dressed behaved in a friendly way towards her and didn’t say anything about her when she left. But the same woman, when dressed sexily, provoked eye rolling, hostile staring and anger while in the room, and when she left, the subjects invariably remarked negatively about her appearance or sluttiness, with particularly intense bitching when the subject pairs were friends rather than strangers.
It makes sense when you think about it. Some have proposed that men usually want more sex than they get, and so controlling the supply of sex gives women power in their relationships. Women who break the rules by being too sexually available spoil the dynamic for others and so end up being punished. And of course if there is an attractive, sexually available woman about then there’s always a chance she might steal your boyfriend, at least temporarily.
Conditions in modern western society are perfect for intense female-female competition; we tend to favour monogamous relationships so there are few surplus men hanging around. Indeed in many places, particularly cities, they are in seriously short supply. Add this to the fact that men vary hugely in how desirable they are as long term partners, both on the physical front and in terms of how good they will be as providing and nurturing dads, so of course we have intense competition among women for the best ones.
It’s clear that this indirect aggro is about getting high quality boyfriend material since it intensifies when women are at their most fertile time of month, the time when it’s most vital to bag the best mate possible.
Research published last month and led by Kristina Durante of the University of Texas at San Antonio demonstrates that ovulating women are so concerned about their position relative to other women that they are willing to forego benefits just as long as this means other women will have less than they have.
In one of their experiments the team offered women the choice of two scenarios: Option A – to be given a $25,000 car while other women received $40,000 cars – and Option B – to get a $20,000 car with $12,000 cars for the other women. Ovulating women went for Option B, suggesting that ‘higher social standing’ compared with other women is what’s important to them. Another experiment demonstrated that the fertile women were less willing to share money with other women, although they were especially happy to share with men.
“The ultimate goal could be to attract the best mate who is available at the time,” says Durante, “but it is other women who are driving females’ behaviour to outdo one another during ovulation.”
Well, Allen told us that we should stop being horrible to each other. It ain’t gonna happen Lily – it’s human female nature. Anyway, she probably didn’t mean it, chances are she was just trying to make herself look nice…