We all know the deal: women pick each other apart like packs of rabid hens. They’re judgmental and hateful, always sizing each other up and pointing out whatever flaws they can find… unless the other woman is physically flawless, in which case she’ll be dismissed as either an idiot or an arrogant bitch. Sometimes both, plus her boobs look kinda fake anyway.
While not *every* woman is like that, enough are to make the rest of us miserable. You also don’t want to get caught being the nice girl with only sweet things to say about other females, because then you’re a goody-two-shoes who probably thinks she’s better than everyone else. Yeah, her personality looks kinda fake anyway.
Why do we do this?
Some say we’re catty by nature, that all that extra estrogen makes us too emotional to be rational or fair. Some think we’re largely insecure, desperate for attention and resentful towards any other woman who could steal it from us.
I have a different theory. Maybe all those competitive instincts are far more rational than people realize.
You see, men fight over women too. But when men fight over women, they’re only fighting for exclusive mating rights. Maybe also their pride.
Women, on the other hand, used to have very little control over their own destinies. For millennia, they usually weren’t educated or able to earn much money. The only jobs they could take were either very poorly paid or socially ruinous (like prostitution). Men, therefore, controlled most of the resources.
There were really only two ways for women to get resources:
- Be born into a family with money, or
- Marry a man who either had money or seemed capable of getting it.
Since you don’t choose your family, option #2 was the only one a woman could control.
So when women competed for men, they weren’t just competing for romantic satisfaction, but also their future social rank, ability to eat, quality of lifestyle, and whatever opportunities they’d eventually be offering their kids. EVERYTHING depended on how well they married.
Not only were other women unlikely to help them, but they were competitors, potential usurpers… especially threatening when attractive or tricky. Hatefulness toward other women, therefore, probably had less to do with hating other women than protecting themselves. They couldn’t even vote, so it’s not as though they could start planning the revolution.
At this point, you may be thinking… sure, maybe that used to be true, but women can now vote and have careers. Why would they still keep treating each other as rivals?
Because that’s how it was, for thousands of years, as our social norms, unspoken rules, and values were developing. It’s only really been since the 1980’s that large numbers of women kept working after marriage (you could still be legally fired for pregnancy until 1978).
And since many studies show that successful women who have built solid careers are nevertheless unlikely to help out other women, you could argue that women are *still* better off impressing men.
While opportunities have changed, ten thousand years of culture doesn’t just transform overnight.
But let’s hope it eventually will.