Female Competition: Subtle and Cold

shutterstock_55159327Anyone who has ever found herself suddenly on the outgroup has had to wonder, ‘Why are girls so MEAN?!’

Male competition is showy. It’s highly visible. Rams but heads on mountain tops, lions battle rivals in front of the entire pride, male peacocks strut their feathers and gorillas strut their stuff.  Male humans follow the same path, by puffing out their chests, shouting and shoving each other.

On the other hand, women tend to emotionally eviscerate each other while seemingly never lifting more than a carefully sculpted eyebrow. What gives?

It’s hard to separate nature and nurture, but the prevailing theory is that women have too much to lose by exchanging physical blows. They have higher parental investment and greater reproductive cost of injury or death. So they channel their energy into competing for mates by advertising assets valued by men (the assets tend to be the jiggly bits, as well as the illusion of sexual exclusiveness). And they ruin the reputation of any potential competition. They also tend to “slut shame” any female who readily gives out womens’ most prized evolutionary asset – sex. Hence the reason women who dress suggestively are at best “immodest” and at worst….well, “slutty”.

268012-female-argumentWomen tend to be more flexible in their aggressive behavior. They assert dominance and control over the gene pool by fostering cooperation and then ostracizing those deemed unworthy. In order to ensure exclusive access to the best mates, the women engage in indirect means of denigrating rivals – usually gossip and stigmatization (Of note: women gossip for one-third of their waking life – I call b.s. but someone actually did research on it).

Women are more sensitive to peer pressure and punishment than men, so much so that it can contribute to early death. However, when well-resourced men are in short supply, women find alternative sources of support or escalate their competition. For example, women in inner cities with a dearth of available men will turn to physical violence to push out new female arrivals. As both women and men wait longer and longer to marry, research indicates that competition gets worse the longer it’s dragged out.

In some cases, hormone fluxuations may be partially responsible (though I hate calling any woman’s valid anger “hormonal”). For example, women experience a oxytocin high after pregnancy. In addition to contributing to bonding between mother and baby, the oxytocin feeds aggression. So now that new Mom is is “simultaneously more nurturing and more likely to go ninja on your ass.

The more you know.

gossip-aug16

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