Rebecca said her last post was an impromptu one, but I think it was really more like a sharp, if unrehearsed, articulation of certain notion that's been scratching at the surface of her consciousness for a while now; the idea of female rivalry and conflict. Since this has been the topic of a few of her last entries, it looks to me as though the cat is out of the bag!
I trust that in looking closely at this darker side of our own psyche, we will learn enough about ourselves to stop being held at the mercy of it...if you drag it, protesting, into the light, that is the first step toward integration and perhaps a more real empowerment.Wolf's essay posits a key question which we can use to guide our interrogation of what she calls "girl-on-girl combat" (female feuding that falls anywhere on the continuum of hostility from emotional treachery and betrayal, gossip, and exclusion to bullying, cutthroat competition, and all-out eviscerating aggression); the likes of which permeates the media and often bedevils our lives:
- Are women destined for lives marked by power play and conflict with each other? In Wolf's opinion, perhaps so. In fact, she seems to argue for the possibility of a sort of genetic determinism in this regard.
Shifting her gaze to this dynamic as it presents itself among adult women, she writes:
I have seen the exclusion of one woman or group accompanied by so much glee from the others that it seems almost like a visceral behavior. I have even wondered if this reflex is evolutionary. Perhaps on the savannah, females had to form close, trusted groups to successfully gather food and rear children; perhaps they also needed to be able to brutally exclude a female outsider and her offspring—or a female perceived as threatening the group's survival—without regret, or recourse, when times were tough.The idea that women are hard-wired for backbiting and emotionally devastating struggle with one another is but one way of interpreting a complex problem. Only by wrestling with the subtleties of antagonism and discord between girls and women...
- Is it inborn (I hope not, otherwise, in light of our exceedingly close connection to each other Rebecca and I must be freaks of nature!); or are we socialized to be at each other's throats (vampire pun intended!)?
- Are there alternatives or other ways of being?
- What kinds of social conditions would have to exist for different relations between women to emerge?
- If this dynamic is based more in nurture than nature, who suffers most and who stands to gain by the way women are acculturated to be in fierce competition at all times? And the flip side of this coin is, if women's relationships are distorted in the media and pop culture to insinuate a higher prevalence of rancor and social sabotage (i.e. Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, and every other "reality show" that portrays women as being ever ready to rip each other's hair out), who is getting their kicks at our expense?
There's More Than One Way to Skin a Catfight
Women are complex, so a one-size-fits-all treatment of what defines us and our relationships to one another just won't do. There are numerous and multi-dimensional ideas and perspectives with which to deconstruct and open fresh vistas on the matter of female acrimony.