Wednesday, May 27, 2009
the evolution of mean girls
A recent Scientific American article attempts to explore the reasons why sweet pigtailed girls morph into "eye-rolling, gossiping, ostracizing, sarcastic, dismissive, cliquish ninth-graders, embroiled in the classic cafeteria style bitchery."
The writer looks to several studies examining male agression vs. female agression. While teenage boys and young male adults are more prone to engage in direct aggression, which includes physical acts of violence such as hitting, punching and kicking, females, in comparison, exhibit pronounced social aggression.
This much is true. We've all seen it boys beat the crap out of each other then make nice, girls make nice and secretly plot against each other from then on out.
The writer points to a second study, where male and female participants were asked to plot their course of revenge in a scenario where they were besmirched. The male's first point of attack was physical while the female participants chose to attack the other person's reputation. The researchers found that females often first resort to this "informational warfare" particularly when engaging in competition over males.
The writer concludes that, "Evolutionarily, historically and cross-culturally, they point out, girls in the fifteen- to nineteen-year-old range would be most actively competing for mates. Thus, anything that would sabotage another females’ image as a desirable reproductive partner, such as commenting on her promiscuity, physical appearance or some other aberrant or quirky traits, tends to be the stuff of virile gossip."
The finding seem to make sense for the most part. However, there are some things that don't jive with me. The writer assumes that female competition is defined by males. In reality, girls compete for status, for power, they compete to be the best. And the best is not defined purely by who you're dating/mating with. In fact, up to college level, girls tend to surpass boys in academics, the competition is between the girls. If you've ever been to a girls soccer game it becomes clear, girls can be fierce competitors. Not only do these girls not fight over boys, they take on the boys.
I for one, have never competed over a guy. In fact, I've always found myself competing with the boys, because the boys were competing over things I cared about. Perhaps, that's why I've never been a mean girl, at least with other girls.