Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Are Women So Mean?

So asks a Yahoo.com (Shine?)  article in its title:

Female Blogger Weight-Shames Cheerleader—Why Are Women So Mean?
The article goes on to describe various cases in which a female writer or commentator has been mean to other women, usually about their weight.  It then asks:
Where's the sisterhood?

Mmm.  Here we are, stuck on this crummy planet, a species that is pretty good at warfare and not at all bad with ordinary murdering.  Most of that is not  done by the mean women.  But you don't often see articles asking why men are so mean to other men.

The point is not to initiate another round of gender wars, my dears.  The point is that humans can be both really nasty and also quite wonderful.  Sometimes it's the same human being alternating between nastiness and niceness.

What makes that title weird is the singling out of women as the nasty ones.  The likely reason is in the traditional expectation that women should be nice, sweet and gentle.  When you add to that the feminist meme of sisterhood, articles of the kind I linked to are all about "gotcha!"  Even if what you write about is pretty small potatoes compared to what's happening in Syria, say.

The linked article isn't worth a lot of analysis, but notice that the thesis (about women being mean)  consists of digging up articles which support that view while ignoring all the articles where women do act in "sisterhood" or where female writers defend other women.

Then there is the subtler hint that the body-shaming done by the quoted writers tells us something important, gives us some new information.  Perhaps the idea is that it is other women who are the nastiest on their co-women (no such word, I know)?

But anyone who has read enough about celebrities in the media knows the pleasure people get from criticizing famous people, and many of those enjoying the stories are women.  That the criticisms are about the looks or weight of the female celebrities (or praise about their baby bumps) is because those are still the traditional fields for women to compete in. 

I'd like to turn this thing upside down and point out that it's astonishing how much cooperation exists between human beings, both between women and between men and across the gender aisle.  Humans are both competitive and cooperative, and women are not excused from that categorization. 

We are just a whole lot less comfortable with the idea of female nastiness than with the idea of male nastiness.

I decided to keep this post on the topic of women's humongous nastiness.  It could have equally been on the topic of body-shaming.  Or on the more nebulous connections between the goal of gender equality and the need for women to be in some ways "better" humans to deserve equality.  Or, of course, on the futility about writing on articles which are constructed to be sensational to maximize clicks.