​Women Are So Confusing About Aggression

Women have it in for other women, reports the New York Times: A new study shows that women try to destroy one another through complicated mean-girling and slut-shaming. While this McMaster University study was first picked up a couple weeks ago, the Times “Science” section is just weighing in today, with an article titled “A Cold War, Fought by Women.”

The study asked, “Do human females use indirect aggression as an intrasexual competition strategy?” They do, concluded the study, after considering an instance in which women made fun of another woman’s outfit.

The researchers, Tracy Vaillancourt and Aanchal Sharma, first selected a woman who was pretty according to science: She “embodied qualities considered attractive from an evolutionary perspective,” like “low waist-to-hip ratio, clear skin, large breasts.” This woman was brought into a lab to ask for directions, and the reactions of the other women in the lab were recorded. In one trial, the woman was wearing a micro-miniskirt and a low-cut shirt; for the other trial, she was wearing a loose T-shirt and jeans. Reportedly, the women freaked out upon seeing the provocative outfit, saying things like, “What the [expletive] is that?” After she left, they talked smack about her. This, the study concluded, was “intrasexual competition” dictated by evolutionary logic.

But the women exhibited these signs of “indirect aggression” after this lady left, so she has no idea they were intrasexually competing with her. And maybe they were just trying to make friends with each other by bonding over an eye-roll of an outfit. Didn’t you guys just do all these studies about how gossip maintains social order and bonds us? Well, the study reports that this behind-the-back business is still part of a larger societal take-down because it ostracizes victims (which is harder to observe).

The Times concludes its piece:

In traditional villages, people married at an early age to someone nearby, but young men and women in modern societies are free to postpone marriage as they search long and far for better options. The result is more competition because there are so many more rivals — and there’s no longer any scientific doubt that both sexes are in to win it.

And, as we have noted previously about this study, other scientists have pointed out that there’s no “data showing that indirect aggression is successful in devaluing a competitor.” In conclusion, this study just showed a bunch of women scoffing at a miniskirt.

​Women Are So Confusing About Aggression