And now a bunch of female academics have discovered another fact of human life hitherto observed only through the anecdotal evidence of the undegreed and untenured masses: women are bitchy towards each other!
It happens to the best of women. Here's Rosalind Wiseman, who has spent her entire working life teaching girls to treat each other decently. The script for the movie Mean Girls was based on her 2002 best-selling Queen Bees & Wannabes, a book that helps parents understand the drama and danger in the adolescent girl world. She knows the minefields that lie in gossip, jealousy, disloyalty and cruel judgments, and offers solid prescriptions for changing bad behaviour.
Yet despite her experience, she recently found herself sizing up two mothers who came to see her.
In her view, the women paid too much attention to their appearance, especially their hair. They seemed catty in their conversation, were micromanaging their kids' lives, and were silly.
"All these things came into my head. Why? They are antithetical to what I teach and believe," Wiseman says. "I was still judging these women."
Where does this nastiness come from?
Wiseman thinks it exists because it's supposed to exist. Being nasty to each other is one of the unspoken rules about how girls and women are supposed to behave; one of the rigidly enforced North American standards of what constitutes femininity.
She and Wiseman are part of a mini-industry of books exploring the "hidden" side of female competition, aggression and, as the title of Phyllis Chesler's book bleakly sums up, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman.
Chesler spent 20 years researching the book, which was published in 2002. "Most women have a repertoire of techniques with which to weaken, disorient, humiliate or banish other female group members," she wrote.
Around the same time, Leora Tanenbaum wrote Catfight: Rivalries among Women — From Diets to Dating, From the Board Room to the Delivery Room, and Susan Murphy and Pat Heim published In the Company of Women: Indirect Aggression Among Women — Why We Hurt Each Other & How to Stop.
It's enough to make you think there's a war out there — the combatants are women, the weapons are words and treachery, and battle has been waged since one Neanderthal woman narrowed her eyes suspiciously at another as their husbands went off to hunt wild boar for dinner.
No kidding. Growing up with three sisters taught me plenty about the nastiness and cruelty that the distaff side can unleash on each other. And seeing professionally educated women in the workplace act towards each other in a manner that leaves men's heads shaking. And reading Antonia Zerbisias and Kathy Shaidle going at each other in the blogs in a way I couldn't imagine, say, Robert McClelland and Damian Penny possibly doing.
But at least the women's studies crowd has relieved itself of its greatest delusion, which its members never really believed in anyway: that the world would be a more peaceful and productive place if women were running it.
Source: Toronto Star