Mean Girls, Mean Women

January 30, 2012

Every adult woman understands the fierceness of female intrasexual competition, having weathered it one way or another. The unlucky ones have learned first-hand just how mean a mean girl can be. From a young age, we compete in subtle and covert ways, angling for power through a series of small but critical steps. Those steps usually involve elevating oneself at the expense of someone else. Competition among females in the social sphere is often extremely indirect, but the effects of exclusion can be brutal. 

While we’re growing up, we’re eager to be the prettiest girl at the ball, or, failing that, to be in her entourage. Sometimes the best we can hope for is that we’ll avoid being an outcast, left to our own devices without being picked on.  As we age, we remain ever vigilant, desperately wanting to avoid being “that woman” – the outsider.

These truths, rather obvious to me, are often denied by other women. We resist swallowing our own red pill about the vicious tactics we’re capable of employing under the right circumstances.

I’ve shared before how in my career, I have found women to be the most difficult bosses. The rules were unclear, the offenses were random, and the penalties inconsistent. I have found them to be the most likely to steal credit for a subordinate’s work. I have seen them play favorites with male subordinates, introducing a component of sexual tension that amounts to sexual harrassment, though it is rarely recognized as such. (The workplace is the one place where women appreciate obsequious behavior from males.) Most unfairly, I’ve seen women actively sabotage the promotions of deserving women who worked for them, apparently in the belief that their own success would be assured if they could keep the ranks of female superiors thin.

Even in my years as a stay at home mom, I found women to be unforgiving competitors. (If you’ve seen the movie Help, the dynamic among the Junior League types was not far off.) I’ve heard women (often with MBAs, JDs, or MDs) badmouth one another for contributing less-than-gourmet quality food to the annual teacher’s brunch or dry brownies to the annual bake sale. I’ve watched them secretly rejoice upon learning that someone else’s child failed to secure admission to the college of their choice. (At one Back to School Night, the Guidance Counselor advised senior parents to avoid cocktail parties at all costs.) It wasn’t the men acting mean and antisocial during the college application process – it was the moms. (Note: I was President of the Parents’ Association at my son’s school during his last two years. I’m still recovering.)

I doubt any of this will surprise female readers, though it may depress them. Selena Rezvani, author of a book about women leaders, writes in Mean Girls at Work in the Washington Post about the problem.

While workplace studies show women are routinely underestimated compared to men, we don’t give much credence to the fact that women hampering other women is also to blame.

In nearly every leadership talk I give, whether to the women’s network of a Fortune 500 company or to incoming female MBA students, I actively steer away from this topic. 

But even if I don’t bring this issue up in a women’s forum, someone will invariably—and I mean always—raise her hand and ask me the same question. “What about women who thwart other women’s success?” 

It’s time these reports from the trenches get their due. 

Rezvani offers several possible explanations for this rather “unbecoming” behavior:

1. Catty media portrayals

2. Sexism amnesia

Women get to the top and forget what it was like to be young and struggling.

3. Sink or swim sadism

“I was treated like dirt on my way up, so you should be too.”

4. Self-hatred

Rezvani states, “In their book Mean Girls, Meaner Women, coauthors Drs. Erika Holiday and Joan Rosenberg note, ‘…Self-hatred is the key link between girls’ early hurtful behavior toward each other and women who suppress other women. A woman with a strong sense of self and high self esteem is much less likely to hurt others.’ The authors explain that women are socialized from an early age to avert, rather than express anger, and to feel that any expression of anger whatsoever is wrong. Perhaps this is how the wires get crossed, making appropriate anger morph into backdoor, gossipy, passive-aggressive behavior.”

5. Bitchy mothers

Mothers are the figures who have greater influence in the transference of discriminatory behavior, and thus the opportunity to pass on more fair-minded behavior as well.

6. Having it all, doing it all

 This is Rezvani’s own theory.

If there’s one observation I make about many professional women today—particularly working moms—it’s that they’re “doing it all,” burdened with too many demands to count and moving through life at breakneck speed. Kate Sayre and Michael J. Silverstein, coauthors of the book Women Want More , found that women’s happiness, when correlated to age, is V-shaped. Meaning, women are happiest between the ages of 18 and 25 and then again after age 50 when, for many, these converging life demands are less pronounced.

Finally, she asks, “Where’s the solidarity and sisterhood?”

There isn’t any, and there actually never was. Feminism, the most prominent “sisterhood” of our age, is fractured, characterized by infighting and petty grievances, along with a hatred of “other.” Most notably, that means men, but there’s plenty of vitriol for women who question or disagree.

Recently I was asked to participate in a small group of Wharton women alums, charged with the task of rethinking the mission of the Wharton Women’s group, and exploring what kinds of programs and services might be of most interest. At one point, the moderator asked what we thought of a mentoring program, where older, successful women might meet regularly with recent graduates. I said I thought that was a great idea, since relations between women in the workplace are so often strained and unproductive. At first, no one else in the group spoke. The moderator asked if others also perceived that. One woman, the head of a profitable hedge fund, assured the group that she was incredibly generous and kind with her female employees. As she had been curt and abrupt with us, I didn’t give her report much credit.

Finally, the youngest woman present spoke. After being assured that her remarks would not be attributed to her, she confessed that women had actively derailed her success in some instances, and were very impersonal and businesslike at her current firm. She admitted that she has had two wonderful mentors, both male, and that women in each organization actively disapproved of and discouraged these relationships, although they had no interest in mentoring themselves. By the end of the meeting, everyone but the hedge fund guru had admitted to having similar experiences. 

 

I do agree with Rezvani that real life reports from the trenches need to be taken seriously. What’s more, each and every woman should acknowledge that this mode of behavior is endemic to female nature. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but only by acknowledging it can we call out offenders and reward more productive ways of competing. 

In the meantime, here’s my advice for dealing with women in the workplace:

1. Avoid direct confrontation at all costs.
2. Be unassailably good at your job, and never cut corners, e.g. taking long lunches, leaving early, etc.
3. Cultivate professional relationships with men. Be sure to avoid any hint of flirtation.
4. If you have a female boss, kiss her ass and have her back at all times. If you’re lucky, she’ll feel neutral about you.
5. Be a loyal and cooperative teammate with other women at your level. Don’t rise to competitive bait.
6. Never underestimate what alliances even the bitchiest (and sometimes the stupidest) women have in place. I’ve seen at least half a dozen terrible women get promoted repeatedly for having a sexual relationship with a senior executive.

This is an ugly truth. The most difficult people in a man’s world are the women.

 

  • Anna

    Phew! I’m actually glad someone is this honest about it. I’m a student and I’ve only had one job in my life, which was all-female employees and a female boss. She was not a great boss whatsoever and I sincerely think it would have been better with a man.
    I’ve always preferred male over female teachers as well. Problem is, if you express these things (particularly as a young girl), people (women) will assume you are saying what you are saying because if you did have a male boss you would be able to flirt your way with him, or sometimes even given advantages without any flirtation whatsoever (simply for being attractive). Occasionally this is true (I have experienced male teachers giving me 10 points extra on a test without flirtation from my side or anything between us), but mostly it’s about being able to have a good relationship with your boss without all the female bullshit between you.
    Honestly, do you think most companies would be better off with a male boss?

  • Curious – Does anyone actually have some answers for how to solve the problem?

    Susan’s ideas seem to try to avoid the problem as if it doesn’t exist. Doesn’t exactly sound pleasurable for a career long strategy as I doubt that it will go away. Probably the best you could hope for is one career driven female being replaced by another that backstabbed the first to get the job.

    • @LeapofaBeta

      Haha, the writer of the WashPo article doesn’t have a clue either. I’m all ears if you have ideas, though.

      As I suggest in the post, the first step in solving the problem, and it is huge, is getting women to acknowledge what’s really going on. As my illustration of the Wharton meeting demonstrates, this topic feels like the third rail for professional women. I’ve been in many group discussions over the years about this topic, and have found few dissenters, though many junior women are understandably afraid to speak honestly.

      So for now I encourage women to begin to open up about this very real issue. The topic has been explored in the media among adolescent girls. Tina Fey’s movie Mean Girls is the best known example, and many books have been written about the “queen bee” syndrome among teenage girls. What’s not been discussed until now is the fact that women don’t outgrow this behavior, and often the worst offenders are the older women at senior levels.

      My suggestions do not deny or avoid the problem, which is what women have been miserable doing for a long time now. I suggest treating female superiors with kid gloves, because they have the power to destroy your reputation and advancement, and may even get you fired.

      The way that the problem will go away is if young women today resolve to behave differently as they advance in the organization. You are simply not going to get current senior women to change their ways. We’re talking about a big shift in culture, and that takes time. In the meantime, young women need a survival strategy.

  • FeralEmployee

    @Anna

    To state that companies are better off with male bosses is extreme. Whereas women interrelations might suffer from hostility, men aren’t all that either. Always need to keep an eye out for those traits that mark a bad boss (narcissism, greed, …). I’ve developed a feeling as to what a good boss is, and the traits are gender neutral.

    I believe this post simply highlight a problem more common in female groups in a professional environment than in a male environment. From my experience as a male, we tend to categorize according to aspects such as religiosity, political adherence, stances on various issues, … Which is why you’ll find us bickering about such issues.

  • PV

    I had four women bosses before I became a SAHM. Two were fair and easy to work for and two were vicious as you describe so I guess I was lucky. I’ve been wondering if this mean girl situation is just getting worse. I have a 16-year-old daughter and the stories she tells me about how the girls sabotage each other stuns me. I remember mean girls in high school but I just stayed away from them and it was not a big deal.

    I think the media has a lot to do with this. Shows like “the Bachelor” pit women against each other and encourage catfights and slutty behavior. It get worse every year.

    • @PV

      I think the media has a lot to do with this. Shows like “the Bachelor” pit women against each other and encourage catfights and slutty behavior. It get worse every year.

      I don’t think the effect of pop culture can be overstated. I’d bet that reality shows have done more to destroy the American character than anything since feminism.

  • Hmm….I suppose that anytime you put women and potential mates in an environment together there will be competition and tension – hence why the workplace is so fraught with it.

    I have a few tips for women to avoid, that I have handed down to my younger siblings:

    1) If a woman states that she cannot stand other women, that they are “catty” and jealous of her, and that she’d rather hang out with guys than women, she is most likely a bitch. If you can’t get along with 3 billion people on the planet, it’s usually you.

    2) If a woman (especially a friend) every gives you any of the following advice, she is not a good friend: a) Cut your hair short b) Gain weight b/c you look too thin c) Confront your guy over something that is trivial

    3) If a girl starts talking the house of shit about someone right after they leave, they are doing the same thing about you

    @PV I think that bad behavior among women is easily encouraged because it is easily brought out. Women are highly competitive and in this day and age are highly delusional about their market value- which results in highly entitled attitudes (I can’t believe that girl got the guy/promotion/compliment over me when I am clearly a special snowflake that should really have been discovered by Calvin Klein by now…). Add hormones and it’s suddenly a voyeurs dream.

    The worst person I ever worked for was a woman. Now that I think about it the only work issues I have ever had (all minor) have been with women. Hmmm.

    • @Flavia

      Great advice re red flags to watch out for with other women, thanks!

  • @ Susan

    Hah! Wish I did have a solution for you, cause men have to deal with these crazy women too. Sadly, I have the feeling that we’ll all have to continue dealing with these kinds of women as they seem to make up a significant portion of career girls.

    In in an arts career I run into too many of them to suite my taste.

  • Even in*

    Stupid typos

  • Anna

    @ Flavia
    “If a woman states that she cannot stand other women, that they are “catty” and jealous of her, and that she’d rather hang out with guys than women, she is most likely a bitch. If you can’t get along with 3 billion people on the planet, it’s usually you. ”

    There is a name for this kind of woman. The female dog whistle.
    Example on Facebook: “Sarah wants to apologise to all the wives and girlfriends for keeping their men out late last night! Naughty me 🙂 ”

    Men think she’s sweet, misunderstod and picked on. Women know she’s a manipulative, girl-hating nightmare who’d sleep with their men in a flash. If you complain about these girls to your boyfriend, he will say you and your friends are being bitchy or of course, jealous. She is calles the female dog whistle because only girls can hear her. She says she’s a “bit of a tomboy” and feels a constant need to demonstrate how sexually liberated she is. She makes herself stupid to get attention from men (*baby voice* How do I send an email on this ‘puter?). She will invite girls with their boyfriends to a pajama party. You turn up in flannel, she opens the door in a babydoll and stay-ups.
    The giveaway catchphrase is “Women don’t like me and I don’t know why”. It means “I don’t like women and I want you to think they’re jealous of me”.
    She lacks the skills and personality to become friends with other females. So pretends to be “one of the boys”, because it’s easy to get attention from men, especially when “sexually liberated”. If you ask any of her ‘male friends’, they will confirm – she is not one of the boys. She lives on male attention.
    A lot of girls are gossipy, but not everyone, and for a normally social person, it is perfectly possible to meet girls that aren’t bitches.

    • @Anna

      I’ve never heard of the female dog whistle, but that is perfect!

      Men think she’s sweet, misunderstod and picked on. Women know she’s a manipulative, girl-hating nightmare who’d sleep with their men in a flash. If you complain about these girls to your boyfriend, he will say you and your friends are being bitchy or of course, jealous.

      Ooooohhh, this drives me crazy. This can also be very problematic when couples socialize. The husband is great, the wife is a terror. Not only does my husband fail to see how terrible she is, apparently her husband doesn’t even hear the whistle. I know a woman who is so toxic that whenever I think of her I wonder how her husband, a total sweetheart, can possibly stand it.

  • @ Anna
    “She is calles the female dog whistle because only girls can hear her.”

    Red pill men can hear her. Depending on their intentions they’ll either be one of the line of men she gets with for a few nights or they’ll ignore her to let her get attention, money, and favors. Mostly from beta’s who can’t resist her charms/don’t know better.

  • Agreed

  • Jackie

    @Susan

    Wow, thank you for an incredibly honest (if painful) article. My sympathies to all those who struggled under these types. 🙁 I work for myself so I’m out of the loop:

    *Is it possible that this is related to a “zero sum” mentality in these women? Like, Highlander, “There can only be one” and they will destroy you to get it, instead of seeing that there is abundance for all?

    *Do you think this is worse in some fields, or “vibe”/culture of company? Big Law vs NonProfit, Govt vs Private Business, Boutique Level vs Huge Corp?

    PS: Susan, thank you for answering my question last thread. Much appreciated! 🙂

    • @Jackie

      *Is it possible that this is related to a “zero sum” mentality in these women? Like, Highlander, “There can only be one” and they will destroy you to get it, instead of seeing that there is abundance for all?

      I do think it comes from an attitude of scarcity rather than abundance. I wondered whether it had improved a lot since I had encountered it – women have made great strides in the intervening years. Obviously, according to Rezvani, it’s very much a problem today. In my day, I think there was a sense that only a certain number of women were going to make it to senior management, so it was important to eliminate rivals on the way up. It was probably an effective strategy, which is why it’s become so prevalent. But it does make life hell for fellow women along the way.

      I think there’s another possibility – and it’s related to narcissism, a favorite topic here recently. I think some women aren’t content with being good, or even excellent. They’re not even content with being the best of a talented pool. They need/want to be the only really good women who can make a go of it with the big boys. They want to be very, very unusual, both from an ego gratification standpoint, and because that means that again, there will be fewer female competitors for top spots.

      *Do you think this is worse in some fields, or “vibe”/culture of company? Big Law vs NonProfit, Govt vs Private Business, Boutique Level vs Huge Corp?

      That’s a really good question. I only know business. I’ve worked in large corporations and management consulting, where it was a serious problem. By the way, another area of contention is the whole mommy question. Most very senior women don’t have kids, and they can be very dismissive of women who choose to have a family. You’re toast if you take time off to care for kids. When I announced a pregnancy at my consulting firm, the responses were pretty interesting to watch. The high powered women, not one of whom was married or had a kid, offered wooden congratulations and I could feel myself vaporize before their eyes. “She’s one of those.”

      I have friends who are MDs, and the dynamic is different there, I think. Perhaps it depends on the specialty, IDK. I’m pretty sure that in law the competition among women is pretty cutthroat, I could be wrong. Maybe some women in other fields will weigh in.

  • Jackie

    @Flavia (#6)

    These descriptions remind me of Shakespeare’s Iago from “Othello.” Talk about smiling while they twist the knife! Yikes. 🙁

  • ExNewYorker

    @Susan,

    My wife works in the medical field as a nurse, and she’s had to deal with these types of issues from day one. Her current place isn’t as bad as her earlier jobs, but from what she decribes, it sounds like junior high all over again, complete with cliques, frenemies, and the “in-crowd”, where something as simple as a coworkers baby shower can become gossip mill grist (Why didn’t X and Y show up? Why did Z and A leave so early? etc, etc). The few males present have become feminized so completely that they’re almost as bad (though they gossip less, apparently, and aren’t as two-faced). Add to that, dealing with patients (she particularly can’t stand the helicopter mothers with their kids because they are often insufferable know it alls), and I imagine I would have strangled somebody if I were in her shoes…

    We men have our own issues, particularly in male-dominated fields (like STEM), and we can have our own dominance and conflict issues (you get a lot of personality clashes which can be quite “direct” sometimes). However, I’ve never had to deal with the level of “high school” politics that my wife has had in her professional career. We go hiking every weekend, her main motivation being to “be away from all those annoying people” 🙂

    • @ExNewYorker

      My wife works in the medical field as a nurse, and she’s had to deal with these types of issues from day one.

      So much for my theory that health care professionals are above this!

      From everything I’ve heard here, it seems like male competition is direct and straightforward. No subtext, no covert operations. Obviously, people of either sex can betray, get aggressive politically, etc. but the underhanded nonsense seems strictly female. This never made sense to me. When I had direct reports, I was fairly nurturing, I think, to both sexes. I was bad at delegating – I tended to hover – but I think I was equally guilty of this with both men and women.

      Hiking sounds to me like an excellent way of getting away from the nonsense! Actually, I’m obviously not subjected to these issues anymore, but every weekend my husband and I take long walks in the city, and they are very restorative psychologically. We’ll talk a bit about his work, maybe a bit about HUS, but then we let it go and just patter on about other stuff. It’s good to get away, even for a couple of hours.

  • Jackie

    Susan has clearly given excellent advice. I only wanted to add one thing:

    Don’t take it personally.

    The only comparable episode I had was in grad school on my committee, for a final presentation before my degree. The ENTIRE committee was made up of these darling women (that was sarcasm 😉 ).

    For me, it was pretty smart to play dumb. Once they saw that the slings and arrows were going unnoticed, the game lost much of its sport. But I remember my main advisor saying things like, You must think you’re going to be a movie star, weirdly out of nowhere. Or backhanded compliments about my looks.

    After my presentation, everyone else left the room and it was just them and me. *gulp* The woman who most resembled oatmeal in appearance (she tended to favor grey, sack-like garb), began by shaming me to the point of tears for my appearance. (I wore a knee-length skirt, high heels and a nice sleeveless top with a high neckline, as it was June and *hot*).

    I held it together until they had left the room before I started crying. I called my mentor afterwards and she told me,

    “None of this is personal. She wanted to put you in your place to demonstrate to the other women that SHE still had power. It was ‘horse wars.’ Nothing to do with you personally.”

    I think that when some women seeing their power (looks, youth, etc) wane, seeing those wax in another woman is just one more reminder and out come the claws. 🙁

    PS: I still remember when I gave her a “thank you” gift and card after I graduated. She was pretty shocked, I think, since by showing “no hard feelings” it meant that I didn’t let her win. 🙂

    • @Jackie

      I’m actually disappointed to hear this goes on in academia as well. I can’t believe you had to deal with this kind of crap while defending your thesis!

      I think that when some women seeing their power (looks, youth, etc) wane, seeing those wax in another woman is just one more reminder and out come the claws

      Yes, this does happen. Sadly, I’ve seen mothers do this with their own daughters. Fountains of Wayne had a great hit about this a few years ago – Stacy’s Mom.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZLfasMPOU4&ob=av3e

      PS: I still remember when I gave her a “thank you” gift and card after I graduated. She was pretty shocked, I think, since by showing “no hard feelings” it meant that I didn’t let her win.

      Good for you. I doubt I could have pulled that off.

  • @ Susan
    “I think there’s another possibility – and it’s related to narcissism, a favorite topic here recently. I think some women aren’t content with being good, or even excellent. They’re not even content with being the best of a talented pool.”

    I think a lot of that is that any criticism of a woman’s work usually is treated as a criticism of the woman. So, as women get higher on a hierarchy, more and more items fall into that category. Soon nearly anything is seen as a personal attack instead of a criticism aimed at helping an individual grow and do better work.

  • @ Anna
    “She is calles the female dog whistle because only girls can hear her.”

    That is priceless. I had never heard of that term until now.

    “Women just hate me…”bah! And the most annoying part is that men will play into her warped ego by saying just what she wants to hear. “Yeah, you’re just hot and they can’t stand it.”

    Nonsense. E If anyone saw season 1 of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills you can see what I’m talking about (Camille Grammar). Who’d have thunk so many post menopausal women would be so sexually competitive.

    BTW Susan, you’d look so cute with like, a super short pixie cut. Maybe like a super funky “Kate” do!! 😉

  • Jackie

    Sorry for being a “thread hog”– there was one more thing I wanted to add. 🙂

    “Feminism, the most prominent “sisterhood” of our age, is fractured, characterized by infighting and petty grievances, along with a hatred of “other.””

    This reminded me of a housemate I had. She was history doctoral candidate, emphasis on women’s studies. Her main advisor was just about the most pretentious person I have ever seen. (Her book jacket pic featured her posing against a grand piano– she doesn’t even play beyond Chopsticks!) She was also a hardcore feminist.

    One of her (male) students asked me out on a date. My housemate came up in conversation. He mentioned that the feminist prof was MUCH harder on the women, including my housemate. He said that the prof viewed it as her duty to “toughen them up” so they could go out and succeed. A kind of trial by fire or “break you down then build you up.” This is also a psychological tactic they use in combat training, I believe.

  • Anna

    Susan,
    as a Junior League member I had to watch “The Help” tonight to see what you were talking about 🙂 Those women are horrid for sure. But it’s a real power movie, there is no better way of punishing a woman than having her eat your shit haha.

    • @Anna

      The Junior League has done great work. I’ve never been a member, and did not mean to malign the organization. If you watched the movie you saw what I meant. “Two Slice Hilly!” Gross!

  • Odds

    On the one hand, I don’t think this problem is going to stop until bosses (male or female) have the leeway to get rid of toxic employees quickly and efficiently. Firing someone, especially a woman, is a drawn-out, difficult process that creates a risk of a lawsuit, especially from a woman. Even at-will employees can pull the Damocles act if they’re willing to play the protected-minority card. You can’t put “because she’s a bitch” on the paperwork (or any other nice euphemisms like “bad for morale”).

    On the other hand, giving some bosses (in this case vindictive womenfolk) the power to more easily fire someone could backfire spectacularly before it solves the problem, leaving a lot of decent women just as unemployed as the nasty ones. Unavoidable problem of that kind of power.

    Gripping hand, it’s a problem that easier for the powers that be to ignore than to solve, and I’m skeptical of any bottom-up solutions for this one. You have to add an awful lot of clean water to sewage before the resulting mix can be called “clean water,” and it will take the people at the top to fire the problems.

    Nice thing about going back to school is I’ve seen so much less of this. Disputes can be settled over Frisbee. But then, I’m sure it’s going on in the background as the cliques form; don’t much care, so long as I get to remain oblivious.

  • Stargirl

    Great choice of topic Susan; it’s usually thorny because there is that element of frenemy which is difficult to figure out.

    As I haven’t spent many years working yet, I can’t speak about the workplace. However, I’ve developed many close female friendships over the years and have managed to avoid, for the most part, these type of catty friendships. These are the following things I noticed:

    1. As Susan said, mean girls = mean women. Though not 100% all the time, many times people are consistent with their character. I try to avoid developing close friendships with women who exhibit cattiness from the start. If they are bad mouthing others during your acquaintance period, you can never trust what she is saying about you behind your back.

    2. I try to make friends who are not too similar as me. This might sound counterintuitive, but I’ve found it helps immensely with the competition aspect. If you are both pursuing different goals (your friends are in med school, business, engineering, and you are teaching English in a foreign country) then you can sincerely support each others’ successes instead of feeling awkward for congratulating her for getting the position/promotion/scholarship that you were ALSO trying to obtain. Oh, and this helps IMMENSELY with the boy department. If you and your friends are very different, chances are, you’ll have different tastes in guys and different guys will like each of you as you are.

    3. Be aware of gossip. Don’t be tempted to fall into it. I didn’t realize how gossipy and negative one of my friends was until I went on exchange and spent 5 months discussing OTHER things that were way more fun, productive, and interesting than gossiping about what so and so said/did. It reminded me of the quotation ‘Small minds talk about other people, average minds talk about events, great minds talk about ideas.’ Sad to say, but it was the first time that I realized that it is possible to have great conversations with great people ALL the time if you choose it.

    4. Be a good friend. Coming off the last point, I’ve found it very rewarding to KEEP your friends’ secrets to yourself. They trusted you with it. Don’t squander it. And it’s an investment in your friendship to choose the trust over some small snippet of gossip. Your friends will remember if you keep their secret and will open up to you more. They will also remember if you don’t keep your mouth shut and your friendship might never progress if she doesn’t trust you completely.

    That’s all I can think of right now. What do you guys think?

    • @Stargirl

      That’s great advice, and you’ve introduced the question of character, which I really didn’t do in the post. By exhibiting good character and selecting others for it, you can avoid some of the worst cases of this kind of mean-spirited treatment. Unfortunately, this is often impossible in a work environment, which is why sometimes the best you can do is keep your head down and aim for a neutral, uncomplicated relationship.

  • PV

    “What’s not been discussed until now is the fact that women don’t outgrow this behavior, and often the worst offenders are the older women at senior levels.”

    A lot of these women fit your Explanation 3: Sink or Swim Sadism. They had to fight hard to get to the top and gave up a lot: usually that meant giving up having a family. They were LIVID and took it out at anyone they thought threatened their position. They also seemed sad to me.

    I think there are some differences with younger women. It seems to start at a younger age with hyper-competitiveness in education, getting boyfriends and then work. As you say, some of this leads to narcissism, and for some women I think it leads to Explanation #4: Self-loathing.

    Did anyone see this clip: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-08-16/entertainment/30040617_1_female-contestants-harrison-egg
    (Susan, please forgive me if I’m not suppose to do this, I am kind of new here.) Why would any women with self-respect subject herself to this?

    • @PV

      OMG, that video! You didn’t do anything wrong – it’s interesting. But it’s also just incredibly sordid. For me, the worst thing was that the woman who everyone deemed least attractive responded by singling out another woman who she claimed was “way bigger” and “not pretty.” I have no sympathy! I don’t know if these woman loathe themselves to start, but they certainly should be the end.

  • Odds

    @ PV, re: that clip

    A thought strikes me. I’m not going to subject myself to the show before that point, but if it fits the usual profile of reality shows, up until then all of the girls have likely been tearing each other apart. When they all call her beautiful at the end and try to comfort her, is it because they see someone torn down in need of compassion, or because they are now secure in their position as the more-attractive (and therefore more powerful) girls?

  • “Do you think this is worse in some fields, or “vibe”/culture of company? Big Law vs NonProfit, Govt vs Private Business, Boutique Level vs Huge Corp?”

    I think the degree of malign politicization is inversely proportional to the measurability of the job. If you have a bottom line–whether a P&L, a sales quota, or a product deliverable–playing politics isn’t likely to play as big a role in your success as it might be if you have a job with softer success criteria.

    • @David foster

      I think the degree of malign politicization is inversely proportional to the measurability of the job.

      That’s a keen observation, I agree. Concrete metrics don’t lie, and though politics can enable you to stick around longer than you deserve if you’re not making the grade (I’ve seen it), ultimately it’s hard to argue with results.

      As someone who’s always been “staff” in organizations, I’ve had to be very politically astute. In fact, in consulting there’s a double whammy – intrafirm politics, and the politics of the client organization.

  • Sassy6519

    I’ve ran into several female bosses who were complete terrors. Honestly, I prefer to have a male boss. They typically don’t have chips on their shoulders like they have something to prove, for the most part. My female boss right now is pretty cool though. It’s more about evaluating the individual than anything else.

    As far as the female dog whistle, it’s so true. Women can spot bad women easily because we’ve had more exposure to and experience with their underhanded tactics. Most men only find out about these women’s flaws when it is too late. I can typically suss a woman out in 5 minutes. I think most women who have ever been to high school or college have the same talent.

    • @Sassy

      I can typically suss a woman out in 5 minutes. I think most women who have ever been to high school or college have the same talent.

      Guys here have actually said the same thing about cads – they can suss out a cad in five minutes, and are amazed when a woman tries to tell them the guy is “really nice” and “a good guy.” It just demonstrates that men and women speak different languages, and we only really understand our own kind.

  • Charm

    I could pretty much agree with everything you wrote. Though, I definitely don’t hang out with women for the exact reasons you listed above. I can’t stand that type of behavior. Im not like and I wont hang out with men or women who are like that. Because of this, I have no female friends.

    Re Sexism Amnesia

    I would never help another woman out nor do I want to be help by another woman just because we both have vaginas. Id rather play on a leveled playing field. You could even argue that the odds are stacked againist me just because I am a woman, but I’d still rather take those odds. Ive seen what happens when people give others a leg up because they are apart of team vagina or share the same ethnicity or culture. In the workplace, its a joke. Its the same as promoting someone who is a friend. I don’t respect people who do it, and I would never do it. If you can’t be objective you shouldn’t be doing the job. Also, why is a woman always depicted as being “struggling” in the workplace? Men start off in shit jobs just like women and yet they complain a lot less. Personally, I prefer the struggle and the adversity. It makes it that much sweeter when I get to where Im going.

    • @Charm

      I would never help another woman out nor do I want to be help by another woman just because we both have vaginas. Id rather play on a leveled playing field.

      I agree, I reject any notion of “sisterhood” in business. It’s totally inappropriate. Everyone is there to produce. Cooperation among employees, and even mentoring relationships are ultimately meant to increase productivity. Women giving one another special treatment is only going to breed resentment among men. Although few women apparently do this of their own accord, a lot of organizations have special programs and perks for encouraging bonding among female employees. I think they’re mostly a waste of money.

  • Sarah

    You say that all women experience these kinds of things, but I never really have. At school and in my social life I avoid mean women and have formed many strong, supportive, loving relationships with women.

    At work I have experienced professional support and friendship from my female coworkers. Granted I am young and work in retail. It might be different elsewhere.

    So you can’t say these are universal experiences.

    • @Sarah

      So you can’t say these are universal experiences.

      I don’t say so. The author of the WashPo article indicates that the question comes up every single time she speaks to a group of women. However, she’s talking about women in business. It may happen in lots of organizations, but I believe you’ll see a lot of this behavior among the most ambitious and career-oriented women.

      In any case, I’m glad that hasn’t been your experience.

  • Charm

    @Sassy 32

    Sussing ’em out:

    Lol, I know right. I upon interacting with someone for a few minutes you can definitely spot if the girl is bad news. I think men are often blinded by…umm…other attributes and are willing to ignore warning signs early on. I think it would be smart for men to as a trusted female friend what she thought of a girl. Even if a girl isn’t my type, as in someone I’d hang with, I can give her credit for being a good person if she is one. I don’t like tearing someone down for being “competition”.

  • sweetsue

    Great post – can’t wait for the feminist backlash from the blue pill kool aid consuming crowd.
    Doing 2 negates 4 and 5 and guarantees a knife in the back in the future is a given – especially if you also do 3 and are respected by them. Do not expect reciprocity and be prepped to be thrown under a bus.

    Solution – network within your field at companies that may provide employment opportunities when the knife comes. Keep the resume up to date at all times. Learn to remain calm and cool under pressure and think on your feet for those moments of being stabbed in the back or called on the carpet publicly. Develop contacts within the organization so you can get things done – network vertically folks above and below you on the corporate ladder. Document your performance, problem solved, impact and revenue generated and keep copies of any letters or emails of praise- one set at home and one at work.

    Refuse to play into women who like to play “victim” i.e. “Men think she’s sweet, misunderstood and picked on.” Ignore her but do not take your eyes off her or turn your back. Trust your instincts but do not play into that game – just let her be. Just be your best self – if you don’t engage she will have to get her fix another way. It is not you – it is her. Have boundaries and when you have reached your limit or see it fast approaching – kick your network in gear and get out.

    • @Sweetsue

      Your advice is so good I’m going to lay it out again here.

      1. Network within your field at companies that may provide employment opportunities when the knife comes.
      2. Keep the resume up to date at all times.
      3. Learn to remain calm and cool under pressure and think on your feet for those moments of being stabbed in the back or called on the carpet publicly.
      4. Develop contacts within the organization so you can get things done – network vertically folks above and below you on the corporate ladder.
      5. Document your performance, problem solved, impact and revenue generated and keep copies of any letters or emails of praise- one set at home and one at work.

      The last one is key when one has a boss who has it out for you. I haven’t experienced this, but a trail of documentation is essential in this litigious era. HR respects it.

  • Charm

    @Susan

    I’d also like to add:

    I’m only in college, but I’ve had a few different jobs in my time here, and one thing I’ve noticed about girls my age is they try to pull the “I’m a girl and stressed out” card for not being able to do things. One of the girls that I work with now at a food place near campus always needs to leave early (begging the other person to come in early) because she “had a bad day”. I’m talking working 4 hour shifts. And yet, she also wants to be the managers pet. At other jobs girls have pulled the “I don’t feel good”, or “I was up late studying” excuse to get out of work or responsibly like everyone else isn’t in college and sleep deprived as well. This is why I prefer males. They don’t complain as much and they can ride it out.

    Do you also think that guilt by association might come into play here? Like you’ve said time and time again, women herd. Men are going to make a ton of assumptions about women and look for weaknesses to count against them. If a woman is brought of board, and screws up, she and you will end up looking bad. Its like that with race too. Whenever its me and another black person in a predominantly non-black space, I hope they don’t say or do something really ignorant because I’ll end up looking like an asshole too even though we didn’t come together.

    • @Charm

      I do think guilt by association can be powerful in organizations. I’ve seen people bring a high-level, expensive person into a company, and when that recruit turns out to be a terrible fit, their original sponsor suffers a hit to their reputation. “Why did Christine recruit that guy? Who cares if he has a PhD in physics, he doesn’t know shit about finance.” Etc.

      I would also not bestow any favors on those women looking for special treatment. Don’t tolerate their excuses, and of course, never pull those same stunts. You’ll stand out as very professional by comparison. Their tactics won’t be tolerated once they get out into the real world.

  • Charm

    @Anna #9

    Lol. I just read your post. I dont know any girls like this. If you know any, punch that bitch in the face. The ‘puter? I would lose my mind. I laughed so hard at that line.

  • @Charm
    I noticed that IME men also pay more attention to how the girls treats them and don’t notice a whole lot how they treat other women unless they are their sisters, mothers and it affects them.

    I had been very lucky most of my unpleasant experience with women (and for what is worth men too) had been observations, usually my female bosses had been very nice to me and I still talk to some of them. The only issues I had at work was with a coworker (related on my queen bee post) and the wife of one of my bosses, my boss adored me and he did everything to avoid my transfer to another department when I couldn’t put on with his wife anymore but it was getting the transfer or push her out of the second floor and jail is not a nice place to write. I even started smoking to calm down because she was driving me off the rails. Funny enough this lady had a record of low employees (Secretaries, Maids, Drivers) quitting because of her (we used to bet how long a driver will last 19 drivers and the one that lasted the long did it for 3 months) so it HR helped me to get out as soon as they found an opening, she was the queen of the queen bees for real.*shrugs*

  • Susan,
    Oh yay, the entire freaking reason I came to HUS!!

    I remember my first theory at HUS, which was that women are the ones who perpetuate sexism and the objectification of females as sex objects. I’ve modified that theory a bit, but I still maintain that the worst problem for women is not men… it’s other women. I have two female bosses and an all-female cohort in my small program in grad school, and I’ve had to significantly modify my behavior in order to “play nice” but not get caught up in the drama. It’s been working rather well so far!

    But for real, I’ve been trying to navigate this shit since I was 4 years old. In kindergarten a girl said I couldn’t play with her and her friend because I sucked my thumb. In 6th grade a very good friend completely ignored me at a sporting event because her entourage didn’t approve. In 7th grade a girl told me I was ugly. In high school my friend suggested I was stupid.

    And now that I’m 23? People aren’t quite as harsh or upfront. But if the way they talk about each other to me is any indication, they’re just as bad. I have no freaking clue how to solve the problem, but it’s a really big one.

    • @Olive

      Haha, I thought you might like this post.

      But if the way they talk about each other to me is any indication, they’re just as bad. I have no freaking clue how to solve the problem, but it’s a really big one.

      Watching how someone treats others is always a great way to test for character. It’s true in all walks of life – for all kinds of relationships. If a person is unkind or catty about someone else, it’s only a matter of time before you land in their crosshairs.

      The problem really is an intractable one. In my experience, the best you can do is have a survival strategy for dealing with mean women, and behave differently yourself. If you’re good enough to rise to the top of your field, that’s one successful woman who doesn’t try to keep others down. And there are the women you nurtured on your way up who have theoretically had a positive role model. I think this is one of those situations where one person can make a small difference, and over time many individuals can shift the culture. I really don’t know if that will happen. This article is the first I’ve ever seen in the MSM about the issue.

  • There was an article in Investors Business Daily several years back contrasting *legitimate ambition* with *toxic opportunism*. “If you are going to be an executive with staying power, you must value ambition, destroy opportunism and be adept at telling the diference between the two.”

    Much of the advice directed at people just starting their careers–especially advice directed at women, it appears–seems intended to develop the behavior patterns of opportunism. There’s even a book titled “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.” I haven’t read it, but the title by itself is harmful.

    In the IBD article, Earl Graves, founder & publisher of the magazine Black Enterprise, offered some advice as to how to detect an opportunist. One clue is an excessive preoccupation with perks–company credit cards, tickets to sports events, etc–and particularly, a focus on perks during the first few days on the job. And Mike Sears, previously CFO at Boeing, advised executives to look out for the “spotlight” mentality. People with this personality trait will “be charming when the spotlight is on, but turn irritable and condescending when they think “no one of importance” is watching.”

    The you-go-girl-run-over-everybody-and-get-what’s-coming-to-you school of advice seems sure to inculcate these kinds of behaviors.

  • Glasses

    Hi Susan,

    Interesting topic. Two things.

    1) Can you explain this to the uninitiated: “At one Back to School Night, the Guidance Counselor advised senior parents to avoid cocktail parties at all costs.” What’s wrong with this?

    2) I can confirm that this happens in academia, definitely. Not all women are like this, though. I definitely know a high-powered academic woman who looks down on women who decide to get married and/or have kids. Things like “why ruin your career like this?” have been thrown around. Also met a woman who just hates being wrong, and if you happened to be right, you could be sure that she would find a way to put you down (in my case, it was insinuations about coming from an inferior culture or not speaking perfect English or some of no substance like this.) Also have a friend, who keeps everything work-related secret from me.

    Examples are plentiful. These are all results of feeling insecure about themselves, in my opinion. I think we need to teach women how to trust that the world is not out to get them, and even if some women are, it is their problem. Imagine the internal hell these women live with: the fear of judgement, of being “exposed” as “lesser than”, trying to outsmart others all the time, trying to look better than other girls, etc. etc. Whenever I encounter such behavior, I just think to myself, “She’s punishing herself already with all this mistrust, and mistrust is self-fulfilling,” so I let it go. To the friend, I said “I respect your privacy but I feel like you’re not being a good friend by hiding things from me.” She agreed but nothing has changed since that conversation. Because she’s a friend, I’m not holding it against her. I understand that she needs to overcome her inner demons to be able to trust other people fully or unconditionally.

    I also think that we should teach women who experience the sense of superiority coming from other women, to separate “their stuff” from “my stuff”, and not to swallow the bait (as in, engage in the competition, be passive-aggressive in return, try to outsmart her and prove your own worthiness to her, etc.) Be very clear about when women are rationalizing and acting out their own insecurities, and don’t take that personally. Stay Zen, in one word, but don’t judge them. On the contrary, continue to treat these women with respect. It speaks volumes about your personality to them. It sends a powerful signal to them that you’re not out to get them, and that you’re a genuine person with integrity. This will serve as a shield for all those catty arrows sent your way. Other women sense that shield, and understand intuitively that there’s nothing they can do to destroy your strong sense of self, and will leave you alone, because all their competitive strategies are not going to work on you.

    To summarize: this is not your stuff, stay Zen, and continue to develop your own personal integrity, ideally to such an extent that you don’t even notice/react to the cattiness of other women. Again, there are also women who serve as great mentors, who genuinely want to see you succeed, and who will lend a hand if you need it. Try to internalize their values as your own too. The world will be a better place, but more importantly, your own psyche will be a better place.

    • @Glasses

      Welcome, thanks for leaving a comment.

      ) Can you explain this to the uninitiated: “At one Back to School Night, the Guidance Counselor advised senior parents to avoid cocktail parties at all costs.” What’s wrong with this?

      Nothing! I’m glad you asked this, I probably wrote this badly. The Guidance Counselor was telling us something we were all about to learn the hard way – it’s super stressful and depressing to hang out with other people who’s kids are applying to college at the same time. The women in particular are relentless about prying, comparing notes, asking your kid’s GPA, extracurriculars, etc. It’s the women who will tell you over a glass of wine that their husband’s family has gone to Dartmouth for six generations. Ugh. I shudder to recall it.

      Anyway, my point was that even the high school Guidance Counselor was warning parents about “Mean Mom” behavior.

      I like your suggestions about how to make this better – you seem to align with the “self-hatred” theory. Training “victims” how to deal with this kind of toxic treatment is actually a great idea. You could do it in organizations without even specifically mentioning women – just how to deal with difficult coworkers, or “opportunists,” as David Foster said.

  • Jackie

    @Glasses (#42)

    Awesome & epic comment. Will be saving this to my “Wisdom File” in google docs. Many thanks!
    🙂

  • Hope

    Sometimes the best we can hope for is that we’ll avoid being an outcast, left to our own devices without being picked on. As we age, we remain ever vigilant, desperately wanting to avoid being “that woman” – the outsider.

    I’m cool with being the outcast and outsider. I really just don’t care.

    It also means that for the most part, I get along fine with women. I don’t get involved in the female politics, and they don’t involve me in them. I stay out of the fray.

    Work-wise, I’ve had mostly good relationships with women. I can also work with the most difficult and nastiest women that other people loathe. I really try to internalize the spirituality I’ve been learning into every aspect of my life, and it seems to help my attitude a lot.

    • @Hope

      I can also work with the most difficult and nastiest women that other people loathe.

      Oh boy, I envy you. You are obviously a born diplomat. Interestingly, my favorite bosses have been the males that everyone else thinks are the most difficult. I’ve won the undying loyalty of some very difficult men in business, mostly by appreciating and respecting them a ton (not just for romantic relationships!) and by making them look really good whenever possible by producing great work for them and doing active PR on their behalf.

  • @ Charm
    “Do you also think that guilt by association might come into play here? ”

    I know that I do the guilt by association only if it think the other had any hand in the action itself or influencing the other persons thoughts/actions. Otherwise I’ll let them show themselves to be different.

    I also notice that I worry about the guilt by association as a man in all female groups I run with sometimes. Working in theatre sometimes puts me in the middle of such all female groups with no warning. If there’s another man, or if there’s someone as new to the group as I usually am, I have those same fears of guilt by association if they have bad ideas, lack creativity, or are overly critical.

  • In fact, I’d rather be a lone outsider with something to prove than tied down to someone else I don’t know that might guilt me by association. I know I can do my job, but if someone starts throwing their own doubts in my way that I have to prove aren’t issues…. its a really hard hurdle to overcome.

  • Jackie

    @PV (#29) &
    @Odds (#30)

    Ugh! This reminds me of chickens pecking each other. If one chicken gets wounded and shows blood (weakness), it whips the other chickens into a frenzy and they will pick the weaker chicken to death. 🙁

    There is no way anyone could need money that badly to have to go on reality tv to get it. 🙁

  • CrisisEraDynamo
  • Anna

    @ Charm
    “If you know any, punch that bitch in the face. The ‘puter? I would lose my mind. I laughed so hard at that line.”

    I hoped to avoid mentioning my sister again, but unfortunately she is a prime example. Worst part is she accuses other girls of being “dog whistles”. I invited her on a boat trip with two male friends of mine. She had a shot at taking the wheel and steer the boat, and she turns to one of the guys and goes, *babyvoice* “how do you control this THINGY?”. Then she takes her bikini top off to flaunt her D cup breasts and goes “God. I hate my body so much”.
    I am not making this up. There is nothing I find more hopeless than to watch a female law student do a baby voice in front of men.

  • @Glasses

    To summarize: this is not your stuff, stay Zen, and continue to develop your own personal integrity, ideally to such an extent that you don’t even notice/react to the cattiness of other women. Again, there are also women who serve as great mentors, who genuinely want to see you succeed, and who will lend a hand if you need it. Try to internalize their values as your own too. The world will be a better place, but more importantly, your own psyche will be a better place.

    This is really great advice! I think being non-reactive is a great defense, because it does not appear weak, nor does it make you a target for such people, who thrive on reaction and drama.

    If things do get out of hand, not reacting (outwardly) is also a good idea. One advice that was given to me was “document everything.” If people mess with you, immediately or as soon as possible, write down the date, time and incident. Maybe it won’t need to be used, but if it does, you have it.

  • Tony Stark

    As an entry level financial analyst, I learned quickly to avoid female bosses like the plague. I think 3 primary factors are at play:

    Ingrained Behavioral Dynamics:

    This is the Queen Bee situation that Susan points to. Women aren’t predisposed to behaving cooperatively with other women. This is true in a variety of social settings, and probably always has been. Status jockeying is a constant in female group dynamics. Most of us intuitively know this. Imagine a woman walking into a cocktail party. Her first (subconscious) inclination will be to size up the social hierarchy, determine where she stands, and base her interactions that evening around ascending that hierarchy. A man walking into the same party will just grab a drink and start chatting about sports with the guy standing next to him. This is an ingrained sex difference, and Susan’s right to say we need to be open about acknowledging it. In this context, ignoring the elephant in the room means simply adopting the feminist frame.

    SMV and Social Capital

    Society evaluates women by their mate value. This is true for men as well, but men improve their value by cultivating career success. A man who becomes a successful doctor/lawyer/banker greatly enhances his social capital. Society admires him, and women are more attracted to him. A lot of women who climb the career ladder make the category error of assuming the same rules apply to them. It’s not until years (and much hard work) later that they realize how wrong they were. Physically attractive, feminine women earn the same social dividends that successful men do. The male CEO = the female Victoria’s Secret model. It is what it is.

    As such, the modern workplace is filled with senior women who have achieved great career success but have little to show for it. Susan mentions that many of these women are single and/or childless, something I’ve noticed as well. Imagine a bunch of childless old women, embittered over their belief that society hasn’t given them due credit for their hard work, put those women in positions of authority over a bunch of attractive, mid-20s entry-level women, and assume that the young entry-level women still receive their attractiveness dividends (from male coworkers, colleagues etc). Is it really surprise that the older women in this scenario aren’t entirely nurturing?

    Selection Bias

    It’s very difficult for anyone to climb the career ladder. It’s especially tough for women who are constantly being undermined by the women around them. The women who actually make it to the top are by definition the most ruthless, competitive women of the group. Furthermore, many women (probably the more feminine ones) don’t actually try to become the boss. Once they have kids they either leave the workforce or take a flexible schedule that trades promotion opportunities for better hours. (Again, Susan provides a good example). The women who rise to the top of their respective workplaces are the ones who value career over family and have proven themselves to be more ruthlessly Machiavellian than their competitors. These are not the best potential mentors for the up and coming employees (female or male).

    Sorry for the length of this comment, but this is a topic which merits far greater discussion than it receives. Kudos to Susan for bringing it up.

    • @Tony Stark

      Wow, that’s the most insightful breakdown of the issue I’ve ever seen. I think you nailed it. If you’re right, then there really is no solution to the problem – the mean women will always be the ones who get to the top. In which case, young women should have a two-pronged strategy:

      1. Avoid/survive them as best you can.

      2. Decide early on whether your focus is going to be family or career. Once you do, go all in, because these are two very distinct groups of women, with little in common. You can play for one team or the other, but probably not both.

  • Jackie

    @Susan (#28)

    Thanks for the kind words. 🙂 You want to hear something interesting? It wasn’t the end of the story, not by a long shot. I didn’t take any of it personally– *I* am the one who determines my happiness. Besides, I learned TONS from them — they were talented in their field, plus sometimes you learn more from your bad experiences than your good ones.

    Anyway, after I graduated another woman advisor on my committee, got sick (illness similar to the one my mom had). I contacted her and asked if it was okay if I sat with her during her chemo and brought a meal their family could eat, since it’s hard to cook, etc, when someone is sick.

    I’m not going to lie to you: It wasn’t easy *for either of us*. But I felt it was my karmic destiny to make the peace with this woman and to develop good character. And as the weeks got on, it got better on both sides. Somehow it felt like we were building a bridge, instead of razing each other to the ground.

    PS: I was easily her least favorite student, but I was the only one who showed up to help her.She recovered and is a much changed person. I’m sure there’s a moral in here somewhere! 🙂

    PPS: OMG, “Stacy’s Mom”– what a blast from the past! 😀

    • @Jackie

      I give you so much credit. I don’t think more than 1 person in 100 would have stepped up the way you did. Probably not even that many. I’ve seen other situations where crises make friends of enemies. And sometimes, unfortunately, enemies of friends. It’s amazing how thoroughly people can surprise you.

  • Totally off topic.
    But one of my ex female bosses and I are celebrating in Facebook that our baseball team Escogido, won the series!!!! RUGE RUGE EL LEON so happy 😀

    • @Anacaona

      But one of my ex female bosses and I are celebrating in Facebook that our baseball team Escogido, won the series!!!!

      That’s not off topic, that’s a wonderful tidbit that gives me hope!

  • WarmWoman

    “This is really great advice! I think being non-reactive is a great defense, because it does not appear weak, nor does it make you a target for such people, who thrive on reaction and drama.

    If things do get out of hand, not reacting (outwardly) is also a good idea.

    +1. I think walking away and remaining silent can be quite powerful.

    Some people feel that you have to fight back and prove a point, but it can cause more drama. I know that standing up to my past female bosses and letting them know that I don’t like their treatment towards me HURT me more than helped.

    What signs would reveal that a woman is jealous of you? I feel like some women are sugary sweet to your face, but are jealous internally and weave the web behind your back.

  • Charm

    @Anaconda

    See I don’t get crap like that. Your boss should have never let his wife get invloved in business like that. It blows my mind how people let their jealous spouses ruin relationships at their place of employment. I would have left too. I can’t put up with it. Personal insecurities and the workplace make for a lethal combination.

    @Leap

    Oh I too pull the “loner” status when first entering a new place. People can’t stand when they can’t get a read on you, plus I like to observe my surroundings before “jumping in” so to speak. I don’t want anyone trying to get me into their group or clique or anything like that. If there is a divide among the group for whatever reason, I’d like to choose my own side, though I’d prefer to stay the hell out of it all together.

    @Anna

    I’d go crazy. Though, I can’t see a great man marrying someone like your sister. No offense. A man with sense wants a decent woman not some child that talks in a baby voice. That shit stops being cute after 4 years old. And fishing for compliments? Ugh. I hate people like that. When men cater to shit like that or are attracted to it, it lets me know what kind of person they are. Plus, I feel like its cute only for a little while. No man wants to fuck/marry/reproduce with a woman that says “thingy” in an oh so sweet voice. He wants 2 kids, not 3.

  • See I don’t get crap like that. Your boss should have never let his wife get invloved in business like that. It blows my mind how people let their jealous spouses ruin relationships at their place of employment. I would have left too. I can’t put up with it. Personal insecurities and the workplace make for a lethal combination.

    He was in a high position so he assumed he could spare a new secretary, driver or maid every few months. But there is a happy ending once he made one too many mistakes he was asked to resign and his wife, she was working on another division of the same place, was fired not even hours after the fact, HR was just waiting for the right moment to get rid of her and she hasn’t found a job with that level of power ever again and I doubt she will.

  • CrisisEraDynamo

    OT:

    Whiskey is back.

  • Charm

    @Anaconda

    Husband and Wife worked in the same place? How does that happen. Lol. They got fired back to back? I wonder how the marriage worked out.

  • Jonny

    I worked with female bosses a lot (in the technology industry) and I worked with plenty of women. I can’t say I’ve had a bad experience unless, and its a big unless, its with a largely female majority organization. Many women do well, but they have to be surrounded by other men who don’t play female games. It is true that some men do that as well (back stabbing, politics) and you learn to deal with it or leave those organizations. Nonetheless, to survive, women need to be like men, don’t trust, be professional (or attempt to fake it), don’t confide, and don’t touch the goodies.

    • @Jonny

      I worked with female bosses a lot (in the technology industry) and I worked with plenty of women. I can’t say I’ve had a bad experience

      Female bosses can be very, very good to males.

  • SayWhaat

    At other jobs girls have pulled the “I don’t feel good”, or “I was up late studying” excuse to get out of work or responsibly like everyone else isn’t in college and sleep deprived as well. This is why I prefer males. They don’t complain as much and they can ride it out.

    Lol. Bullshit. It’s a generational issue, not a gender issue. Or more likely, it’s just a feature of the community that you’re in.

    I went to a school where many women outperformed the men, be it academics, internships, what have you. And there were also men who worked intensely to succeed. Determination and drive have nothing to do with gender.

  • Rum

    I have never spent one minute regretting have been born a male-child. If you are born male, there is perfect alignment with gaining career success and gaining willing woman access. Making partner as a guy = the secretaries try to show you their ttits. If a woman makes partner she will automatically start to conspire against her now beta-ized husband and the cute secretaries will start to conspire against her … on general principals.
    Besides, guys instinctively understand how to form teams (actually, gangs) because our deep brain deeply understands what it takes to survive in a truly dangerous environment. It takes being in a tough-as-nails gang to survive. That is part genetic; partly learned on the dusty playing fields of a 1000 elementary school playgrounds.

  • SayWhaat

    In kindergarten a girl said I couldn’t play with her and her friend because I sucked my thumb. In 6th grade a very good friend completely ignored me at a sporting event because her entourage didn’t approve. In 7th grade a girl told me I was ugly. In high school my friend suggested I was stupid.

    Olive, I mean this in the kindest way possible. You need to let this shit go. This is coming from a girl who harbors grudges for YEARS, okay? I’m a year younger than all of my peers because I started school early. That means developmentally, I was the tiniest person in every class. On top of that I was the only Indian girl in the entire school up until high school, so I stuck out even worse. I have been the victim of bullying every year, even through high school, and in college when it started to happen again with another peer group I was smart enough to cut myself out.

    These experiences shape you and help you grow as a person. Are they pleasant? No. But you’re a better person for it. Learn from that and shape your friendships accordingly. For all my experiences with Mean Girls, my most solid friendships today are with girls — and I absolutely hated one of them for years. 😛

  • Charm

    @SayWhaat

    I agree, but were all speaking from experience here. In my experience, at a very very very large university in the midwestern US, the girls are like that. Every place has a demographic and here women get away with pulling the bullshit “im a girl” card. Works every time. The accountability for people here in general isn’t very high. But more often than not, its been girls who complained about having to work more than boys. Dalrock and a few others have discussed this as well. Maybe it has to do with the ability to handle stress? I dont know.

  • At other jobs girls have pulled the “I don’t feel good”, or “I was up late studying” excuse to get out of work or responsibly like everyone else isn’t in college and sleep deprived as well. This is why I prefer males. They don’t complain as much and they can ride it out.

    Lol. Bullshit. It’s a generational issue, not a gender issue. Or more likely, it’s just a feature of the community that you’re in.

    I went to a school where many women outperformed the men, be it academics, internships, what have you. And there were also men who worked intensely to succeed. Determination and drive have nothing to do with gender.

    Yeah I dunno, that kind of laziness isn’t really gender-specific. My dad is a small business owner and I’ve worked for him for 6 or 7 summers now, and I’ve witnessed both girls and boys be lazy as fuck and come in late/leave early with poor excuses. I do think it’s somewhat generational, although that isn’t the whole story. My dad has workers of various ages, not just high school/college students. Maybe it’s a United States thing, or a working/middle class thing. Or maybe it’s the nature of the people he hires. Who knows.

  • SayWhaat

    In my experience, at a very very very large university in the midwestern US

    Well there ya go. 😛

  • SayWhaat

    Also, NYC/Chicago/big cities in general tend to be chock-full of motivated, ambitious people. Which is why I said it’s probably more a feature of the community you’re in. The people I knew in college were exceptional in almost every way. Think you’re a good student? Why don’t you talk to the girl sitting next to you in lecture. She taught Tibetan nuns how to use computers. What have you done with your life, hmmm?? 😛

  • Hope

    Hmm. I don’t really remember any specific incidents of women being mean to me. I think one of the reasons why I don’t care about “mean girls” is because my female relatives insulted me since I was 3, and my mom was the most vicious woman in my life.

    The “mean girls” at school and work weren’t even in the same league. Passive aggressive behavior is nothing compared to your own mother screaming at you to your face when you were helpless and small. I was tough as nails already from years of emotional torment. I can look back and say it even did me some good. It taught me that I shouldn’t do it to anyone else. c_c

  • SayWhaat

    Regarding the original post:

    I have to say that I have witnessed girl-on-girl sabotage, but only in the mildest form. There are two ball-busters on my team, one of whom was placed on our team later than the other. The former ball-buster was immediately threatened and started talking about the latter behind her back. (She’s known for being a gossip though, so this wasn’t entirely unusual.) It came to a head only about a few months ago when they finally had a confrontation. Weirdly enough, today they seem like they’re really close. Female friendships kinda work like that. 😛

  • SayWhaat,
    I’m glad to hear the bullying hasn’t kept you from fostering friendships with girls. I won’t say I’ve given up the more recent grudges (though I don’t exactly sit around thinking about my early days, I was just adding stories as evidence that it’s a tough world to navigate), but I’m working on it. I’m not someone who can just “get over it” in two seconds, I’ve never been that type of person, but I’m doing my best to get past it and learn from it. Someday, hopefully, I can say the same thing as you: that my closest relationships are with girls from my peer group. At the moment I find support elsewhere.

  • SayWhaat

    Passive aggressive behavior is nothing compared to your own mother screaming at you to your face when you were helpless and small. I was tough as nails already from years of emotional torment.

    Ditto. Sometimes people will apologize to me for “giving me a hard time” about something or other, and I’ll be completely unfazed. Like, what are you talking about? Oh, that? Oh. Cool, thanks.

  • @ SayWhaat
    “I went to a school where many women outperformed the men, be it academics, internships, what have you.”

    Or, instead of writing off their observances of women playing that ‘I’m a delicate flower’ card with “Oh, you’re in the midwest US” you could look at the studies of how men and women are doing in school. Schools are incredibly gender biased from a young age. And universities are starting to be the same. Hence its not surprising to me that in school you would see that.

    The only reason I can think the midwest would matter is if women weren’t buying into the feminist ideal as much as say, NYC or Boston. They got fed up with the dream presented to them or simply didn’t have it shoved down their throats as often.

    But, otherwise, wait till you get out into your career field. Then see how often women play the ‘I’m just a woman’ card. It’s usually low in the career field to get some sympathy from others or help from men. Where as upper levels they’ll just do what they want and skewer someone else with the blame.

  • SayWhaat

    Someday, hopefully, I can say the same thing as you: that my closest relationships are with girls from my peer group. At the moment I find support elsewhere.

    *hug* I hope so too. If I may offer some more unsolicited advice? Do a bit more introspection about how you relate to other women. I used to think that all girls were bitches and worms, too. In retrospect I can see why they acted the way they did towards me; I was kind of a prick myself. Scratch that, I was a total prick, lol. In the annoying Hermione Granger-sense. 😛

    I’m not calling you a prick, I’m just saying that it might be helpful to reflect on what kind treatment you receive from attitudes you’re projecting. 🙂

  • Mike C

    As far as the female dog whistle, it’s so true. Women can spot bad women easily because we’ve had more exposure to and experience with their underhanded tactics. Most men only find out about these women’s flaws when it is too late. I can typically suss a woman out in 5 minutes. I think most women who have ever been to high school or college have the same talent.

    Interesting. The converse is true as well. Men can spot the jerk assholes pretty much right away that women appear to have difficulty identifying. Some type of gender blind spot must exist.

  • Thanks for this piece, Susan. My experiences with girls in elementary and middle school pretty much destroyed my trust in women, and particularly in the women’s group dynamic. I just don’t trust them anymore. It’s not that I don’t believe that there are good women out there, it’s that I don’t trust myself to be able to recognize them or to be vulnerable with them again.

    I spent years wondering what was wrong with me that I’d been “broken up” with by so many girl friends. It wasn’t until I read Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosemary Wiseman that I realized that these breaking up and hooking up patterns with girls was more or less normal girl behavior and I just wasn’t very good at it. (Or maybe lots of girls weren’t good at it, but no one talked about it.) I didn’t want to trade up girlfriends, I just wanted one or two steady girlfriends – a Bess Marvin and a George Fayne, if you will. I had girl friends all the way up, but they did stuff like read my diary and laugh at me or tell the boy I had a crush on that I liked him or edge me out of the friendship I had with another girl. Trust-breaking stuff. Later in high school I started hanging out with boys, and THEY WERE SO MUCH EASIER to get along with. It was such a relief not to have the drama.

    A few years ago I was doing volunteer work for a site that was nearly all women contributors and women readers. I’d worked for this site for years, volunteering steadily sometimes as much as 15-20 hours/week. I made one comment on one post that went against feminist boilerplate (and then refused to take it back), and the entire readership just chucked me to the winds. None of the contributors backed me up to the readers. None. I did thousands of hours of volunteer work for them. Thousands. I quit, and I do not regret it at all, but it all left a very sour taste in my mouth.

    My sister has a friends group full of women she’s known since college. They are kind, loving, and supportive. So I know this kind of thing happens. But I’ve seen so much competitive meanness and backstabbing – at work and even among moms. I just don’t know.

    • @grerp

      I’m so glad to see you! I recall you got some serious grief from feminist types on your blog a while back. No one does mean snark like women.

      Did you ever read Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood? It’s an excellent novel, a devastating portrayal of these kinds of dynamics.

      I have always had some close female friends, but I’ve had to “break up” with several women over the years. Didn’t you once write a post about jettisoning difficult women? In my case, there was little more than a whisper of competition in all our interactions, but enough so that lunch with one of these women felt like death by a thousand small cuts. I would come home and tell my husband some of the things that they’d say, and he’s wonder why on earth I would see them again. Say no, problem solved! Eventually I did extricate myself, but it wasn’t easy. I wish I could say that I’d been up front and told them exactly why I wanted to end the friendship. I wasn’t, I just sort of faded away until they got the picture.

      I can say that of the women I’m close to today (these friendships span 42 years!) not one has ever put me down, done something disloyal behind my back or shut me out. They have all been unconditionally loyal from day one, and I’ve done the same for them. In retrospect, these were women who I had an immediate connection, or “spark” with, and we both went all in from day one.

  • SayWhaat

    @ Leap:

    I just took issue with the statement that “all women are lazy men are better and more hard-working.” That’s simply not true; laziness is independent of gender. And some regions do foster certain attitudes above others. It’s a cultural pocket thing.

    FWIW, I observed both men and women working hard in all my internships as well. Although you are correct in that as a neophyte to the full-time working world, I still have much to experience and learn.

  • SayWhaat,
    To be 100% honest, if there’s one problem I’ve had, it’s who I’ve chosen as my closest friends. It’s not how I’ve related to them, it’s the fact that I’ve chosen them as people who I think can handle my vulnerability.

    Also it isn’t mean girls who have been the hardest for me to handle… at a certain point in high school I got very good at avoiding the meanest Queen Bees. No, really, it’s been my best friends who have turned out to be… not the best. That’s where I need some more introspection: how to screen for quality. And, erm, I still kind of think quality girls are rare. :-/

  • Hope

    @SayWhaat, I think there is something to attitude projection. I tend to project a “submissive” vibe to people in general, so other women probably see me as non-competition. I am short, small, quiet, Asian, nerdy, kind of awkward, smile a lot, don’t make good eye contact and talk with a small voice. Not threatening at all.

    I also dress conservatively, don’t wear makeup, and have the exact same hairstyle day in and day out. I keep to myself a lot, I am married, and I don’t flirt with other guys. Overall, everything about me says “worker bee” not “queen bee.” It seems to keep my profile low and my drama bar empty.

    Lately I’ve been trying to project more of a loving attitude toward other people, but it’s really difficult. I do genuinely like the people I work with, but I don’t have much in common with them. I’m too…weird. Anacanoa can at least talk about Twilight and other girl-favorite topics. I’ve got Diablo 3, WoW, and work. So I mostly stick to talking about work. 😛

  • Husband and Wife worked in the same place? How does that happen. Lol. They got fired back to back? I wonder how the marriage worked out.

    Well it happens in the US too. We the writers and artist are a small community in my country chances are you are going to employ husbands and wives and/or they will meet during work fall in love and marry. I was actually witness in my new boss civil ceremony with his wife that was also working in another department. Except in that case his wife is just an angel, and they are a very romantic couple and I’m not sure but is very likely that my boss is one of the very few Dominican men that doesn’t cheat. I totally ship them. 🙂

  • Susan,
    I remember you made a comment once about how I remind you of a young Grerp. Grerp’s experiences with women and her resulting mistrust follow my life story perfectly.

    I just don’t trust them anymore. It’s not that I don’t believe that there are good women out there, it’s that I don’t trust myself to be able to recognize them or to be vulnerable with them again.

    I had girl friends all the way up, but they did stuff like read my diary and laugh at me or tell the boy I had a crush on that I liked him or edge me out of the friendship I had with another girl. Trust-breaking stuff.

    No other person has explained my own experiences so well.

  • Charm

    @SayWhaat

    Lol. The school I go to is pretty well known for quite a few things. Though its public and not an Ivy or even close though really good school. I couldn’t care to go to a more prestigious school. After I get my bachelors Im done with “higher” education. Its a waste of time and money. I think college is mostly about credentials for a lot of people. Do I think that I’m smart? Depends on the context. I think my IQ is in normal range (never tested) but my motivation to gain more knowledge is very high. I have a high awareness, high in abstract thinking, excel in verbal communication, so I’m good at soft sciences like sociology, psychology, political theory, languages, etc. I have drive and ambition. I would probably be good at business or law since Im a charismatic speaker. Though, Im not very status seeking. So I guess I don’t qualify as “exceptional”. I know my strengths, and I play to them.

  • SayWhaat

    Hmm…I had a thought just now. My mother did a lot of trust-breaking stuff with me, I wonder if that’s why I reach out to girlfriends/friends in general? I can honestly say that I’m closer to my girlfriends than I am with my own mother and sister, though my relationship with my sister has been improving exponentially these past few years.

  • Charm

    @Anacoana. Lol, I spelled it anaconda. Oops

    I think at a lot of places in the US they would be split up and put in very different areas or on different shifts. Rarely can married people work in such close quarters, though DR is pretty small and the area in which you work smaller so I get it. Though, I still think steps should be taken to split people up even if they met and fell in love at work.

  • Some type of gender blind spot must exist.

    Is probably evo-bio all you need from a woman basically to fulfill your bio imperative is that she will be willing to open her legs, so I guess that is why men are better to tell women’s age to screen for fertility and probably lost or never develop the cattiness detector because in the great scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Women on the other hand only need him to seed them, so to speak so again the same blind spot, but women seem to better at spotting an Alpha than men too.

  • SayWhaat

    Ah, sorry Charm, I wasn’t trying to imply that you or your school weren’t exceptional. I was just making a broader point that some attitudes are endemic to certain regions and have no correlation to gender. Kind of like how ’90s counter-culture is stuck in Portland. 😛

    Speaking of Portlandia, I want to watch another ep now…

  • Charm

    @SayWhaat #77

    Lol. I realize now I was implying “all” women. Nah, I meant some. My bad, I just wanted to clear that up. But when a person is being lazy or giving excuses, I will say that women get away with that shit more often. If a woman is in pain, we say awwww if a man he, he is told to suck it up and go back to work. We all know it to be true. If a woman is unemployed, no biggie. If a man is, put out an all points bulletin to all women in the vicinity to stay the hell away.

  • Charm

    @Saywhaat

    Lol. Portlandia is hilarious. I especially love the first few minutes of the first episode. Its so douchy. But my school definitely isn’t bad. Its on the map. People all over the country and world have heard of it. I pretty much went here because it was instate, cheap, and on the damn map.

  • SayWhaat

    If a woman is unemployed, no biggie. If a man is, put out an all points bulletin to all women in the vicinity to stay the hell away.

    Hmm…I’m not so sure that holds today. I think there is just as much pressure for women to be employed as men. I certainly felt it a month before graduation, ha!

    If a woman is in pain, we say awwww if a man he, he is told to suck it up and go back to work.

    That’s also interesting, considering women do tolerate pain better than men. (They even proved it on Mythbusters, lol.)

  • Lotte

    This is the straight up, hard to swallow truth about the nature of female relationships. I also find this to be true in other aspects of womanly bonding. For example, I think body-image problems are learned from other woman. I not sure if this is only attributed to my own experiences, but from what I’ve seen/felt, it seems that woman are generally the cause of other woman’s insecurities. I don’t recall ever as feeling as terrible as when another woman makes an ‘off-handed, casual’ remark about my body. I didn’t learn from magazines that my body should look one way, I learned that from other women. I didn’t learn insecurity from men, but from other woman.

    Although I have to say, my last boss was a woman who was probably the best mentor at my company. She introduced me to the right people, and helped me improve my work. But she was also really confident and laid-back. However, I interview better with men than I do with women. There’s always the underlaying tension of a younger female entering “the territory”, of an older female. Sometimes it feels like they’re sizing me up. Brings up all different kinds of alpha female, animal instinct connotations for me.

    • @Lotte

      Welcome, thanks for leaving a comment.

      Lots of new women in the thread today. I love it!

  • SayWhaat

    Blargh. For some reason the page wouldn’t let me post a “duplicate” comment so I changed it up a little so that it would post. Grawr.

  • Olive – if there’s one thing that I would say to you, being older and having been through this, it’s to stop thinking that you are the dysfunctional part of the female equation. You don’t have to hang with girls. Get your social needs filled however it works best for you. I have done quite a lot of self-introspection, and, you know what? I don’t think I was the problem. Yeah, I have my quirks, and I’m not everyone’s cuppa. But I was a nice kid and a nice young woman. I never read anyone’s diary and then laughed at it to her. When someone asked me to keep a secret, I didn’t go blab it to everyone. If I said I’d be somewhere to pick up a friend at 10PM, I was there at 10 sharp. There are worse qualities to have in a friend. I’m not blaming myself anymore.

  • @ SayWhaat
    “That’s simply not true; laziness is independent of gender. And some regions do foster certain attitudes above others. It’s a cultural pocket thing.”

    Ah ok. Fair enough.

    And yeah, definitely understand the regional thing. I attribute it more to a latent energy of the population. Its why I ended up in Chicago over anywhere else I’ve lived

    Denver – good energy, but no theatre scene for a good career for me
    Portland – Good theatre, but as Portlandia shows, there’s not nearly enough energy there for me.
    Boston – Ugh. Mediocre theatre and I hated the combination of the cities energy and how people behaved out there. most miserable year of my life
    NYC – I don’t think I could keep up with the people there. Plus I definitely wouldn’t stand out in theatre scenes.

    Chicago – Great energy level. I don’t get dragged down by others but have an above average ambition level for the city from what I can tell. I’m able to stand out here while pursuing my dreams.

  • Charm

    These comments from Hope, Grerp, and Olive reinforce why I’ve always avoided women in general. I’ve never been stabbed in the back or screwed over by girls like this because I have a pretty strong aversion to 75% of the female population anyway. This is from a pretty early age too. I don’t even know why. I just didn’t “fit”. I gave the dream of having “girlfriends” up a while ago. I’m sure Ill meet some later in life. But right now girls suuuuccckk.

  • Butterfly Flower

    Eep! This posts scares me. I have a low self-esteem, and I was bullied in High School [my RA medicine caused weight loss – girls would call me a heroin addict].

    I have a couple of wonderful female friends, but they’re really the only women [well, women besides my mother] that I can trust.

    I’ve especially had issues with older women. I’m close with my mother, but I find it impossible to have pleasant interactions with other women her age. To be absolutely honest, I’m afraid of middle aged women [hence, why this post strikes fear into my soul].

    Many older women do this awful thing, where they intentionally seek out younger women to tear down. Like, I’ve had older women tell me I’m an awful person, for nonsensical reasons [apparently I’m a bad person, ’cause I’m against animal testing]. Or they tell me I’ve failed at life because I haven’t done exactly what they did when they were my age. Their viciousness is obviously bitterness/related to their own life’s regrets, but I’m very [physically] sick – I don’t need anyone causing additional stress in my life.

    Anyway, do businesswomen suffer from more health problems than businessmen? I mean, the “Mean Girl” office politics sounds quite stressful.

    • @Butterfly Flower

      I’m so sorry to hear you’ve encountered such nasty women socially! It’s bad enough in the workplace, but women criticizing you for your politics? Rude.

      You raise an interesting point about the health of very aggressive and successful women. I don’t know the answer. I do think there’s something to the “doing too much” theory. I don’t think it excuses the worst behaviors, but I imagine that a lot of women are so stressed out in general that they have a short fuse at the office. In that case, though, both females and males should experience it equally. Not sure if that happens.

  • WarmWoman

    @Hope-my mom was like yours, but I became extremely hyper-sensitive. Cried easily. Had a hard time letting go of people’s comments.

    SayWhaat-I also had a hard time spotting “bitchy” or “manipulative” behavior among other females, due to a mom that broke trust repeatedly. We’re conditioned to think that our moms are the most loving creature, and I blindly accepted my mom’s behavior as normal.

  • Joe

    Timely, Susan.

    I made a bad mistake tonight. For the first time I caught an episode of “The Bachelor”. Awful (and exploitative, also).

    After reading this post many of the interactions became transparently obvious.

  • Mike C

    Grerp #93,

    +1000

  • Butterfly Flower

    I also had a hard time spotting “bitchy” or “manipulative” behavior among other females, due to a mom that broke trust repeatedly. We’re conditioned to think that our moms are the most loving creature, and I blindly accepted my mom’s behavior as normal.

    I have this problem too [although it’s because I’m severely dyslexic/ditzy; it has nothing to do with my mother]. I don’t realize a women is a b!tch, until they’ve hurt me/taken advantage of me.

    I think “why did they do that!” then I connect the dots. Hindsight’s 20/20.

  • WarmWoman

    @Flavia”1) If a woman states that she cannot stand other women, that they are “catty” and jealous of her, and that she’d rather hang out with guys than women, she is most likely a bitch. If you can’t get along with 3 billion people on the planet, it’s usually you. ”

    This may very well be the case (people playing victim when they are the toxic one), but I think it’s possible that a decent woman really does have other women acting catty and jealous towards her. That then drives her away to trusting male friends instead. If a woman has to publicly advertise that she hates girls, then I would be weary.

    As for your other comment on women telling you to gain weight b/c you’re too thin, I concur. Hell, making a comment about your body in general isn’t what a supportive and respectful female friend does.

  • ExNewYorker

    @Susan ,

    “So much for my theory that health care professionals are above this!”

    With 90% of my wife’s office being female, the dynamics tend to follow your original post…

    “From everything I’ve heard here, it seems like male competition is direct and straightforward.”

    Well, male politics can be a pain in the ass as well. The politicking tends to be more at the higher levels, with guys trying to “swing the biggest cock”. But, it tends to be obvious…the hatreds and feuds aren’t hidden…which is why you’re still able to see work get done (unless it reaches a certain point, but that tends to lead to mass exodus…i.e. see all the Silicon Valley companies formed out of scattering from the original companies). The women in our fields tend to be fairly male in thinking, the few there are. Probably the only large concentration of women are in the HR, and accounting groups, but these aren’t too large in relation the larger company.

    “Hiking sounds to me like an excellent way of getting away from the nonsense! ”

    Yes. I was always outdoorsy, but it’s nice having her share that hobby with me, even if her immediate reason was to go somewhere with few people. We tend to talk a lot during these outings…this last weekend we discussed the Kate Bollick article (Doctor’s office’s tend to have lots of magazines which she’ll read if it grabs her interest). She felt sorry for some of your focus group: many hookups, few relationships.

    • @EXNewYorker

      She felt sorry for some of your focus group: many hookups, few relationships.

      Yes, well, I hope she’s smiling like the Cheshire Cat. She’s the model of what I’m trying to promote here, and she got her just reward in you 🙂

  • WarmWoman

    Butterfly Flower

    I wouldn’t say you’re ditzy at all. It’s just that some of us like to see the good in people, want to trust, or just want to make friends. We don’t always see the signs right away until it’s too late. You live and then you learn.

    With the right female friendships, they can be very nurturing and help you grow.

  • Hmm…I had a thought just now. My mother did a lot of trust-breaking stuff with me, I wonder if that’s why I reach out to girlfriends/friends in general? I can honestly say that I’m closer to my girlfriends than I am with my own mother and sister, though my relationship with my sister has been improving exponentially these past few years.

    That’s interesting. I think my mom has done a lot to foster a trusting relationship between us, so I make the mistake of thinking everyone is worthy of my trust. Later I find out that I went horribly wrong.

    I think it’s also somehow significant that I never had a sister. As a kid I spent a lot of time playing by myself, with my younger brother, or with my male cousin who was about my age. The women I was closest to were always much older than me: my mom, my grandma, my aunt. I’ve even found I relate better to my mom’s friends than my own. So strange.

    Grerp,
    Thank you for the response! I think I’ve spent a lot of time blaming myself, wondering how I’m different from everyone else. And then (in college) tried to change to be like everyone else. Sometimes I think I’m better off (and a much better person!) if I just hang with who I hang with, even if that’s limited to my BF, my family, and the few people I chat with in class.

    Having said that, I do wish things were different. It’s a little lonely, trying to screen for quality.

  • “…That then drives her away to trusting male friends instead. If a woman has to publicly advertise that she hates girls, then I would be weary.”

    Yes, that is the type of girl I was driving at. I am sure there are plenty of nice girls who have bad experiences with females, especially in school- those are not the type I am talking about.

    I think the public declaration of “hating girls” is a synonym for being a certain type of girl- usually one that possesses all the traits that make females difficult to get along with in the first place.

  • @ Olive
    “I’ve even found I relate better to my mom’s friends than my own. So strange.”

    I’ve found this with a couple women that are my mom’s friends as well. Its weird as a male – they’re not hitting on me, but they actually are able to rationally think about what I’m talking about and have good conversations. I haven’t been able to figure out if this is simply the kind of friends my mom makes, or the age difference means they’re not looking to me as a male they can manipulate for attention, money, favors, or sex.

    Meanwhile I have a hard time relating to women my own age as anything other than a party girl, a feminist, a career contact, or the rarer intellectual. The first two tend to try and use me in some way or I simply can’t relate to on higher levels. The third is a given if I meet her in theatre. The last is the rare woman I’d actually be interested in either a friendship or relationship. But every time I try to give them more benefit of the doubt that a woman isn’t in the first two scenarios, I get burned.

  • Lately I’ve been trying to project more of a loving attitude toward other people, but it’s really difficult. I do genuinely like the people I work with, but I don’t have much in common with them. I’m too…weird. Anacanoa can at least talk about Twilight and other girl-favorite topics. I’ve got Diablo 3, WoW, and work. So I mostly stick to talking about work.
    Well I love Twilight but given the nerd word of the street I didn’t read it till I found out my readers loved it. So I do a lot of pushing my own comfort zone in order to have a wider range of information, which as writer helps me, you cannot write a world with only one or two type of characters, well you can is just not rich. For example I don’t particularly like Hello Kitty but some of my friends love them so I do my best to know enough to follow her, I also don’t like the transformers franchise but I went to dark of the moon to please a friend. The good thing is that people that see that you make an effort to spent time with them make an effort to spent time with you. So maybe you could try and push yourself a little and see what they are talking about. You don’t even need to do your own research or fake it all you need to do is say “That sounds interesting, tell me more?” and I assure you that the distance among you and your peers will dissapear, even if you never actually get into their things as passionate as they do, YMMV of course.

    @Anacoana. Lol, I spelled it anaconda. Oops

    I normally don’t pay attention to the spelling so don’t feel bad about it.

    I think at a lot of places in the US they would be split up and put in very different areas or on different shifts. Rarely can married people work in such close quarters, though DR is pretty small and the area in which you work smaller so I get it. Though, I still think steps should be taken to split people up even if they met and fell in love at work.
    We dominicans are really laid back about everything so I’m sure that it might be more practical but then we want people to get marry and have children and if they are good workers you still want them on your team so we look the other way unless something ugly comes up, like public fights or abuse. But that is rare too because we also most of the time need our jobs and professional references. I used to have a coworker also living with another coworker that used to come to work with a black eye regularly, whatever happened at home at work they were acting usually as a normal loving couple, sad and bizarre but there was little we could do about it, because she didn’t wanted intervention.

  • J

    Interesting post and comments. My own personal experience is that woman are either the worst or the best. I’ve been mentored and nurtured by female co-workers, but I’ve also been bitched by some of the bitchiest. OTOH, I’ve been treated less that fairly by male bosses, including one who attempted to push me out of a job he wanted to give to an unemployed friend. My husband, in climbing the corporate ladder, has faced some really irrational and nasty behavior from both men and women. I do agree though that women have a more indirect and insidious way of being nasty.

    Someone posted this at Roissy’s a while back: “But there is another type of a girl who is more of a loner or outsider, who doesn’t deal with other bitches’ bullshit, so she has a small tight group of female friends and spends a lot of time around guys. Most women HATE HATE HATE this type of girl, because they see her as a threat and have very little social control over her, and will try socially isolate her as a slut or whatever.

    A loner girl is often confused with a tomboy because she hangs out with dudes. But there’s a big difference between the tomboy girl who wants to hang with the cool boys versus the feminine girl with a more masculine view on social relationships.”

    I am probably a loner girl. I have some really deep friendships with like-minded women, but I refuse to play the game (which I suck at anyway.) Other women will penalize you for not playing. I sometimes wish I could make myself give a damn.

  • “@Anacoana. Lol, I spelled it anaconda. Oops

    I normally don’t pay attention to the spelling so don’t feel bad about it.”

    HAHAHA. Slightly embarrassed to say I’ve read it as Anaconda this whole time on HUS. Wow. Go mind, always replacing things I read with what I think I’ll read instead of what’s actually there.

  • Maybe it’s my age (42), or maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve only had one bad female boss. I’ve had bad male bosses, too, but she was the worst. On the other hand, my best bosses have been female. Now that I think about it, it might have been the corporate culture (major American bank), because women in upper management were almost uniformly encouraging of younger women and seemed very interested in taking mentoring roles. In general though, I didn’t run into any nasty managers of either sex in my eight years there, so yeah, probably the culture.

    As to other women generally being mean and catty- not in my world. I’d offloaded any and all “friends” like that by the end of college, and avoided women like that like the plague going forward. It might also be that I don’t seem to be the type that is threatening to other women. There’s never been much danger of me stealing anyone’s man.

    I have a feeling it might be worse for the younger generation, though. My nieces in grade school right now seem to have to put up with a lot more “mean girl” behavior than I ever did- and I had plenty at that age!

    • @Christina

      I’m glad you’ve had a good experience. It’s interesting that you say you work at a major bank – one of the women in my focus groups does too, and since she’s joined she’s been amazed and delighted how supportive the women are. Interestingly, a couple of the really senior women are hugely pregnant right now, so it may be a self-selected group that intends to balance family with work. It may be that certain organizations, or even certain industries, are ahead of the curve on this and doing a great job of rewarding positive female modeling and mentoring behavior.

  • HAHAHA. Slightly embarrassed to say I’ve read it as Anaconda this whole time on HUS. Wow. Go mind, always replacing things I read with what I think I’ll read instead of what’s actually there.

    Heh everybody does it, the brain is constantly trying to save time by guessing what is reading instead of actually reading, lazy bastard. :p
    The studies about how much bias actually makes up our perception of the world are fascinating, some neuroscience believe that there is not really any objective way for the brain to see the world so we all have our colored glasses.
    For example another Dominican would had read it ANACAONA right away because she was a revered Taino princess we been hearing about since we had memory of anything, killed by Ovando *spitsonfloor* became the symbol of the extermination of our own indigenous race, but for a gringo brain the closest word is ANACONDA so the brain substitutes for it accordingly.
    To show my own bias I had no idea that anyone would confuse the two because they look nothing alike to me. I like twins, people from the family can tell one and hundred differences while strangers or mere acquaintances are confused all the time, YMMV

  • “Heh everybody does it, the brain is constantly trying to save time by guessing what is reading instead of actually reading, lazy bastard. :p
    The studies about how much bias actually makes up our perception of the world are fascinating, some neuroscience believe that there is not really any objective way for the brain to see the world so we all have our colored glasses.”

    Haha, so true! I actually know that its a huge problem of mine at times. I have read a large amount since early ages, so its always ironically funny to me when something I’ve been reading a whole book – or blog – is suddenly noticed to be different than what I thought it was. Usually it applies to names of things; cities, people, or items that I have no prior experience with.

    More rarely, but occasionally, it happens with situations. Usually when it happens I see a situation or event as how I want it to be rather than how it is. Then I act on it. Its led to some frustrating situations, though I definitely have a ‘do what it takes’ attitude to make things happen and find solutions. Sometimes the solutions just break a few conventions. Or require me to pull all nighters to get the project completed.

  • Butterfly Flower

    I wouldn’t say you’re ditzy at all. It’s just that some of us like to see the good in people, want to trust, or just want to make friends. We don’t always see the signs right away until it’s too late. You live and then you learn.

    With the right female friendships, they can be very nurturing and help you grow.

    You’re right, I am a wide-eyed idealist. However, I find my “sunshine, lollipops and rainbows!” disposition just makes forming nurturing female relationships significantly more difficult. Since I’m always happy, I become a target [“why is she happy? She doesn’t deserve to be happy!”]; pair this with my trusting nature, I become the perfect target for miserable crazy b#tches. I live in NYC; the main base of miserable bitter middle aged businesswomen – I’m like a deer at the start of hunting season. They delight in tearing me down. I’m sensitive, so they get to me. I eventually recover and go back to my usual happy-self, but I can’t shake this feeling of being gullible. I let myself get hoodwinked. I should have known better.

    My close-female friends are similar to myself; optimistic, happy – no bitterness or chips on their shoulder. They’re also all around my age. I find even late 20’s women are bitter and awful. Gosh, I hope my friends won’t become awful as they get older 🙁 Or even worse, myself ! I don’t like hurting other people’s feelings.

  • FeralEmployee

    Interesting mention of Wharton Business school in a recent article in Time Magazine. The title of the article is called “The upside of being an introvert”. Introverted leaders mesh best with empowered and independent employees.

    Anyone have experience concerning introverted women in leadership positions?

  • Catherine

    I haven’t read the comments yet but I am really shocked by this post. I attended a coed high school, a women’s college, a coed grad school, and in 15 years of professional life I have had an equal mix of male and female bosses, mentors, peers, and subordinates. I have never experienced anything even remotely resembling the kind of hateful, petty viciousness between women that you describe here. I value and have maintained relationships with all my former mentors and bosses, male and female, to this day. I strongly suspect that women who have problems getting along with other women ( and I have never encountered such a creature expert online) must have some sort of preconceived “mean girls” stereotype in their minds that colors their ineractions with women.

    • @Catherine

      I’m glad this post is so foreign to your own experience. May I ask what industry you work in? Are you surprised by the Washington Post article? Or the many comments by women here for whom the post resonates? Are you aware of the Mean Girl phenomenon among adolescent girls? I’m curious to know how you’re processing this information, clearly shared by many women, in light of your own experience.

      I’m also curious to know if you have a daughter – you must be in your mid to late 30s – and if so, has she experienced this? When my daughter was in 5th grade, the girls in her class regularly played “Castle” at recess. They made up this role playing game, and it had a full hierarchy of royalty, ladies in waiting, etc. My daughter was told that she could only play if she was willing to be the slave. At first she agreed, but when they gave her a series of orders to complete unpleasant tasks, she left the group. I didn’t learn about it until one day she broke down and confessed that for a few weeks, she’d been hiding in a stall in the girls’ bathroom for all of recess.

      I marched in to the classroom the next morning and that was the end of “Castle.” But it was certainly not the end of the mean girl behavior. Thankfully, my daughter was not subjected to it again that year.

  • Stingray

    Wow, Grerp pretty much wrote my life story with the exception that, for some reason, I started making friends with the boys at a very young age. In kindergarten I realized that boys were easier to be friends with and we shared the same interests.

    Olive, I have done pretty much what you said about only hanging out with a few people. I have my husband and my mom that are very close to me. My mom lives 600 miles away and any other people we spend time with, namely one other couple lives quite far away as well. We went to college with the husband and we are close to his wife, because they are married. Not to say she is a bad person, she has a good heart but she slips often enough that I could never be truly close to her. Our kids play together and we enjoy small talk, but not much beyond that. The point is, I’m happy. I’ve always been a bit of a loner (in the sense that I never let but a few people in. I can relate to people quite well when in a group setting, but very rarely walk away with friendships) and it works very well and I am rarely lonely. I am quite a bit older than you and that likely makes it easier for me. The point is, having a few very good people around you, is often times a lot more that most people get. While it can be hard, you are very lucky to have those good people, even if it is only a few.

    Is there such a thing as WGTOW? Thats what I feel like when it comes to female relationships beyond my mom.

  • PV

    I notice on this post that a lot of the women saying they have trouble with female relationships also did not have a good relationship with their moms. Perhaps having a warm, nurturing mother makes quite a bit of difference. I have a very close relationship with my mother and sister and maybe that has given me some sort of radar to pick out good women friends and stay away from women who are trouble. I can honestly say that I’ve never been stabbed in the back by another woman and I have a few very good women friends I completely trust to have my back.

  • Jesus Mahoney

    Guys here have actually said the same thing about cads – they can suss out a cad in five minutes, and are amazed when a woman tries to tell them the guy is “really nice” and “a good guy.” It just demonstrates that men and women speak different languages, and we only really understand our own kind.

    I have a very easy time figuring out women unless I’m attracted to them. I wonder if there’s something about attraction that causes other mental faculties to operate normally, you know? Maybe love really is blind.

  • Ramble

    I’d bet that reality shows have done more to destroy the American character than anything since feminism.

    Susan, who are CHOOSING to watch these reality shows (I am assuming that you are referring to things like the Kardashians and not Hard Knocks on HBO) and who are not?

    Before you answer, let me put this out there: I am guessing that few avif golf fans are watching The Bachelor or The Kardashians.

    • @Ramble

      Susan, who are CHOOSING to watch these reality shows (I am assuming that you are referring to things like the Kardashians and not Hard Knocks on HBO) and who are not

      Hell if I know. I imagine that women watch these awful dating shows and men watch stuff like Survivor.

  • Jesus,

    maybe love is blind

    I just had a read of this http://www.mediafire.com/?9bpbayjyb87ux7t and it mentions it

  • Ramble

    I am probably a loner girl. I have some really deep friendships with like-minded women, but I refuse to play the game (which I suck at anyway.) Other women will penalize you for not playing. I sometimes wish I could make myself give a damn.

    J, that description that you grabbed from Roissy’s site described at least one of my past girlfriends. She was sweet and demure but stayed away from almost all girls.

    She described herself as a sexist. She did, at one time, have one really close girlfriend, but then that girl started dating a guy (who wasn’t that into her) and the girl really changed.

    • She did, at one time, have one really close girlfriend, but then that girl started dating a guy (who wasn’t that into her) and the girl really changed.

      Now there’s a red flag for you. When a good friend changes her behavior dramatically upon getting with a guy, get out. Especially the ones who disappear entirely, cooing all the time about how much they miss you. Of course, they’re back with a vengeance as soon as the relationship ends.

      Some women are just not designed for female friendship, and use it as a means to get to men. Avoid them like the plague.

  • so it may be a self-selected group that intends to balance family with work. It may be that certain organizations, or even certain industries, are ahead of the curve on this and doing a great job of rewarding positive female modeling and mentoring behavior.

    Fascinating. The social work field must suck at it, because I’m quickly learning social workers are some of the most hardened, judgmental people ever. My mom’s been a social worker for years, and damn, the stories she’s told me…

    • The social work field must suck at it, because I’m quickly learning social workers are some of the most hardened, judgmental people ever.

      Ironic.

  • Ramble

    Hell if I know. I imagine that women watch these awful dating shows and men watch stuff like Survivor.

    The majority of the people who choose to watch these shows, that are apparently oh so damaging to us, are girls.

    • The majority of the people who choose to watch these shows, that are apparently oh so damaging to us, are girls.

      I don’t doubt it for a minute.

  • Social workers: I would imagine that (a)being in a position of authority over people who are basically in the position of supplicants…combined with (b)the fact that the supplicants often have demonstrated dysfunctional behavior patterns that could easily lead the authority-figure to a feeling of superiority over them, if s(he) were minded that way….can be pretty toxic to the character of the social worker, and that indeed this toxicity can be resisted only by those who have extremely strong character going in.

    My most recent post: working river or real-estate amenity?

  • Ramble

    Now there’s a red flag for you. When a good friend changes her behavior dramatically upon getting with a guy, get out. Especially the ones who disappear entirely, cooing all the time about how much they miss you. Of course, they’re back with a vengeance as soon as the relationship ends.

    They did not have a massive failing out. It was more like, “we are now both back from college for the summer, but I am going to spend all of my time with my (uninvested) boyfriend and not so much with you”. Nothing mean was said.

    But the quote that J brought up was spot on. She was not a tomboy, but spent all of her time with “the boys” even though she was not amazingly tight with any of them. An interesting side note for those young girls who lurk here, all of the guys that she hung out with wanted to see her land a quality guy.

  • Ellie

    One of my friends in high school was super flat; our local “queen bee” sent her a hand-made birthday card with a bra on the front and this message on the inside: “If you water them, maybe they will grow” – Girls can be so terribly mean.

    • Ellie,

      Thanks for commenting. Your story doesn’t surprise me, but it’s terrible.

      I regularly meet women who I *know* with total certainty, were the mean queen bees as teenagers. They never lose the affect.

  • Ramble

    Olive, a girl I know is a social worker and she married the ass-hattiest of “alphas” (read: poser).

    One time, at a childrens birthday party, the two of them came back out into the back yard where the husband said they had just had sex in the hosts’ (her sisters) bathroom. No one knew what to say.

  • Ramble

    I don’t doubt it for a minute.

    They also vote heavily Democratic.

  • PV

    “If you water them, maybe they will grow” – Girls can be so terribly mean.”

    This is more than mean — I think this is evil. Imagine her rising to the top of the corporate world, stepping on everyone on the way without remorse.

  • That’s not off topic, that’s a wonderful tidbit that gives me hope!

    Well baseball makes and breaks friendships in my culture so is not that remarkable still…RUGE RUGE EL LEON!!! :d

  • “Imagine her rising to the top of the corporate world, stepping on everyone on the way without remorse”…the odds are that someone this vicious is going to destroy herself before reaching the top of anything. She will pick on the wrong person, or the turnover in her group will be so high that she’ll fail to achieve results, or she will at some point report to someone astute enough to figure her out. But she can make a lot of people miserable on the way to her eventual meltdown.

    As an aside, I think the organizational culture in “nonprofits” is often more toxic than that in for-profit corporations. I’ve heard several credible stories about “nonprofit” executives (male, in the cases I’ve heard about) yelling at employees, throwing things, demanding entirely inappropriate help with chores having nothing to do with the job, etc.

  • Anna

    “I regularly meet women who I *know* with total certainty, were the mean queen bees as teenagers. They never lose the affect.”

    It’s a little bit scary how our status all through school sticks with us for life. I was never a queen bee – I was often friends with the queen bee and generally well liked but also a git of a geek and not someone who stood out. And I think for the rest of my life I will be skeptical of a woman who appears to have been the queen bee at school when she was younger.
    She usually won this status by having jeans of certain labels, being overly confident with obnoxious parents to match and being “ahead of the crowd” somehow. The queen bee at school when I was a kid was the first one to wear a G-string. It was black and had gold writing in front which said “you animal”. We were 10.
    Perhaps judgmental, but the queen bee rarely becomes the queen bee for good reasons. Our queen bee appeared to be nice but spread nasty rumours and pointed out physical flaws among the girls, such as “she wears loose pants because her thighs are fat”. I might add that she kept this up until she was about 18.

    • @Anna

      The queen bee at school when I was a kid was the first one to wear a G-string. It was black and had gold writing in front which said “you animal”. We were 10.

      Wow. I know you’re not American, but I would have thought so based on that statement. The slogan would be funny if it wasn’t so creepy for a 10 yo.

  • Anna

    Susan,
    I didn’t take your Junior League reference as an offense, it has come to my attention that some Junior League departments in the US have a certain reputation (or that the women do). A bit of googling gave some interesting results.
    I think there might be a link between these types of work, fundraising, donations etc and vicious women. I came to think of it when I hung out with an (American) friend last summer, a single 40 year old from LA. She is a doctor, a buddhist, gives money to charity and talks a lot about karma. Yet she is one of the most toxic people I know. She is insanely jealous and subtly tries to spoil any chance I have with a man, gives me a bad rep among her friends and deliberately tries to make all other women appear as sluts. One way of doing this is to “find girls” for her male friends. She’ll take the guys out, point out a girl and go “I’ll chat her up for you, I’ll bet she goes home with you tonight”. The point of this game is that the men will see her as helpful, not competitive and a contrast to all the “sluts” around. Whereas I know she is actually incredible insecure. One guy pointed this out behind her back, and I was surprised to see men recognized it.
    She is Asian, I am blonde, she had a thing for a guy who openly said he preferred blondes, and (in front of me) she said, “well let me tell you, once you’ve tried Asians, you’ll forget about blondes”. She won’t be directly rude, she’ll work it all in somehow. She’ll introduce me to men and add I’m “really shy”, she’ll tell me I’m hopeless in conversation and she’ll write off any argument I have saying I’m “so young”. And all this while preaching how you must do good to get good back in your life.
    I know a Junior League member from LA who is horrid as well. IMO, the more a woman advertises her social work or charitable donations, the worse she is. If she was genuinely kind she wouldn’t need to talk about it.
    Or maybe it’s just women from LA! I have had that suspicion too.

  • tvmunson

    @ Cheerful

    I assume you mena the movie “The Help”, and not the 1964 Beatle’s films.

    I haven’t got a lot to offer and the piece was again comprehensive. Our small community doesn’t lend itself muc to the high stakes stuff you describe. It is sad that ass kissing works so well; I’ve never said this to my son, but I’ve often thought “Son, I wish it weren’t this way, but the world belongs to the asskissers, at least ’til you’re the one it’s done to, so if you want to rise to the top, get used to the flavor.” But I just can’t to it. BTW the time honored “sleeping with the boss” is a category of ass kissing and although the object and the actor are reversed in the premises the method and ultimate goal remain the same.

    I haven’t seen the intra-office girl-on-girl (just writing that got me going) but got plenty of it in another context. The Stay at Homes versus the Moms Who Work. Women hear implied criticis in another woman’s choices, and you could clean a car engine with the acid that got generated on this one. SUBTEXT: Workers were heartless automatons who treated their chidren the way crocodiles do, and the stay at homes were lazy slatternly shiftless bon bon eating soap opera watching morons. “I’m working” meant “you are pig, “I’m staying at home” meant your children will grow up to be psychopaths.

    • @Munson

      Love the Beatles film too, but I was indeed talking about The Help. We showed our kids Help when they were little, and my daughter, then around 4, became obsessed with Ringo for a couple of years. She remains the only “Ringo girl” I’ve ever known.

      I totally relate to the working moms vs. SAHMs competition. I experienced it often when I was a SAHM. Once, at a dinner party, I said, “All moms work, one way or another.” This really pissed off another guest (female law partner), and she proceeded to argue aggressively that a SAHM doesn’t do any work that she didn’t do at night and on the weekends. I felt sorry for the host, and just smiled and nodded until the storm passed over. Yikes.

  • Ramble

    Our queen bee appeared to be nice but spread nasty rumours and pointed out physical flaws among the girls, such as “she wears loose pants because her thighs are fat”. I might add that she kept this up until she was about 18.

    What happened after she was 18?

  • Anna

    @ Ramble
    I don’t know. I’m not saying she grew up, I just haven’t seen her since. According to photos, she hangs out with the same people.

  • Anna

    FYI, I might have a different time-perspective, as I’m 21, I think of 18 as “adult”. After all, it’s only three years ago…

  • tvmunson

    BTW not all Jr. League’s were as depicited in “The Help.” The one here had a great Thrft store; my wife worked there. The stuff was good, and the leaguers never condescended to anyone. I was there with my wife and there were people shopping there who didn’t need to which kinda’ pissed me off, but the stuff was that good. I’m not sure we even have one now; the women who used to belong to that organization are all working.

    • I’m not sure we even have one now; the women who used to belong to that organization are all working.

      True story. Remember when people joined the DAR and those kinds of organizations? (My people didn’t, they were Irish maids.) My mom was always very active in something called Child Guidance. I’m sure they did good work, but they also played bridge and ate shrimp salad. That was America circa 1960.

  • JT

    @ Anna @ 156,

    What a horrible woman you describe! I hope you are keeping your distance from her…

    @ Susan,
    4. If you have a female boss, kiss her ass and have her back at all times. If you’re lucky, she’ll feel neutral about you.

    In my humble opinion, not worth it. If they are trouble from the start, they will be trouble no matter how much you cowtow to them.

    Best to just get on with your work and keep them at an arm’s length.

    • @JT

      In my humble opinion, not worth it. If they are trouble from the start, they will be trouble no matter how much you cowtow to them.

      Best to just get on with your work and keep them at an arm’s length.

      You may be right. I can’t claim to have had stellar results with my approach.

  • Jackie

    @Hope (#79)

    “Lately I’ve been trying to project more of a loving attitude toward other people, but it’s really difficult. I do genuinely like the people I work with, but I don’t have much in common with them.”

    Hope, this is so admirable and inspiring. I need to take a page out of your book for the people who can be “difficult” and cultivate your attitude instead. Thanks so much 🙂

  • Jackie

    @Charm (#82)

    “I know my strengths, and I play to them.”

    +1
    Well said. Most people focus on “turning weakness into strength” but you can exponentially improve your results by focusing on making your strengths stand out.

  • Jackie

    @Butterfly Flower (#95)
    *hugs* to you BF

    I’m so sorry this has been your experience. It must feel scary and awful to not feel like you can trust them. 🙁 Even your mom’s friends, or are they difficult as well?

    There are some really good people out there, they’re just rare and hard to find sometimes. I would definitely ignore the people who want to put you down and make you feel bad. Don’t give them a second of your time– just get away as fast as you can. GL!

  • tvmunson

    Re: girl on girl

    Women versus women in the workplace is probably an area not explored to some extent for reasons of political correctness. I’d posit though that, let’s face it, the work place is what it is. Corporation, law firm, bank, hospital-people trying to get ahead have a vibe. that vibe is often “I’m not just going to get ahead-I’m going to leave you behind and I want ot make sure you know it.” That hasn’t changed since humans organized into something beyond bands of hunter-gatherers. And the idea that you can “just do your job”-well, that’s a nice conceit, see how it works for you.

    I heard a song when I was 14 that had a line I didn’t appreciate at the time. It’s the psychedelic (maybe THE MOST psychedelic) song “Eight Miles High” by the The Byrds. Goes like this:
    nowhere is there warmth to be found
    among those afraid of losing their ground
    Those of you about to enter the Great American Upper Middle Class Prosperity Chase might want to spend a minute memorizing those lines. I have a very strong suspicion you will have many opportunities to revisit them through the years, as did I.

    • @Munson

      Great, great quote there. I’ve clipped it for the HUS collection!

  • Jackie

    @Ramble (#148)

    Ugh! What about,

    “There’s the door, you can show yourselves out.”
    🙁

  • Jackie

    @PV (#152)

    Ugh. That is truly despicable behavior from the mean girl! 🙁 She should genuinely fear her karma. What goes around comes back around eventually.

    And it’s not like putting someone down is going to make her truly better, only not as “less than.” Perhaps Tina Fey put it best, “Calling someone fat is not going to make you any skinnier.”

  • Butterfly Flower

    I didn’t take your Junior League reference as an offense, it has come to my attention that some Junior League departments in the US have a certain reputation (or that the women do). A bit of googling gave some interesting results.

    I think there might be a link between these types of work, fundraising, donations etc and vicious women

    I found this out the hard way. Nearly all of my bad encounter with older women, I experienced on the NYC charity circuit. Unlike the older women, I was more of a naive do-gooder than a socialite. I wasn’t involved in charities for status, I genuinely wanted to make the world a better place. The scary thing is, I don’t think any of these women could even comprehend my intentions. Apparently I was trying to be a socialite, earn credentials for a prestigious university application, or even credentials for a beauty pageant. Wanting to help people in need? Psh, that’s preposterous.

    I’ve found a couple of decent charities and organizations; however, you’d think philanthropy would be the last place you’d encounter “Mean Girls” behavior.

  • tvmunson

    ADDENDUM RE GREAT AMERICAN UPPER MIDDLE CLASS PROSPERITY CHASE

    It’s the most overused cliche; I’m embarassed to say the word. Ok let’s get it over with. Insecurity ( mass groans; Internet recieves immediate boost as hundreds of lurkers sign off). It just so happens that 98% of all human fuckups result from it; and intraoffice politics is no exception. Secure people are not aggressive. They are not back stabbers. Nearly all nasty human behaviors trace back to this (including genocide, serial murder, and cutting in line). What propels a lot of people, drives them, IS insecurity, so it is what got them there in the first place and few have the ego strength to keep it limited solely to the task where it has utility. You read about the athlete who is so afraid to lose he trains and trains, but his insecurity doesn’t bleed out into other areas. Rare. Insecure people, those afraid of losing their ground, will give no warmth, and that is who were are describing. BTW the only male mentors of young women I’ve seen had the “daddy/Casanova” complex-couldn’t decide if the wanted to adopt them, or fuck them. The animus behind the mentoring was never enitirely pure IME.

    • @Munson

      What propels a lot of people, drives them, IS insecurity, so it is what got them there in the first place and few have the ego strength to keep it limited solely to the task where it has utility.

      When I was reading about narcissism, I was struck how the primary non-genetic cause was “insecure childhood attachment.” I thought about that word – insecure – a lot. People who are insecure are those who are loosely tethered to fellow humans. Perhaps they grew up needing to look out for #1 to ensure their own survival. I feel some empathy, but unfortunately, it doesn’t make them any less damaging to others.

      BTW the only male mentors of young women I’ve seen had the “daddy/Casanova” complex-couldn’t decide if the wanted to adopt them, or fuck them. The animus behind the mentoring was never enitirely pure IME.

      This is often the subtext, yes. I was fortunate that my male mentors were family men of excellent character and never crossed a line. I was friendly with their wives, in fact. It helped that I was engaged or married myself.

  • Ramble

    Ugh! What about,

    “There’s the door, you can show yourselves out.”

    Well, it was not my house, nor was it my sister, so, it was not my place to say. And, personally, I did not have a problem with her being really low class. She is now giving us a better idea as to who she really is.

  • Wudang

    Great post Susan!!

    I am sure there are a multitude of factors that can increase or increase the amount and intensity of the stuff you describe but there to main causes of this that make the others insignificant by comparison.

    The first is that this is genetically hardwired female competetive strategies. Mostly used in female intrasexual competition but also against males. You can`t really change the tendency towards this type of behavior, it will always be there, you can only change the amount and intensity of it.

    THe second reason is kind of a combination of two whose effect become largely the same. The kind of behaviors you describe are very indirect and covert and this makes them difficult to see and so hard to regulate and sanction with societal norms. When this is combined with the fact that people have refuse to talk openly and thoroughly about these types of behaviors the result is that they are massively increased because it becomes a sort of moral free ground where there is little clear morality and little social pressure to abstain from doing such things. Insulting people straight to their face leads to instant payback from the other person and gets you into trouble with others and you more easily see yourself that you did something wrong than if you try to make the person look bad in the eyes of others. You will more easily get away with starting a rumor or freezing someone out than you will by stealing an object or punching someone. You will also more easily be able to rationalize your actions and motives as pure when few are talking about these kinds of actions and there are unclear moral guidelines and little social sanctions against them.

    THe result of the hidden nature of indirect (female) tactics and the lack of debate about them is that bad and immoral behavior increases massively in this area. In a sense female competetivenes is uncivilized and almost in a hobbesean state of nature because it is not clearly understood and discussed in the open and given fair norms for how to perform.

    A lot of the same can be said of female behavior in terms of dating and relationships. BEcause what they have actually been doing have been so little understood they are not regulated properly and so bad behavior reaches its maximum potential. It is only throug open discussion that leads to clear understanding which in term can lead to reasonable norms and sanctions (shaming) that behavior improves. A fair amount of the same can be said for male behavior in the sexual marketplace and relationships, especially the worst beta males as they often follow tactics that are highly dishonest when examined closely. Still female behavior in these areas has been the most hidden and indirect, have been very well rationalized by well excercised hamsters and have been the least understood and has been held above any criticism for the last 40 years so it is more the case for women that their REAL behaviors and motives have in a sense not been regulated by society. I think a lot of the unease I sense about female behavior amongst women in the manosphere comes exactly from this. There are a lot of bad stuff getting done and those who do it get away with it again and again and other women feel a bit helpless against it because they can`t so easily call upon clear rules and norms to their defence.

    Amongst other contributing factors I do think self esteem and emotional health is a big one but I think it is mostly a matter of feeling good in a female specific way (I am a likable person, a GOOD girl, I am lovable etc.) rather than just workplace competitive success self esteem (which is more male in nature). I think when women lash out in catty ways it is because their FEMALE self esteem and FEMALE sense of security is endangered. I do think it works the other way around as well so that not feeling successful in a competitive way leads to lashing out in catty ways but I don`t think the main reason lies there.

    Entirely unrelated, I came across the expression female sexual arms race today and found it funny, insightful and very relevant to this site. It was used by Rollo in reference to how women dress more slutty and do more and more slutty things to outcompete each other.

    • @Wudang

      Great comment there, cosigned. The combination of PC norms directly resulting from feminism/AA for women and the subtextual nature of female communication has created a fairly toxic cocktail. Men can’t correct it, because much of it goes right over their heads – they don’t pick up on all the covert cues.

  • Butterfly Flower

    *hugs* to you BF

    I’m so sorry this has been your experience. It must feel scary and awful to not feel like you can trust them. 🙁 Even your mom’s friends, or are they difficult as well?

    My mother has a group of close personal friends [many she’s know since her 20’s]. I don’t have any issues with her friends; however they’re a miniscule portion of middle-aged women.

    Sadly, my mother puts up with BS from other middle-aged women; certainly more than I have to deal with. She married a non-Christian Asian man. She gave up her career to have children. She let her daughter [i.e. me] drop out of an elite university [note: I should probably get around to signing back up; or perhaps transferring].

    These past few years, I’ve developed a new respect for my mother. Like myself, she’s timid & sensitive – yet she doesn’t let mean women get to her. I hope one I can be as emotionally strong as her.

    I would definitely ignore the people who want to put you down and make you feel bad. Don’t give them a second of your time– just get away as fast as you can. GL!

    Well, that’s the thing. They act nice at first. They pretend to care. They masquerade their awfulness long enough to have me fooled. Then they take advantage of me/bully me/try to sabotage me. & when I try to call these older women out on their behavior, they just act like nothing happened. Or even worse, they tell me I deserve to be treated badly. I’m a bad person for “x” reason [the reason is always nonsensical], so what they did to me was justified.

    I have a deadly illness; I just don’t have the energy to play these games. Also, emotional stress triggers my RA flares. I think, for my physical health, it’s best to keep to myself – at least when it comes to older women.

  • Jackie

    @Counsel (#170)

    Clipped and saved for the “Wisdom file” as well. 🙂

    My mentor told me that what separates “the cheap from the great” was how they treated others, especially those with much less power than them. She said that a truly great person (who is usually the best at what they do, and knows it) will be really nice to *everyone*. Especially the people low on the “totem pole.”

    She said that people who never-quite-made-it will fawn and simper to those “above” them, and treat those “below” like dirt, or worse. 🙁 No matter what they do, these people will never reach the heights they seek.

    Whether this is cause or effect, I cannot say for sure.

  • Ramble

    Perhaps they grew up needing to look out for #1 to ensure their own survival.

    Or, needing some love that they tried to find from Mom (nope), Dad (nope), me (yup).

  • Butterfly Flower

    I forgot to ask:

    Does anyone else think this “Mean Girls” phenomenon is regional?

    I mean, I live in NYC – I don’t really have much of a choice, I have to interact with aggressive competitive businesswomen. Demure isn’t exactly a personality trait that thrives in this city.

    Would a middle-aged businesswoman from say, Minneapolis, be less vicious?

    Although; I know in Japan, middle-aged career women are often painted as vicious manhating shrews. So for all we know, it’s a worldwide phenomenon.

    …I think I need to move out to the suburbs & have some kids. I’ll take the PTA and bored housewife gossip, over harpy over-botoxed cosmopolitan career gals.

  • J

    Ramble,

    It’s sort of sad that your GF couldn’t find other women to bond with. Female friendships really are valuable, and loner girls usually make excellent friends for other loner girls. For popular, girly-girl types, not so much. I hate the indirect, passive-aggressive stuff that girly types put out, and I share very few interests with them.

  • J

    I think I need to move out to the suburbs & have some kids. I’ll take the PTA and bored housewife gossip, over harpy over-botoxed cosmopolitan career gals.

    I hate to disapoint you, but forewarned is forearmed. IME, some of the world’s biggest bitchs are suburban PTA presidents, La Leche League Leaders, and babysitting co-op organizers.

  • Ramble

    It’s sort of sad that your GF couldn’t find other women to bond with. Female friendships really are valuable, and loner girls usually make excellent friends for other loner girls.

    J, she may very well have met other like minded girls since we broke up. But, in general, she was quite wary (weary?) of girls’ machinations.

  • Jess

    I have been abroad so haven’t logged on here for a while- Im not often surprised by what I read on here but this latest essay really takes the biscuit.

    Is this one big joke or genuine female-sourced misogyny? I just dunno anymore.

    I have had a more varied career than most and have had many bosses and I currently line manage other ‘bosses’.

    Have I dealt with some nightmare drama queen female bosses? Yes

    Have I dealt with some nightmare male bosses? Yes

    Have I dealt with outstanding managers and leaders of both genders? Yes

    Who have been the most’ miscreant’ bosses? Males

    Does this mean males are worse bosses than women? Nope, its just that there have been more male bosses than female ones in the fields of work I have been involved with in the last decade.

    Is the article something of an embarrassment reducing the credibility of the blog? Yeah – I’d say so.

    • @Jess

      Is the article something of an embarrassment reducing the credibility of the blog? Yeah – I’d say so.

      Does this mean you may depart, never to return?

  • RE: Suburban Women

    We have a suburban nouveau area called Eagle. I think of the females there as “Zimbabwe women”. In Zimbabwe, when the women go to market the put on their finest clothes, all their jewelry, even their best china if they can make it work. Well, women in Eagle do too. We went to a 3 year old’s birthday party and here they were all decked out like a cocktail function, evening attire, diamond necklaces, plunging necklines, diamond drop earrings, everything trending to gaudy under the circumstances. We’ve seen this several times. Reminded me of Major Toht in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”-“You Americans; always over dressing for the wrong occasions.”

  • RE: EVERBODY
    My ass kissing remark was probably too cynical. I tend to turn the dial to “full green” every now and then.

  • Butterfly Flower

    I hate to disappoint you, but forewarned is forearmed. IME, some of the world’s biggest bitchs are suburban PTA presidents, La Leche League Leaders, and babysitting co-op organizers.

    Well, I live in an Upper-Middle Class, somewhat suburban area of NYC. There’s not many housewives here; they tend to live in the New Jersey/Connecticut suburbs. So besides my mother’s friends, I don’t really interact with housewives.

    Surely the television “Desperate Housewives” stereotypes aren’t true?

    & I didn’t mean for my previous comments to sound so generalized. I know there’s many kind decent middle aged women who genuinely want to mentor the younger generations [for example, Mrs. Walsh]. I just don’t encounter these women in my neighborhood. It’s like searching for a Kangaroo in Alaska.

  • Anna

    @ Butterfly Flower
    Aren’t New Jersey and Connecticut very different areas? I think of Connecticut as where Charlotte York (Sex and the City) is from and New Jersey as…something else. The only name I associate with “Jersey” is …. Jersey Shore. Obviously I haven’t been and have no clue.

  • Catherine

    Susan@140
    Thank you for your interest in my rather unsubstantive comment at 115 in which I said that I was shocked by the post because I had never experienced the horrible behavior described. You asked me some personal details so I will share that I am a partner in a 25 attorney firm in a provincial city in the northeast, and that I do not have a daughter. But I was a ten year old girl once!

    I definitely witnessed and experienced hierarchical and bullying behavior as a kid. But it never seemed especially gendered, except that the boys tended to get a little more physical.

    Upon reflection, I suspect that women who report that our sex is more inclined to petty viciousness (a) have internalized sexism and are subject to confirmation bias and/or (b) have socialized primarily in female groups, leading to the impression that certain behaviors are more particular to our sex. In fact, men can and do get into petty squabbles, engage in passive aggressive behavior, make cutting remarks, carry grudges, backstab people, spread rumors, etc. My father used to come home every night and complain about all of those things happening among his workplaces colleagues, who were all men back then. (On the positive side, while I think assholery knows no gender, most people are quite professional.)

  • SayWhaat

    I mean, I live in NYC – I don’t really have much of a choice, I have to interact with aggressive competitive businesswomen. Demure isn’t exactly a personality trait that thrives in this city.

    Would a middle-aged businesswoman from say, Minneapolis, be less vicious?

    I moved from suburban Florida to NYC. I would say that I encounter more motivated people here, but the girl-on-girl viciousness is unchanged.

  • SayWhaat

    @ Catherine:

    What area of law do you practice? If it’s family law we could really use you around here. 😛

  • Jess

    Catherine,
    You are of course 100% correct- men are every bit as catty as the girls. The pettiness of some of the men in my family and previous workplaces is hilarious.

    Put these behaviours in a skirt and it makes someone a ‘bitch’.

    I really couldn’t believe the tone of the article- its the sort of thing a 70s style british low level male manager would spout…

    “them wimmin is more trouble than their worth!”

  • Catherine

    @Butterfly Flower,

    I have encountered misogynist women on-line before but I have never come across a young women who professes such strong feelings of antipathy towards other women based on age and career status. I am not one of your NYC based career women, but I am in the northeast and I travel and work in NYC often. I simply can’t imagine what could trigger such a strong reaction in you.

    What do you expect from these women that they are not delivering? Also, have you considered that you might be doing something that may triggering some hostility by them towards you? Such as making negative generalizations about women?

  • Butterfly Flower

    Aren’t New Jersey and Connecticut very different areas? I think of Connecticut as where Charlotte York (Sex and the City) is from and New Jersey as…something else. The only name I associate with “Jersey” is …. Jersey Shore. Obviously I haven’t been and have no clue.

    Actually, New Jersey has some of the wealthiest suburbs in the country. & like the Connecticut suburbs, they’re relatively close to Manhattan [a few hours away] – close enough for businessmen to commute.

  • J

    Munch–

    When my kids were little I took them on a playdate to the park. One of the moms felt the occasion called for two carat (total weight) diamond earrings. Classsaaayyyy.

  • Jess

    Catherine,
    Im sure its already occurred to you but having tracked back some of the Butterflys extreme and ugly comments there seems to be the distinct whiff of the troll.

    Its likely one of the guys here is venting their spleen whilst donning a virtual dress and high heels (or actual high heels in some cases….)

    You might not want to waste your time on them is all….

  • Catherine

    @Saywhaat,

    Sorry, I don’t do family law, thank the Lord. Couldn’t pay me enough. That there is blood sport. No, nice clean commercial disputes are more my line.

  • J

    Well, I live in an Upper-Middle Class, somewhat suburban area ..

    Me too. The women I’m speaking of are basically my neighbors, although I’ve seen the same behavior in less affluent women as well.

    Surely the television “Desperate Housewives” stereotypes aren’t true?

    IDK. I’ve been called many things in the course of my life, but “prime time soap watcher” isn’t one of them. 😉 Seriously though, I’ve never seen the show.

  • Catherine

    Jess, you know, call me an idiot for not thinking of it myself, but it wouldn’t
    Shock me if Butterfly is some dude trying to prove a point about how much women suck by adopting a female persona. Butterfly seems so over the top in her hostility. On the other hand, I believe that internalized misogyny by women exists and Butterfly could be a young woman with serious Mommy issues. It happens.

  • J

    My mom was always very active in something called Child Guidance. I’m sure they did good work, but they also played bridge and ate shrimp salad. That was America circa 1960.

    I join you in remembering those days. People in this corner of the net are so nostalgic for those days, but I actually don’t recall them as particiulary happy. Loads of women doing volunteer work, playing brigde and popping anti-depressants.

  • Anon

    I don’t have time to read everything written here but…

    What you describe about female bosses is what many men experience after several years into their relationships. Has it always been this way?

  • Butterfly Flower

    I have encountered misogynist women on-line before but I have never come across a young women who professes such strong feelings of antipathy towards other women based on age and career status. I am not one of your NYC based career women, but I am in the northeast and I travel and work in NYC often. I simply can’t imagine what could trigger such a strong reaction in you.

    I’m not a misogynist, I don’t hate other women. However, I am afraid of older women.

    & if you had read all my comments, you would have noticed that I described myself as a trusting [albeit ditzy] optimist. I assume all older women are good; but that just leads to me getting taken advantage of.

    What do you expect from these women that they are not delivering? Also, have you considered that you might be doing something that may triggering some hostility by them towards you? Such as making negative generalizations about women?

    Well, I expect these women to treat me with dignity. I don’t want to be bullied for reasons such as getting married young, or not pursuing a career.

    I think these women are hostile to me, because I have a bubbly/saccharine/ditzy personality. I’m kinda a magnet for bitter people who want to wipe the smile off my face.

    I wish I was sharp enough to notice these people, and not let them into my life…

    Im sure its already occurred to you but having tracked back some of the Butterflys extreme and ugly comments there seems to be the distinct whiff of the troll.

    I’m not a troll, and my comments weren’t ugly. I was just stating the truth for my life. I never said I hate all women. You misread my comments.

    I’m sorry, I never meant to offend anyone. I realize the women in my neighborhood aren’t like the women in the entire country.

  • J

    I’m pretty sure that Butterfly is who she says she is.

  • Jess

    Catherine,
    You may well be right (I kinda hope you are not though- otherwise