Tuesday Times Roundtable on female aggression and competition

Photo by Rapapport Center, via Wikimedia Commons 

Barbara Penalver/Contributing Writer

Though it appears that it happens mainly in high school, female aggression is a continuing problem in our society. An article published in the New York Times that dealt with the issue caught the eye of one of our own libraries, Ava Iuliano. After reading it, she decided to have this discussion on female aggression as one of the Tuesday Roundtables, specifically the one that took place on Jan. 28.

Iuliano also stated that her intent for this discussion was “to spark a thoughtful discussion on female aggression that will not devolve to women-bashing but rather draw larger, overarching conclusions about human behavior in general.”

Iuliano said she chose to have this event because “The article really peaked my curiosity about how we interact with each other and the reasoning behind what we do.  As a librarian, I ask critical questions whenever I read conclusions drawn from research studies.”

The discussion started with the moderator, Iuliano, showing the audience the trailer to the infamous 2004 movie “Mean Girls,” seeing as how that’s where the name or the discussion came from.

One of the first questions that she asked was what attendees thought female aggression meant. Some of the answers thrown around were “subtle or indirect cattiness, bullying, or shaming girls due to how they display their sexuality.”

Iuliano then went on to ask an important question: How much do we think biology influences our behavior?

Several females in the audience raised their hands and stated that they thought biology influenced our behavior completely. They stated that women, as a whole, are “inherently catty” and turn against one another because at the end of the day “we’re all looking for a mate.”

After, Iuliano went on to show the experiment that had been conducted by anthropologist Sarah B. Hrdy, which had been talked about in the New York Times, and had been what had peaked Iuliano’s attention and made her plan this discussion.

The experiment involved how women reacted to other women who were dressed conservatively versus those who were dressed more provocatively. As it turns out, the women were more catty and hostile towards the women who were dressed provocatively once they had left the room.

“Why is this?” Iuliano asked. To which someone in the audience answered that it is because the girls who are being hostile are projecting their insecurities onto the girl they are harassing or being aggressive towards.

Some of the other points that were brought up by members of the audience were: Why is sex talked about, if it is something that happens in private between two people? Why is it such a big issue?

The end of the discussion revolved around the question: Who are the minds behind these ideas? Who is behind the idea that women have to put each other down in order to ‘feel better’ or because they feel the other girl is doing something wrong? Would it be men, seeing as how we live in a patriarchal society? Or women in general who choose to think that way?

It’s a question that no one that attended the discussion could really answer. I felt that the event was worthwhile and interesting. It opened my eyes to things that I’ve done and that I’ve seen other people do that could be changed. As one of the members in the audience said, “Women shouldn’t bash each other. We’re the same species, we should work together.”


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