Women Bullying Women: The Atlantic Weighs In

August 4, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As I so often say, “It’s the zeitgeist.” We live in a world in which a fair amount of public discourse is taken up trying (and often failing) to relearn basic things our grandparents understood well. Fifty years or so ago, we started our process of dumbing down about the nature of the sexes and our relationships to each other. We convinced ourselves of many ideas that don’t survive even casual scrutiny and are now, belatedly, struggling to get back to understandings we never should have lost.

Such is this article (The Atlantic, September, 2017). It’s by someone named Olga Khazan and her topic is, more or less, why women treat each other badly at work. To the extent Khazan or any of her interviewees answers the question, it’s something like “The boys took the ball and they won’t let us play.” Or, to be kinder, “The world of work is a man’s and therefore, women in that world face an uphill climb, so no wonder they’re ‘catty’ with each other.” It’s a long article, running to some 6,350 words, but that’s the gist of it.

Much of what Khazan says consists of anecdotes about unpleasant behavior by a few women in a few workplaces to fellow employees, interspersed with various “experts” who opine about why a woman might do that to a sister.

But of course, despite its length, what Khazan fails to say far outweighs what she says. That’s because, as I said, she’s struggling to figure out behavior that would have been readily understood by women fifty years ago. To put it simply, Khazan has been confused by feminism’s insistence on certain truths held to be self-evident that aren’t truths at all and that forces her to ignore certain actual truths.

One of those is that all women are sisters united against a common enemy, i.e. men. She is therefore mightily perplexed when actual (as opposed to theoretical) women fail to conform to her demands of them. The idea that women might be competitive with each other barely occurs to Khazan. And sadly, when it does, she rejects the notion as “controversial.”

Joyce Benenson, a psychologist at Emmanuel College, in Boston, thinks women are evolutionarily predestined not to collaborate with women they are not related to. Her research suggests that women and girls are less willing than men and boys to cooperate with lower-status individuals of the same gender; more likely to dissolve same-gender friendships; and more willing to socially exclude one another. She points to a similar pattern in apes…

Benenson believes that women undermine one another because they have always had to compete for mates and for resources for their offspring.  

That is nothing but the truth, observed in many species similar to ours and, of course, in human females. Males, by contrast, have always had to cooperate with each other for the protection of the group, most importantly women and children. Indeed, hominid females have always tended to choose as mates, those males who were part of dominant male hierarchies. Males, meanwhile often killed or spurned other males who didn’t “make the cut” into the male hierarchy. Females naturally competed against each other for those males. This is news to no one save people like Khazan who desperately cling to the idea that human behavior comports with feminist ideology.

That brings me to another serious shortcoming in Khazan’s article – her assumption that the behavior she sees in the workplace occurs only there. Essentially all of the people she quotes in an effort to deny the accuracy of Benenson’s observations deal with only workplace behavior. Of course Benenson’s remarks aren’t so confined. Hers explain female behavior in a range of contexts, e.g. high school girls, women in clubs or other organizations, etc.

But, for example, one of Khazan’s interviewees seeks to explain female “bullying” at work as resulting from too few women in the workplace. According to her, too few job openings force women to compete all the harder and that means catty, bullying behavior. That idea verges on the just plain silly. After all, about 48% of paid workers are women. That’s fewer than men, but not much and certainly far too many to force women to undercut other women.

Again, Benenson has the answer; women’s intra-gender competition is based in millions of years of evolution. But Khazan doesn’t like it, so she searches for another that’s more in line with her preconceived notions.

What Khazan also fails to ask is why, if competition in the workplace is the only issue, don’t women equally attack and bully men who are subordinate to them. After all, a job’s a job and everyone, not just other women, is competing for it. Of course that brings up yet another serious deficiency in Khazan’s piece; is there a problem? Yes, she cites a few anecdotes about unpleasantness between working women. And yes she cites studies showing women’s preference for male bosses. But Khazan cites nothing to indicate that, as a general rule, there’s more inappropriate competitiveness between women than between men.

She refers to a book entitled “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office,” but weirdly seems to have no concept that the title plays off of Leo Durocher’s old saying, “Nice guys finish last.” The point being that males in the workplace are at least as “dog-eat-dog” as are the women, but Khazan doesn’t notice. Has she never seen the play (or movie) “Glenn Gary Glenn Ross?” What does she think about the dads of the 50s and 60s who came home from work, slumped in their easy chairs and moaned “It’s a jungle out there?” Who knows? But for Khazan, only women suffer bullying in the workplace and only women bully.

How can she write over 6,000 words and miss such obvious and such relevant material? She can do so, indeed she must do so, because her narrative about women in the workplace has no room for it. Her grandmother could have explained it to her in 25 words or fewer, but alas, Khazan wouldn’t listen if she did.

More on this later.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#feminism, #womenandwork, #bullying

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *