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Power Struggle: Why Women Compete

Power Struggle: Why Women Compete

Allison Ford | DivineCaroline

September 24, 2010

Recently, columnist Meghan McCain wrote an essay on how the Republican Party was failing to attract young people. How did conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham respond? By sarcastically deriding her as “plus-sized.” Ouch.

And these are two women who are supposed to be on the same side! We’re taught that women should stand together in solidarity, so it was more than a little shocking for a respected pundit like Ingraham to respond to McCain’s essay by crudely mocking her weight.

Sometimes it seems like women just can’t win. We’re expected to be nurturing, maternal, docile, and sacrificing, no matter what injustices or insults are thrown at us. Women are discouraged from being ruthless and competitive, but there’s also the stereotype of the bloodthirsty woman screeching and clawing her way to the top, backstabbing any other female who gets in her way. How can these two stereotypes coexist? If women are supposed to be the kinder, gentler sex, then why do we compete so viciously with each other?

Fighting for Scraps

No matter how much progress we’ve made in the past fifty years, the truth is that women are still very much unequal to men in our society. Women might comprise half of the population, but we hold far less than half the power. We earn less money, shoulder most of the burdens of children and family, and are subjected to beauty standards that we can’t live up to. When there’s only room in the world for a select few powerful women, then we have to squabble and fight for these few scraps, and sadly, we don’t compete with men for these leftovers—we compete with other women. Women are always on the lookout for someone who might usurp their place in life—someone smarter, younger, or prettier—and when we come across another woman that makes us feel threatened, even if she’s really a friend, a jealous “I want what you have” mentality takes over.

It’s easy to imagine why an older, established personality like Laura Ingraham would pounce on a relative newcomer like Meghan McCain. To Ingraham, McCain is young, hip, pretty, and relevant. It’s the same reason that the high school homecoming queen might spread dirty rumors about her closest competitor—to protect her position as top dog. Even the women with some power are keenly aware that their hold is tenuous and they tend to exert what authority they have over people who have even less. The wealthy society matron may be beholden to her husband, so she takes out her aggression on her housekeeper.

Next: What Are Little Girls Made Of? →

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