Sisterhood Blog

Women Are Women's Harshest Judges

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

The New York Times recently ran a story about an experiment testing the competitiveness of the human female. For it, researchers had a woman, who “embodied qualities considered attractive from an evolutionary perspective,” interrupt a lecture about female friendships. Sometimes she was dressed casual, in a T-shirt and jeans, and other times she wore a low-cut blouse and a short skirt.

When she wore the jeans the female students took little notice of her. When she wore her sexy duds almost all of the students reacted negatively.

Their researchers conclusion? Stigmatizing female promiscuity, what the kids are calling slut-shaming, is something women, and not men, do to other women. Why?

“Sex is coveted by men… Accordingly, women limit access as a way of maintaining advantage in the negotiation of this resource. Women who make sex too readily available compromise the power-holding position of the group, which is why many women are particularly intolerant of women who are, or seem to be, promiscuous.”

So, in summary, judging other women for dressing risque is all about our competition for men.

I’m not so sure about this.Their research might be sound, but their explanation as to why women react with hostility towards scantily dressed ladies feels a little retro.

Their hypothesis is built on the assumption that women can’t but help but view one another in terms of their value in the eyes of men. Or, as Soraya Roberts put it over at the Daily Beast, “when it comes to competition, the focus continues to be on men, even where women are involved. Science says that when ladies compete it’s to land a dude or to look beautiful (to the same ends), rather than to, say, land a bonus or look professional.”

So I’d like to offer another completely personal, totally untested, highly anecdotal way to look at this. It isn’t scientific, but then again, this wouldn’t be the first time someone inserted their individual bias into a scientific study. The difference here is that I’m aware of it.

They study’s authors assume that the end goal for most women is a man, and we have to play our sexuality card wisely as it is “a limited resource that women use to negotiate with men, and scarcity gives women an advantage.”

Well, at the risk of sounding slut-shamey, I am going to admit that I do sometimes feel hostile towards promiscuously dressed women. (It isn’t like I have a checklist of things that I consider trashy. Let’s just say that I know it when I see it, and that if I did going panty-less would definitely be on there.) But this has nothing to do with me worrying about them messing up my game with other men.

Instead, it is because as a feminist I am part of a movement that aims to create a world where women don’t view their sexuality as their main source of power and they don’t view their power as individuals in relation to where they stand with men. When I see someone who is clearly dressed to arouse the opposite sex in an inappropriate setting (bars being an example of an appropriate one, but even there, there are limits to how much exposed flesh I can take), I can’t help but feel like she is taking us a few steps back to a time when the best things women have going for us are our bodies.

I can’t say that I know that any of the women in the study felt this way. But it would be nice if the researchers, as portrayed by the Times story, honored the possibility that women feel hostility towards other women who, they believe, reinforce the status quo by giving power to men, when really these women just want that power for themselves.

Photo credit Thinkstock


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: women, judgment, promiscuity, Jewish

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.