Sunday, June 13, 2010

Are Women Catty?

Female-female interactions are called 'catty' when we see statements such as the one in the above video.  Whether in private or public like Carly Fiorina's remarks, women make statements about other women that appear petty and childish.  They are considered catty when negative and about another woman's physical appearance, lifestyle choices, parenting or dating techniques, attitude...

Some argue that this type of communication is not catty, but merely light banter between females.  Suggesting that it is similar to the insult exchange found in male relationships, some insist the word catty is used only based on gender.  Most explanations for the frequency and severity of comments are based on cultural expectations and gender socialization of women in the U.S.    

Competition - Historically women have been socialized to believe that much of their worth is based on superficial characteristics like appearance.  The beauty industry makes billions of dollars each year exploiting this aspect of female culture.  Therefore, women are constantly on the search to gain an upper hand in the beauty department.  What better way to make yourself look better than to point out the flaws in your "competition", right? 

Stereotypes - In naming certain types of female behavior catty, society has thereby accepted and encouraged these behaviors.  Some find it cute when little girls act "catty".  They are taught to stand up for themselves and "fight back" with words and deeds because they are not supposed to express negative emotions in a physical manner.  So instead of learning to negotiate friendships, girls learn at an earlier age how to manipulate, plot revenge, and hurt each others feelings. 

Role Models - Similar to stereotypes, many women emulate what they see in those they look up to (family members, friends, women in the community, celebrities).  Behavior, good or bad, is viewed differently when coming from someone that is admired.  Called the "halo effect", people tend to see only the positive and/or view behaviors in positive light if they look up to someone.  Even bad behavior appears positive due to our opinion of people we hold in high esteem.

In the end, are women really catty or the victims of gender stereotyping?