Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Girl on Girl Aggression

Consider this a follow-up to my post about "Women's Inhumanity to Women," and to the discussion I had with Susan Walsh in the comments.

Scientific American reports the latest research on the differences between male and female aggression. Clearly, men are more prone to physical acts of aggression, but women can also be aggressive... not physically, but mentally and emotionally. Link here. The researchers call it "relational aggression," but it is really mental and emotional abuse.

To be clear, the research suggests that these forms of aggressive behavior are not social constructs.

As you read this description, think about what Phoebe Prince underwent, and try to imagine how difficult it is to respond to attacks that do not leave physical marks. "... relational aggression includes spreading rumors, gossiping, glaring, eye-rolling, giving others the 'silent treatment,' sending nasty notes or text messages behind rivals' backs, excluding others from social gatherings, poking fun at the appearance of competitors, and other stealth tactics."

Next, the report explains the reason for the specific nature of female aggression: "The so-called gentler sex may opt for such tactics because they are socialized to not show hostility openly and also because their relative lack of physical strength makes violence seem a less promising strategy."

Women cannot inflict sufficient pain by using physical violence, so they resort to mental and verbal abuse. It hurts more and it is more difficult to identify and to counter.

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