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Today's word on journalism

Friday, September 1, 2006

"[F]ew things are as much a part of our lives as the news. With the advent of sophisticated mass communication, the news has become a sort
of instant historical record of the pace, progress, problems, and the hopes of society. On the other hand--and here's the puzzle -- the news provides, at best, a superficial and distorted image of society. . . . The puzzle, simply put, is this: How can anything so superficial be so central to our lives?"

--W. Lance Bennett, political science professor, 1988

Catty competition: Is it natural for women?

By Julie Garcia

May 2, 2006 | The desire to be attractive, to be better in general, and to belong -- these are not a foreign notions to grasp for most people. Almost everybody will experience some form of competitive behavior in their lifetime. It's a natural part of life. But, is the competition for women to be prettier, more popular, and more successful taking a toll on ladies in society as a whole?

There have been a number of books, articles, and even movies made about the topic as a whole. Obviously, the sassy, competitive, manipulative role that women have taken in society is raising some eyebrows.

"I think a lot of the competition with girls continues throughout adulthood. It's not something that goes away. Women may hide it better than teenage girls, but the bitchy behavior from other females continues throughout adulthood," said Penny Brown, a mother who has raised two girls through adolescence.

Brown said that when she put her two daughters in dance lessons when they were younger, she noticed competitive mothers who would act like they and their daughters were better.

"Girls don't only learn this catty behavior from others their own age. A lot of their behavior is learned from their own mothers," Brown said.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes. It's a book designed for parents to help their daughters survive cliques, boyfriends, gossip, and other troubles faced during adolescence. The movie Mean Girls is based off of it.

Wiseman noted in an interview about her book that girls take messages from the media and the culture on how they are supposed to act and carry themselves and make them into rules. She said girls are the enforcers of these rules on a daily basis. A lot of girls put up a front to mask their insecurities Wiseman said.

Wiseman said, "I think a lot of times girls feel really alone." That doesn't stop them from forming cliques and creating hierarchies amongst themselves. In fact, it just might encourage it.

Nicole Lucero, a student majoring in family consumer human development with a minor in sociology said girls are taught to be competitive from the womb. She said in one of her women and gender classes, it was brought to her attention that women are so busy competing with each other they are not advancing in the professional workplace.

"In the movie Mean Girls, the main girl says something like, 'this is girl world and in girl world all of the fights have to be sneaky.' It's so true," Lucero said. "Guys don't usually pick up on what we do, but other girls recognize it. This is because our fighting isn't to your face and vocal. It's in other ways."

Those other ways might include backstabbing and lying to get ahead or prove oneself. People might ask themselves, "What on earth are all of these women competing for?"

Nobody can really specifically define the reasons why girls compete and quarrel the way they do. One might suppose each individual woman has her reasons. Some think the vanity push in the media is one of the main factors to blame.

"I think in the morning that when girls get dressed, they don't get dressed for boys. They get dressed for each other," Lucero said. Lucero said it's like a fashion show everyday. They're competing with each other on so many levels -- whether it is with clothing, jewelry, boys, or make-up, she said. She said it's silly, but it's part of the American culture.

Society tells people what they have to have in order to be cool or accepted, Wiseman said.

"The more you think having that stuff is connected to who you are, the more you're going to sacrifice who you are in the process," Wiseman said.

Ally Law, a senior at Jordan High School said that girls need to stop being so selfish. "They're all about themselves. They don't understand there's a life outside of their make-up kits. The world is an amazing place. If girls don't learn to realize it, there's going to be a definite decline in female education and professional abilities and an uproar in vanity," Law said.

Whether the competitive, manipulative behavior women display is caused by social status, the media, or too much vanity, Wiseman said the most important thing is for females to understand what their culture is telling them. She said they need to understand the messages they're receiving on what the rules are for being a girl so that society doesn't take advantage of them.

If girls relax and stop trying so hard to be what society encourages them to be they will be happier people. They should focus on taking positive risks for themselves and not try so hard to make decisions based upon what others think.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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