How can we change this? Is raising awareness enough to change
Female-to-female oppression should be implemented as an educational component in schools. This would include: a)
encouraging participation in competitive and team sports just as there are for boys and b) help girls understand that
conflicts are a natural occurrence in friendships and provide them with an opportunity to practice being
supportive of one another. There also needs to be honest discussions about women-to-women oppression between mothers and
daughters, teachers and students, and between women to help raise awareness to this issue. Parents and teachers
can teach positive behaviors to girls through coaching, modeling, anger management and praise.
It can also be beneficial to teach girls and women how to address these issues through the sharing of "real life" incidents. Next, create role play or group exercises around those incidents.
Raise this issue with other women to create a space where you and other females can feel comfortable talking about
the ways in which women treat each other. Further, teach girls how to develop tools to aid them when experiencing
conflict with other girls.
2. Why do women engage in women-to-women oppression?
Social Justification Theory (SJT; Jost & Banaji, 1994) discusses ways in which stereotypes may actually
endorce a disadvantaged group's participation in their own oppression. For example, stereotypes can be
internalized by disadvantaged groups (e.g., "I'm a woman, I'm not very mathematical"). These statements lead to
self-fulfilling prophecies (Zanna & Pack, 1975) and once these stereotypes are internalized, group members may believe that
their lower status is legitimate, and, consequently, they do not fight against them, Since women are part of an oppressed
group they may be contributing to the oppression of women by taking their frustrations out on other women (unconsciously
or otherwise) instead of adaptively dealing with their uncomfortable feelings.
3. How do women's brains play a role in women-to-women
In the July 5th 2004 issue of Newsweek researchers used an MRI scan to study brain behavior among women and men. They measured
brain activity while test subjects played games. The cingulate cortex, which processes both emotions and abstract
thinking, becomes especially active after one player betrays the other, as if the brain is "hypertuned" to detect betrayal.
Further, men's brains tend to shut down after they've made their decision,
awaiting a reply from the other subject. But women continue to show activity in at least
three areas—the ventral striatum (the brain's center for anticipating rewards), the ventral medial prefrontal cortex
(which is involved with planning and organizing) and the caudate nucleus (a checking and monitoring region, sometimes
associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder). Women seem to obsess more over whether they did the right
thing—and how the other subject will react to them. Based on this research, it could then be hypothisized that women
may be more hyperalert and sensitive to being betrayed by other women. She also may be impacted more negatively if feeling
than a man would be.
4. When do females begin to engage in female-to-female oppression and why do they do this to each other?
Research literature suggests that relational aggression (covert indirect aggression)
starts early and that it is even visible
between young girls as they are starting to become interested in boys (Crick and Grotpeter, 1995). For instance,
girls will often become mean and nasty towards each other if they are interested in the
same boy, or they will call each other offensive names if they sleep
with a boy, even if they are engaging in the same behavior. We believe that girls have
learned through the media, and other gender role
socialization experiences that they are oppressed, and that if a girl or woman directs
her anger towards a male she will be oppressed even further. What a woman doesn’t
realize is that when she directs her anger toward a woman she may be perpetuating the
cycle of female oppression. It appears that women are angry at being oppressed and instead of helping
each other they turn on one another.