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June 5, 2018

Catfights – They’re All In Your Head

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Anne Hathaway recently spoke out about rumours of catfights onset of the Ocean’s 8 film.

“It’s been really amazing to watch the way certain members of the media have wanted us to fight each other and the way they wanted there to be competition and catfights, but we were all collaborating—all the time,” Hathaway explains. “Now, we’re friends. We genuinely love each other and we’re so there for each other. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Jess sat down with Jeff to discuss the catfight trope on Global TV’s The Morning Show.

1. Are women more likely to fight with other women?

The data, in fact, suggests otherwise: women have stronger and wider social ties than men and research suggests that women describe their same-gender friendships as closer and more satisfying.

2. Is there actual research into so-called catfights?

A Canadian study found that the catfight trope is primarily in our heads. Researchers presented a workplace conflict scenario in which two managers engage in conflict. Study participants were asked to rate the negative impact of the scenario on job satisfaction and commitment to the company and to asses whether the fictional characters would repair the relationship. Participants rated the likelihood of relationship repair to be 15 percent lower when both managers were female. They rated those involved in the female-female conflict to be 25 percent more likely than those in the male-female conflict to let the argument negatively influence the way they felt about work and 10 percent more likely than the male-male duos.

3. Why does this stereotype exist?

Pop culture representations of women’s relationships reinforce the notion that women are constantly in competition with one another and this competition is simultaneously sexy, amusing, comedic, vapid and futile. It’s really absurd when you think about it: we just can’t wait to engage in conflict and our conflict is meaningless and therefore exists for the male gaze. Ultimately these tropes and beliefs are rooted in sexist beliefs that women’s concerns aren’t as weighty as men and that women don’t have the tools to rationally resolve serious issues.

4. What can we do to dismantle the stereotype?

The ways in which men and women approach conflict and compete vary according to gender prescriptions entrenched from a young age. Some theorize that boys are encouraged to directly compete (in sport, for example), whereas women are supposed to be more polite or oblique about the ways in which we compete. Historically, women have not been taught to value and cultivate the same self-assertion skills as young men. It’s possible that offering more outlets for women to engage in competition could have a positive impact. But ultimately, we have to address the patriarchy which positions women as performers beneath the male gaze and denies men the skills to develop intimate connections with other men (and women).