Battle of the Baddies: The Theory Behind Competition Amongst Women

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

In this millennial era, presidential candidates are adorned in expensive chiffon blouses and pencil skirts, ”Lady Bosses” are running Fortune 500 companies and women empowerment movements have united parallel to The Million Man March, so no wonder this topic might be worth a few minutes of your time.

Intrasexual competitiveness can be traced back to the origin of mankind and is reported to have played a major role in human evolution. We all know that men unconsciously compete amongst themselves to secure rank in the mating game. However, this idea doesn’t fall short of us women according to research. (1-4)

As I took a dive into this topic, it became evident that women in all our cattiness possess a slightly different psyche than our male counterparts however we both have an underlying objective in mind when it all boils down to it -Survival!

According to recent literature, women are no longer viewed as submissives yet fiercely competitive (as our men) for the fundamental means of securing the best mate for survival(1,2). While unpacking the claims to this phenomenon, I kept running across two traits suggested to have primary influence: self-promotion and competitor derogation. It’s said that women use a more passive-aggressive approach to self-promote their youth and physicality (primarily what‘s greatly prefer by men) and at the same time competitively derogating their female rival‘s physical appearance, age, character and even social status.(1-4)

Coming from a heathcare background, I’m always looking at scenarios in case study, so I thought it would be an interesting way to unravel the two theories:

Case 1: Self- Promotion: The Conceited Millennial

YC, a 21 year old female from San Diego, CA has just landed her first job at Crescent Magazine as an intern editor. She’s 6ft with hazel-green eyes, long brunette hair and essentially has the legs and physique of an Olympic track star. While in college she modeled part-time for a local San Diego modeling agency. When greeted by her fellow colleague (a thirty-five year old modest female journalist/editor and the only other woman in the department) to show her the ropes on the first day, YC sat across the desk and pulled out her makeup compact to nonchalantly apply lipstick. When she was asked about her area of interest and told where her office space would be she noted, ”I need to be involved in fashion writing clearly and please place me in the center glass cubical because my presence must be known”. She clutched her Louie bag against her side and crossed her right leg over the other and waited for a response.

This case is not uncommon, however, I want to pose three hypothetical questions in its regard?

1. Why would YC come off so strongly on her first day of work with this particular woman?

2. What do you expect this relationship to look like in the future between these two women?

3. How would YC’s appearance influence her means of survival?

Let’s visit the other...

Case 2: Competitive Derogation: Title Driven Bully

BB is a 37 year old female OB/GYN physician who walked into the county healthcare clinic where she practices to engage her staff. During lunch, she overheard a discussion amongst two medical techicians that one was planning to start a small business in esthetics and open a wellness spa for women. BB had always wanted her own business practicing what she loved in women’s health, however, was silently appalled at the thought of some medical technician beating her to the chase. She began to assert that the tech had little to no experience in this area and that she didn’t have the proper means to secure funding for a business of that caliber without the support of an entitled investor (like herself). Over the next weeks, she was on a vicious mission to find any error or mishap that fell through in patient care from this technician and eventually (via passive-aggressive tactics) pulled her in the office and mentioned that the county was doing some staff downsizing.

Obviously, this was a case of derogation, envy, and bullying on the job. What is your take on this case?

Although science is always starting mess (lol)! As women, it’s clear that many of us have unfortunately inherited some form of tactical means of survival (just like men). It might be the laws of evolution but it seems to take the focus off of growth as a whole. If we really wander around subconsciously believing that every woman is out to steal our positions and ability to effectively be ”chosen” by a suitable mate, through those traits (outlined above) it’s likely that we hurt others and ultimately ourselves in the long run. What’s important is that we are aware of our individual uniquenesses and contributions without being diluted or feeling need to fight in every area. If we can do a better job at striving to discover how we can genuinely collaborate as women, ultimately we can all play the heavy-champ at shape-shifting society.

Tags: #funkdiva #womencompetition #honorconfersacrown


1. Carre JM et al. Testosterone responses to competition predict future aggressive behaviour at a cost to reward in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009; 34, 561—570

2. Fischer E et al. Self-promotion versus competitor derogation: The influence of sex and romantic relationship status on intrasexual competition strategy selection. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 2009 4, 287–308

3. Vaillancourt T and Sharma A. Intolerance of sexy peers: intrasexual competition among women Aggressive behavior 2011; DOI :10.1002/ab.20413

4. Buss, D et al. Attractive Women Want it All: Good Genes, Economic Investment, Parenting Proclivities, and Emotional Commitment. Evolutionary Psychology. 2008; 6(1): 134-146

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