Dubious Study Finds That Women React Aggressively Toward “Sexy” Peers

Ugh. The very last thing we (i.e. women) need is a “study” claiming to observe women’s snarky reactions to another woman dressed sexily. The lead author of the study begins with a quote that is concerning in and of itself: “I was convinced, having lived a life as a woman, that we’re not as pleasant as some people make us out to be.” Huh? I’ve never heard of anyone making women, as an entire gender, out to be pleasant. Tracy Vaillancourt, who is also the professor of psychology at University of Ottawa, invited 86 women to participate in a conflict resolution study, but she had a different agenda when she documented how the women reacted to a young female student entering the room in a certain outfit. Vaillancourt did not document the ages of the 86 women who partook in the study or, well, anything about them, only their responses to the student, who wore either a T-shirt and khakis or a low-cut top and mini skirt. Vaillancourt stated that “ninety-seven percent” of the women responded inappropriately to the student. To use the same scientific term that Vaillancourt herself uses, the reactions were bitchy.

In a second study, researchers showed photographs of the same student dressed conservatively or sexy to 66 different women, as well as a third photo of the “sexy” student altered to look overweight. They then inquired whether the women in the study would “let their boyfriends spend time with her.” How does an image of an overweight woman have anything to do with this study? If you ask me, that’s flagrant fat-shaming, assuming and in a way confirming the incorrect and offensive notion that an overweight woman is by default unattractive and undesirable. “When she [the student] was sexy and thin, they didn’t want their boyfriends anywhere near her,” Vaillancourt said. Harsh.

Everything about this study — and I use the term loosely, because it all comes across as highly unscientific and petty to me — offends me. We have enough girl-on-girl hate in our culture as it is, and at the root of it all is not a girl in a miniskirt that we don’t want anywhere near our boyfriends but our own insecurities. Of course, all human beings are subject to insecurities, but women are pretty much fated to them, unfortunate as it is. We all want to love ourselves but the unattainable standards of Victoria’s Secret Angels and Megan Fox are held above our heads, taunting us and in many cases making us sick, mentally and physically in the forms of eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorders, and self-esteem issues so deep-rooted and sharp-edged they hinder our social development and success. We should not be focusing — Tracy Vaillancourt, take note — on how we react negatively to each other: rather, we should be focusing on reacting positively to ourselves. [ABC News]