An interesting article in the New York Times today about women who bully and consciously hold back other women in the workplace. Among the points brought up:
- Because of the perceived lack of higher-ranking jobs for females, competition between women becomes more fierce, and some women might feel the need to hold other women back.
- Women might be seen by other women as "softer targets" to bully in the workplace than men.
- Some women might feel the need to be less nurturing and more gruff in the workplace, afraid of being pegged as a "typical female" by male supervisors and co-workers.
- There is less of a feeling of bonding by gender in the workplace -- at least among women. (I mean have you ever heard of the "Good Ol' Girls Network?")
“We believe that a sense of pride in women’s accomplishments is important in getting women to help one another...to have this sense of pride, women need to be aware of their shared identity as women.”
In the workplace, however, it is unlikely that women will constantly think of themselves as members of one group...They will more likely see themselves as individuals, as they are judged by their performance.
In the most extreme cases, some women might erupt in outright hostility against the idea of bonding through shared female gender. I call this reaction "The Fear of the Borg Vagina," also known as hivevaginaphobia.
Victim of the Hive Vagina
Hivevaginaphobia is the irrational fear of being thought of as part of a group defined by the female gender in any way. So if a marketer tries to make a book line specifically geared towards females, the woman suffering from hivevaginaphobia might get very angry and say: "stop trying to push me into the hive vagina! I am not a set of chromosomes, I am a free woman -- er, I mean, a free person!"
I am quite familiar with the women & "mom" blogging community. It is one of the niches I make it a point to know well for my "day job" work. What you have essentially in this community are literally thousands upon thousands of websites and blogs by and for women. I never really see an outcry against these sites on the basis of hivevaginaphobia or some "pigeonholing" of material geared towards women. I never read an online commentator complain that these sites are "ghettoising" the female Internet community by branding themselves as women's sites. These are sites made for and frequented by women, and many are so-called "women-themed" (design, topics, the very site names used). In fact, I've seen data that indicate "women's sites" are one of the fastest-growing and popular niches online, period. They are the Holy Grail of advertisers. Far from being a ghetto, they are only expanding, and expanding their mighty influence.
Women attacking other women is a real "turn on"
Actually, the biggest place I see hivevaginaphobia is in the comic book community. And I think that goes back to the beginning of this post, and the point of the New York Times article. A traditionally male industry, a perceived lack of high-level jobs, fear of being pegged as a "typical female," seeing fellow female co-workers as "soft targets," and the tendency to abandon group bonding based on gender for individualist striving.
There is also the highly seductive "only woman in the room" scenario, common in the comic book industry, in which a female gets (or perceives that she's getting) extra attention and validation by her male co-workers and supervisors because she is literally the only woman in the room. This mindset can work hand-in-hand with hivevaginaphobia. The female may also believe that by proving she is "cool" and "just one of the guys," her job position will be even more secure. Such a woman may conveniently "not see" any sexism whatsoever in her daily workplace, or among her peers. And by publicly declaring that no sexism exists, she is "good." She has hit the requisite soft targets, potentially lessened her competition, and her place in the highly competitive world which is teh comic books is secure -- or so she perceives.
However, in reality, the list is long of "only women in the room" in the comic book industry who are used up like Kleenex and left on the side of the road. I distinctly remember one of these women being accidentally locked out of the 6th floor of DC Comics, the door shutting a little bit too quickly, her looking desperately out the window and banging her little fist into the glass for somebody to notice her and let her in. She was a darling of her almost all-male circle, a party girl, a "cool" girl. She became persona non grata there in what, six months, a year? Where was the loyalty? Where could she turn to for any sort of sympathy or understanding? And there are others: exiled, defamed, laughed about. Best-case scenario, you are a martyr. Worst-case scenario, you are remembered as a slut (whether you "put out" or not). I always like to believe that had I indeed "put out" at DC Comics when the "opportunity" had presented itself, I'd be writing or even editing a book like Superman or Batman now. Then again, I would also probably have herpes.
But the irony in all this is that I still can't figure out whether this post would be considered Liberal or Conservative -- feminist or anti-feminist. Surely promoting solidarity among women is a subversive, "Lefty," feminist sort of act. Paradoxically, the very fact that I insinuate women should support other women could be interpreted as anti-feminist, because I am "pigeonholing" women by virtue of their inherent biology. I think the only thing I know for sure is that some people just like to be pissed off about something; that is the only truism, the only constant. All else is subjective.