Did you know that women might have been driven by evolution to be “bitchy”, that is, aggressive, competitive, and insulting towards other women? An article in The Atlantic presents a couple of evo-psych studies — the usual stuff, Western college students given culturally specific choices, and then makes absurd universal conclusions about human nature and evolution. I hated it.
But at least, buried in the middle of the article, are a couple of paragraphs that state the rational response to the succession of maddening EP bullshit.
Many of the recent headlines around the research on female indirect aggression purport that women have “evolved” to be this way. But some scholars of indirect aggression argue that just because the slut-shaming Vaillancourt discovered is one of the oldest tricks in the book, doesn’t mean it’s evolutionary or “hard-wired.”
“Why are these women doing this? I think there are many ways we could explain that,” Agustin Fuentes, chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, told me. “In our society, if you’re given the choice between these images, you’re going to say, ‘I don’t want my guy next to a girl with a short skirt.’ But that’s not because, evolutionarily speaking, your guy is more likely to cheat on you with the short-skirt girl.”
He argues that though this and other studies show how important physical appearance is to the way women respond to each other, there’s too much cultural baggage at play to say it all comes from our primate ancestors. The short-skirt-boots combo, for example, is already a “meaning-laden image,” he said.
I’m pretty sure that humans didn’t evolve out of ancient hominin populations that battled over short vs. long skirts. I don’t think you can even extrapolate from midwestern North American undergraduates to other extant cultures. You can’t even draw meaningful conclusions within midwestern North American undergraduates in such artificially exaggerated experimental procedures which basically ignore individual variation.
And if you’re trying to derive the origins of human universals, why focus on “bitchiness” in women when men are entirely capable of exactly the same kind of social nastiness?
The article ends on the opinion of one of the worst evo-psych offenders, unfortunately.
He said curbing the bitchiness is one area in which men can be a help, rather than simply the object of the competition.
The only way it might change is if men stopped valuing sexual fidelity and physical attractiveness in long-term mates,he said.
That’s unlikely to happen,though, sincethese evolved mate preferences in men are as ‘hard-wired’ as evolved food preferences for stuff rich in fat and sugar.
Jebus. That these specific details of mate preferences are
hard-wired is an assumption that has not been demonstrated! Once again, evo-psych demonstrates its awesome ability to pretend that narrow, contingent stereotypes of modern American social mores are deeply rooted in our evolution, while ignoring all diversity in order to support the idea that conservative values are biologically coded.
Hated it. I think I already said that, but I’ll say it again: hated it.