The other day I saw a discussion on the Internet that said: women’s makeup has only one purpose, which is to engage in female competition: to make themselves look more delicate and beautiful than the average woman. Many people oppose this notion, Some think that the love of beauty is in everyone’s heart, and criticize that this view restricts women’s freedom to wear makeup, ignoring the fact that makeup can also be used to make oneself happy; others think that this view ignores the implicit discrimination against women who do not wear makeup in some workplaces, and is an unreasonable accusation against those disadvantaged individuals who have to wear makeup. However, at the same time, there are many people who agree that makeup is a female competition.
The term ” female competition” has been appearing more and more on the Internet. Makeup is female competition, plastic surgery is female competition, body anxiety is also female competition. Many people resent the term, feeling that everything is simply and brutally labeled as feminist, but others believe it has a valid point and is more or less a reflection of “misogyny among women”. What exactly is the female competition? Where does this competition come from, and what are its manifestations? And how should we view same-sex competition among women?
In the earliest days of evolution, especially in the animal kingdom, it was more about ‘male competition and female selection’. The reason for this, according to British geneticist Angus John Bateman, is that females contribute more to the reproduction of their offspring compared to males, such as producing larger eggs, spending more time raising younger children, and so on. This leads to differences in sexual selection: males compete for more females, and females choose which males to mate with.
However, there are also a few ‘female competition’ phenomena in nature. British zoologist Tim Clutton-Brock found that in reproductive systems where there are many males and few females, there is not only more competition between males but also female competition between females. Considering that there are different reproductive systems in the animal world, Tim Colton-Brock does not give a definitive answer to how ‘female competition’ works, “In cases where females compete directly with each other, the purpose of their competition is usually not clear. When females have visible secondary sexual characteristics in their bodies, we are often unsure whether they are used to attracting males or to compete for resources between sexes.
What exactly does “female competition” mean in human society? What exactly does “female competition” mean in human society? While “male competition” mainly refers to men’s family background, educational background, wealth, social status, etc., “female competition” mostly refers to women’s genetic value, reproductive value, ornamental value, and emotional value. They believe women should take advantage of their gender and focus on female competition, such as appearance, body shape, personality, fertility, and chastity, in order to find better-qualified men.
The term “female competition” not only divides men and women but also ignores other values of women. But aside from the stereotypes and sexism of the term “female competition”, we also notice that women’s unconscious competitive behavior under male pressure is real and inseparable from the social environment. As Japanese feminist researcher, Chizuko Ueno writes in her book Misogyny: Female Dislike in Japan, “Men like to have their strengths recognized, evaluated and appreciated by other men in the hegemonic struggle in the man’s world.” But this does not happen in the world of women. The hegemonic struggle in a woman’s world does not end between women; there must be a man’s evaluation and commentary involved.
In a patriarchal system where men have a bigger voice, women, as the ‘second sex’, are very often treated as a resource rather than as individuals with independent personalities. As a result, many women have to treat other women as imaginary enemies and use those traits that are favored by men to fight for a narrow space for themselves to survive.
Based on this, I have summarized 4 types of unconscious competitive behaviors of women, which I hope you can be aware of in your daily life, and help you realize and stay away from such competitive traps.
Appearance competition: It revolves around looks, body shape, body shaming, etc., which can easily put yourself and others into body anxiety.
The body both shapes and is shaped by the natural environment, and this is even more evident in women. Women’s emotions, preferences, sensory abilities, and even actions in the physical dimension are highly susceptible to the parochial aesthetic system under the male gaze. A Harvard study concluded that in order to find a higher status partner, women prioritize self-promotion, emphasizing those features that are attractive to men, such as big eyes, prominent breasts and hips, and smooth, soft skin. If there are relatively few men of higher status, there is more competition for women. If you are thinking about your own body and that of your peers based on this aesthetic system, you may have fallen into the unconscious female competition.
Slut-shaming: A sexual double standard based on chastity competition that occurs between women.
The double standard of sexuality is manifested in the fact that sexual morality oriented toward men and sexual morality oriented toward women have different standards. Men’s lust is affirmed, while women are better to be pure with their ignorance of sex. The double standard of sexuality in the male perspective divides women into two groups. Namely, the dichotomous groups of ‘saints’ and ‘sluts’, ‘wives/mothers’ and ‘prostitutes’, and ‘marriage partners’ and ‘playmates’. Men use such standards to demand women while separating and dominating them; women separated and segregated by the double standard of sex, would also scorn one another, forming a competition of chastity under slut-shaming.
Misogyny: from self-loathing to misogyny towards other women, implying that they differ from others.
According to Chizuko Ueno, misogyny manifests itself as “female contempt” in men and “self-loathing” in women. However, there is also a practice of transferring misogyny by treating oneself as the “exception” among women and “othering” women other than oneself. This practice of cutting oneself off from the female community and implying that one is different from other women is actually a more invisible competition to elevate oneself by demeaning other women. This only repeats the production of contempt for the ‘average woman’ by oneself and others, and exacerbates the social discrimination against the female community as a whole.
Using men as a competitive bargaining chip: men “own” women, while women “belong” to men.
The competition of having a quality man as the only criterion for judging a woman’s success is the most obvious type of competition among all the ways women compete under the male standard. Chizuko Ueno believes that women have two kinds of value, one earned by themselves and the other given by men, and the reality is that the latter is worth more than the former.
Therefore, those who are noticed and validated by men are often seen as the winning side, while those who do not have a date and are not married are seen as the losers. Around this battle, women will see other women as potential competitors.
Competitive behavior around women also exists among men, but there is a difference between the two kinds of competition. Men prove themselves by placing a woman at their disposal, essentially treating her as an object, while women tend to take pride in the fact that they ‘belong’ to a quality man.
It is worth mentioning that not all competition that occurs between women is female competition; there is also benign competition between people of the same or opposite sex. What we need to be wary of is a competition aimed at patriarchal favoritism – those who win the competition may seem to get more preferential treatment from the opposite sex, but those are ultimately temporary and unstable; those who speak for “binding standards of femininity,” and those who remove themselves from the relationship through self-castration, end up hurting not only the entire female community but also backfires on itself.