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February 28, 2007



* Never in the past would young men stand by and watch two (or five for that matter) girls beat each other up. They would act as protectors - get in there and break it up. Now they are spectators. *

Come on, never ever? While I'd certainly agree this is a worrying trend that seems to be on the rise, let's not mythologise the past. Society needs to better itself, certainly, but we don't have to pretend it was ever perfect 'back in the day'.

Heather  Carson

Fighting amongst girls was the norm at my high school. I graduated 16 years ago. Maybe it was the fact that I went to public school, or that it was in a lower middle class neighborhood. I don't know, but fights over relationships with guys was a common theme, one which I think can be chalked up as yet another consequence of the sexual revolution. When emotionally immature teens get involved sexually without a real committment, then some other girl attracts their boyfriends' attention it ignites some very intense feelings. I hated school in part because I didn't feel physically safe there.


Based on the actions of actual women in my life, I think this trend is largely manufactured. There's a distinction between the way people behave on reality TV shows and the way people behave in real life when they're not performing for an audience, much as some advertisers would like to pretend otherwise.

Of course, if you put people in situations where all that matters is their ability to capture the attention of some audience, and then you document their actions, you're going to document a lot of fighting. It doesn't have much to do with sex at all. (Some people seem to equate "having an audience" with "sex", but this is something that feminists have argued against since the seventies, if anybody would bother to listen.) And it's pretty *anti-feminist* for women to fight over the attentions of men, rather than seeking to be worthwhile on their own terms. And by the way, women who don't care about rigid gender roles are unlikely to judge their worth by their appeal to men. The dykes and engineers and athletes I know are also among the most loyal, nonviolent women I know. It's the girls whose *only* talent is being heterosexual girls that you have to watch out for.

So yeah, a person can be loyal to her female friends, and to women as a sex, without being a delicate feminine flower who faints at the sight of violence.

Androgynously and hairy-leggedly yours,


I think actually YouTube has responded in the past by taking down videos that people have complained about; I know of one (Australian) case where footage of a young girl being tormented by other teenagers was removed. This is a little different as the girls seem to be willing participants in the fights but you could see how you go with emailing them about it?

Mark La Roi

I miss those delicate flowers...


I think you have made a very important point, Erin, when you note the possible connection between sexual promiscuity and the more prevalent violent behavior of women. I once heard a comment by the now deceased Fr. John Hardon, S.J., who stated with great conviction that violations of the 6th commandment eventually led to the breaking of the 5th commandment. I find his insight to be very prescient, not just due to the incidence of abortion, but in light of the obvious increase in aggression on the part of women and men. Despite the frequent protestations that such liaisons are normal and even healthy, it does not seem too much of a reach to conclude that the loss of innocence and violation of the integrity of the woman would lead to a rage against the society that seems to encourage such destructive behavior.


Hi Erin, thanks for bringing this issue up. In doing research (recently, for my Girls Gone Mild book) I actually heard many women connect the lack of female friendship to the increase in sexual competitiveness. I think there is a pretty clear connection, for all sorts of reasons.


Though this sounds oddly disturbing, I am going to have to respectively disagree with the notion that this is just another signal of the degradation of our culture. We are in an overexposed culture - reality TV and the internet have paved the way for everyone. But, we would be remiss to think that this behavior (catfighting or similar types of situations where women are being objectified by men) is new. What is new is YouTube and the ability for the masses to watch people in their homes act like idiots. There have been some similar reflections pertaining to the war and how the media has represented the violence. Many are under the impression that this war is worse than past wars and that eveything is terrible in Iraq. But, really, what has changed is technology and the media's ability to portray the worst possible scenes. I think we should just understand that we are in culture where we are seeing things now for the first time. Things that were once taboo are just openly available. Girls are full of storm and stress - we have all been there. I know I was a stressed out teenager - it happens!


Interesting points. I think it's simpler and more fundamental than just the sexual revolution and equalization of women and men to express themselves freely. Ultimately it comes down to attention either from a general audience or probably more importantly from ones parents (for youths). Acts of violence are misguided calls for help. I believe this and a lot of the trends we see in youths today (violence, sex...) are induced by the lack of supporting structure and security given by the child's parents and family.


I think Lauren and Sonya's points are excellent, about seeking attention and the new media opportunities for this sort of behavior. This is a very important part of the picture which cannot be discounted.

However, I did want to point out that all experts who have tracked bullying over the years agree that aggression in girls--both physical aggression and social aggression--is on the rise. They disagree about why this is the case, but everyone who has studied bullying agrees that it definitely is increasing.

That's not to say things were perfect in the past, of course, but girls are clearly being meaner than ever to one another and the question is why.


I really dont see how you can expect men to do anything for women. If any boys try to stop girls from fighting, most likely the guys would end up in jail under false sexual harassment charges. Girls these days get away with everything and hence they are bound to get worse while guys these days are third class citizens who are arrested and jailed for no rhyme or reason when a girl just desires it. A girl files a mere charge against a guy without any proof and he gets arrested and despite proving that the girl lied with malafide intent, she ends up going scot free. In such a scenario, it would be suicidal for a guy to try and even speak to a girl or even reply to her for anything leave alone get in the midst of fighting girls and try to stop them.

Erin P

This is such a multi-faceted issue...but it's important to recognize it's problematic and in a whole new way with YouTube/media coverage.

Very interesting pt., Wendy, about lack of female friendships contributing to sexual competitiveness, which could get physical.

When these girls initiate physical fights, they also are probably acting out unmet psychological needs, whether from the home or cultural climate immediately around them.

I think __school systems and parents__ are in a strong position to address this topic in a big way and adopt zero-tolerance consequences.

Reinforcement and modeling from male peers only encourages the behavior and I believe is a destructive precedent for male-female interactions and relationships. Think of abuse and domestic violence down the line...

One of my friends suggests "I think there is also a lot of anger in teens, girls too (divorce, spiritual nothingness, etc...)" and this goes to Lauren's pt. about lack of supportive structure at home."


Hi Erin, I'm not sure you remember me but you and I were best friends in preschool (until I moved away) and then again in sixth and seventh grade (when I was back in NY). I just came across your blog and was so happy to read about you! I'm hoping we can re-connect and catch up; I'm curious about what you've been up to all these years! Feel free to email me. I hope you are well.


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