We all have that one friend who is happy to "tell it like it is".
If you're having drinks and a woman walks into the bar wearing a barely-there dress and no bra to speak of, you can bet this friend will be the first to say something about how she needs to put on a coat, eat something, and not look so desperate.
It's easy to laugh when it's someone else making the joke, and one martini into your evening you're more than willing to overlook the girl-on-girl crime.
It's something we've all done. Maybe we're even the one making the snide remark.
But have you ever stopped and wondered why we do it?
Is it because we feel threatened? It it because we're trying to impress our friends by being mean to other women?
Why do we slut-shame women we don't even know?
It turns out that this kind of bad behavior might actually be biologically programmed into our brains. Yup, you heard me: when we slut-shame or act like mean girls to other women, it's because of evolutionary programming. Thanks for nothing, science!
A study conducted in Canada paired up women in sets of twos. The women were told the study was about female friendship, and they paired the participants with either someone they knew and liked, or a total stranger. In the middle of their session they were interrupted by one of two women. The first woman was conservatively dressed, in khakis and blue tee-shirt, her hair in a messy bun. The second woman wore black boots, a mini skirt, a cleavage-showing top, and her hair flowing down her shoulders.
When the conservative woman interrupted the study, it went without comment. But when the "sexy" woman interrupted them, she received incredulous looks up and down and even comments like "what the hell is that?!"
The study also found that the women were freer with their disdain when they were paired with a friend instead of a stranger.
Here's the kicker: The conservative woman and the sexy woman were the same woman wearing different outfits.
In the second part of the study, photos of the conservative woman and the sexy woman were shown to the participants. They were asked which of the women they would feel comfortable introducing to their boyfriend. Without fail, they picked the conservative woman.
While this is deeply depressing, the next step in the study kind of delighted me.
They added a digitally modified photo of the "sexy" woman so that she appeared very heavy and included her as an option to introduce to your boyfriend.
Women still opted for the conservative woman, proving that woman do not believe fat women are incapable of seducing their boyfriends (okay, that's my own conclusion, but it makes perfect sense).
Rather than declare that we are terrible people who delight in slut shaming, the science of the study indicates that women are threatened by other women whom they perceive to be interested in casual sex, because it undermines the woman's desire to commit.
That's right, when you scoff at a 20-something in 6-inch heels, what you're really saying is "because that cute young thing wants an easy lay, I will never meet a viable life partner with whom to procreate."
With any luck, being aware of this kind of thinking can stop us from doing it in the future, or at least, start conversations about why we treat other women the way we do — and how hurtful it really is.