Monday, May 11, 2009

The Bully Boys Gals

The New York Times tells us that women are horrible bullies towards other women:

YELLING, scheming and sabotaging: all are tell-tale signs that a bully is at work, laying traps for employees at every pass.

During this downturn, as stress levels rise, workplace researchers say, bullies are likely to sharpen their elbows and ratchet up their attacks.

It's probably no surprise that most of these bullies are men, as a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, an advocacy group, makes clear. But a good 40 percent of bullies are women. And at least the male bullies take an egalitarian approach, mowing down men and women pretty much in equal measure. The women appear to prefer their own kind, choosing other women as targets more than 70 percent of the time.

In the name of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, what is going on here?

Just the mention of women treating other women badly on the job seemingly shakes the women's movement to its core. It is what Peggy Klaus, an executive coach in Berkeley, Calif., has called "the pink elephant" in the room. How can women break through the glass ceiling if they are ducking verbal blows from other women in cubicles, hallways and conference rooms?

How indeed!!! Note that the article isn't too bad in the middle, but returns to this lunacy in its conclusions:

"The time has come," she said, "for us to really deal with this relationship that women have to women, because it truly is preventing us from being as successful in the workplace as we want to be and should be.

"We've got enough obstacles; we don't need to pile on any more."

This piece sounds to me like yet another in that long series the Times has: What Is Wrong With Working Women? These stories always create or magnify a problem and then offer anecdotal evidence on how awful the problem is.

To get to that point, the present article quickly slides by the facts: Men are more often bullies than women and if you work a little on those percentages you will find that male-on-female (heh) bullying is a larger percentage than female-on-female bullying. But never mind, we shall write about the latter! Yes.

Then we are going to pretend that all working women know the names of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and we are also going to pretend that these feminists believed in some universal sisterhood, easily shared by all women in a society which is still based on patriarchy.

See how it works? Now we have a problem of evil women keeping other women down. To the extent this happens, might it have something to do with the musical chairs that many firms still play with women? If only a few promotion slots are available for women, and if women know this to be the case, well, they are going to compete against other women, right?

The conclusion of the article tells us that this is a problem women should fix, what with all the other problems women have to cope with (such as guys bullying them more). Those other problems or their solutions are not, however, written up in the New York Times. It's much safer to focus on what is wrong with women themselves.

Does that remind you of something? If female bullies mainly attack other women because women are seen as easier targets, could it be that the same motivation underlies articles like this one? Attacking the Big Boys With The Moneybags is scary, as those moneybags make excellent defensive weapons.
A Post-Script: Women do bully, of course. It would be odd to assume that they don't. But an article like this one takes out one slice (female-on-female bullying) from the bully-pie and focuses on it while completely ignoring the majority of bullying relationships. Does that treatment provide extra clarity and better solutions? I very much doubt that.