Women often behave toward one another in sneaky, underhanded, ruthlessly competitive ways. Catfight
is an insightful exploration of the American woman's world of aggression, rivalry, and competition. Tanenbaum draws on real-life examples and the most important studies to date in psychology, human aggression, psychoanalytic theory, and social movements to uncover the pressures that leave women regarding one another as adversaries rather than allies.
Most women highly value female approval and friendship, but the underside of sisterhood can evoke covertly competitive behavior:
• A career woman quits to become a full-time mom. Although she misses her job and the income, she belittles you, a working mother, as selfishly unconcerned with your children's welfare.
• You're at a party in mid-conversation with your boyfriend when an attractive woman comes over to mingle. You move closer to him, touching him and glaring at her.
• A female colleague "accidentally" misplaces your files and "forgets" to e-mail you about an important upcoming meeting.
What is the state of "sisterhood" today? And how much progress have we really made?
“Tanenbaum's first book (Slut!
) examined how social competition causes some female teenagers to attack others for real or imagined sexual behavior. In this follow-up, she branches out, taking on adult women and their struggles to look prettier, land better boyfriends or husbands, be more popular with co-workers and be considered better mothers than other women, sisterhood be damned. Although Tanenbaum provides the latest in academic research, she also includes an entertaining mix of examples from pop culture, newspaper and magazine articles and original fieldwork. She makes the subject personal, sharing her own frustrations with breast-feeding, office gossip and living with a body that doesn't match contemporary beauty norms. Although many women feel no choice but to endure constant pressure and self-doubt, Tanenbaum counters that competition is a learned behavior, not human nature, and the consequences are rarely worth the meager rewards.
‘We can see that competition between women serves only the status quo,’ she laments. ‘And the status quo keeps us from gaining more power over our lives, our work, and our relationships.’ The closing chapter highlights the potential for women to collaboratively strive for success in the arenas of political activism and team athletics, but even there, Tanenbaum says, as in the business world, women must face the prospect of being judged ‘unfeminine’ if they show too aggressive a desire to win. The book's accessible approach to the contradictions between feminist rhetoric and women's real experiences, especially in the still-controversial realm of working mothers, is sure to attract even more attention for this fast-rising social critic.”
--The New York Observer
represents an important wave of feminist literature... offering valuable, multilayered, introspective, and solidly researched insight into [important] societal questions. The strength of [Tanenbaum's] very original criticism and approach is to illuminate how women experience competition in different areas of life and with different intensities than men do."
--The Chicago Tribune
--The New York Post
"A thoughtful and thoroughly engaging writer, Tanenbaum offers not cold sociological interpretation, but earnest encouragement. Catfight
addresses...the heavyhearted suspicion that the same feminist battles we've been fighting for years could well go on forever. There's a lot of bravery here; the book will surely prompt conversations between women and take some of the taboo out of the subject of competition."
--The Women's Review of Books
"Tanenbaum's inquiry...blends well-documented research, interviews, and personal reflection in a lively, accessible style."
"Tanenbaum relates her own experiences and interviews a variety of women and psychologists to explore the seemingly eternal adversarial relationships that exist among women despite many recent feminist gains."
"Tanenbaum's prose is provocative.... She succeeds beautifully at getting women to think about the role competition plays in their daily lives."
--San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Tanenbaum's best when grappling with the conflicting demands of work and children. She describes the isolation of motherhood with particular care."
--The Village Voice
is an incisive exploration of a long-taboo subject--how and why women sabotage one another. Tanenbaum is a witty young woman, wise beyond her years. Her insights and lively stories explain the essence of women's resentment of other women; how to spot sabotage by the Other Woman; why rape victims are often disbelieved even by women friends; and much more. Since competition is a learned behavior, not innate, Tanenbaum is able to guide us toward healthy competition. Catfight
will prompt women to confront--and cure--their own feelings of competitiveness."
Chapter One: The Roots of the Problem
Chapter Two: Beauty
Chapter Three: Dating
Chapter Four: Work
Chapter Five: Motherhood
Chapter Six: When Women Work Together