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Aggression Between Females: An Interview With Rachel Simmons

The most confusing thing about aggression between females is that we don’t always recognize it as “aggression.”

Because females express their aggression in “alternative” ways…

Have you ever been jealous or competitive with another woman?

Has another woman ever been jealous or competitive with you?

How about when you were growing up?

Our inner animal…

All humans are mammals. We are animals in the animal kingdom.

And all animals are competitive with each other.

And what we’re competing for is social status.

Because higher-status creatures in nature have more access to food and resources and mates, which allows them to survive and pass along their genes.

So the drive to pursue status is a survival instinct.

And we humans evolved with these survival instincts as part of our DNA.

But here’s the thing…

In nature, the competition for status and survival gets played out physically. In nature, all competitive aggression is physical aggression. Animals are competing for physical dominance, and they compete by fighting physically with each other.

The “alpha male” is the one who wins the fights. He’s the strongest, and thus the most desirable mate for females who want to pass along strong genes to their offspring.

But in modern society human females are socialized differently… and because of that girls’ competitive aggression comes out differently than it does for boys.

Athletic boys are usually the most popular, which is similar to how things work in the animal kingdom.

But girls in modern society are living in a different reality…

Status works different for females in modern society than how it works in the animal kingdom.

The strongest, most athletic female isn’t going to necessarily be the most popular, the way she would if she was a dude.

In modern society, girls get their status from their social connections more than from their physical strength.

Their social status comes from their relationships, not from their physical prowess.

So when girls are competitive with each other, their competitive aggression doesn’t come out in a physical way… instead their aggression is played out by attacking each other’s relationships.

“Alternative Aggression”…

And in this episode of Women Wanting Women I get to interview Rachel Simmons, the author of the book Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture Of Aggression In Girls, which is the book that taught me more about competition between females than any other resource I’ve ever found.

Odd Girl Out is a roadmap that details the various forms of “alternative aggression” we use instead of physical aggression.

And this is so important, because up until recently there were hardly any studies done on this and we had no language to explain what’s really going on.

When you were younger did you ever find yourself in a situation where girls were being mean to you, but you didn’t even have words to understand what was happening or defend yourself?

This is a really big deal for queer women because our primary relationships are with females.

And that’s why I think the book Odd Girl Out should be “required reading” for all queer women.

More about Rachel Simmons…

Rachel Simmons is the author of New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out and The Curse Of The Good Girl. Her most recent book is Enough As She Is: How To Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards Of Success To Live Happy Fulfilling Lives.

As an educator, Rachel teaches girls and women skills to build their resilience, amplify their voices, and own their courage so that they—and their relationships—live with integrity and health.

The cofounder of national nonprofit Girls Leadership, she is an experienced curriculum writer and educator. She is currently the Director of the Phoebe Lewis

Leadership Program at Smith College. Rachel has served as a national spokesperson for the Always #LikeAGirl and Keds Brave Life Project campaigns, and consults nationally on women’s professional development.

Rachel was the host of the PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Atlantic, Slate, and The New York Times. Rachel is a regular contributor to Good Morning America and appears often in the national media. Odd Girl Out was adapted into a highly acclaimed Lifetime television movie.

Find Rachel online and follow her on social media: