Social Question

cockswain's avatar

Why are some women "catty"? What is their motivation?

Asked by cockswain (15254points) July 30th, 2010

Some women seem to really delight in making passive-aggressive attacks on other people (usually women), trying to make the other feel bad about themselves in some way. I’ve also noticed the catty women seem to target attractive women the most. Why is this behavior so common? What motivates this person to make others feel worse? Best theory I have is it is somehow a competition to solidly entrench oneself as being perceived as the prettiest and most popular within . This sounds like a high school problem, but it is just as prevalent in adulthood. Less attacks maybe, but with sharper claws.

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49 Answers

CMaz's avatar

Child abuse.

GeorgeGee's avatar

It’s a form of playing “king of the hill.”

tranquilsea's avatar

@cockswain I think you are right that this has some of a biological component. I stay far away from catty women just as I stay far away from catty men.

I just wish that people could live their lives above their impulses.

ucme's avatar

Nothing wrong with a slice of pussy action, but that’s another issue. I’d say they’re just built that way, some at least. Funny how the “catty” are labeled “bitchy” strange one that.

cockswain's avatar

@ucme I don’t think the catty and the bitchy are one and the same, at least in my book. The catty attack others to hurt them, the bitchy just complain about a lot of shit.

gailcalled's avatar

Urges to gossip are usually caused by feelings of insecurity.

tinyfaery's avatar

Why are some men catty? What’s their motivation?

ucme's avatar

@cockswain Well in Britain they can both be tarred with the same brush. At least that’s what Sheila from accounts says, but what the hell does she know. Meeeowww!

Jude's avatar

They’re envious (jealous).

Men can be catty, as well.

cockswain's avatar

@gailcalled Totally agreed

@tinyfaery I don’t disagree men can be catty, so if you’d prefer to answer the question from that standpoint so you don’t find offense feel free.

@ucme Awesome.

@jjmah Yes, men can be catty.

janbb's avatar

As others have indicated, “catty” seems like a sexist, unhelpful pejorative to me. Why not just say “Why are some people nasty gossips?”

CMaz's avatar

Or why are some women bitches?

cockswain's avatar

Holy crap, I didn’t mean to start a misogynist backlash by saying “women.” My wife and I were discussing the subject this morning, and I thought it would interesting to ask fluther. If I could edit my question to say “What motivates catty behavior” to get this question back on the tracks, I would do so. Please move forward accordingly.

My experience in life has been I have observed catty behavior far more in women than in men. Sorry.

keobooks's avatar

I was reading a book a few years back about girl bullies in schools. The author did a lot or interviews and research and she came to the conclusion that the catty behavior stems from the fact that women are encouraged to be “sweet” and “lady like” and were also told that they should never ever say or even think bad thoughts. The catty behavior is a passive aggressive or subversive way of being really rude but sugary on the surface.

I remember being a teacher and the catty behavior of girls would drive me up the wall as a newbie teacher. “But I only told Mathilde that she had a nice dress on today, dear teacher. What’s wrong with that?” I was like—oh man how can I touch this one without making it worse for the victim of that barb?

cockswain's avatar

So you think maybe the motivation stems from sort of a forced repression to be “ladylike” and therefore can’t vent their frustrations the way a non-repressed individual might?

keobooks's avatar

@cockswain I supose they are ABLE to vent them, but many women are strongly conditioned not to. Another passive aggressive type behavior I hate in women. The ones who will smile to your face, but when you turn around they start muttering how much they hate you. When I worked retail, I frequently wanted to turn around and smack the women who did this.

Me: Do you need help finding a book?
Her: Oh no, sweetie, just go on doing whatever you were doing? ***smile***
Her behind my back: being lazy.. that’s what she was doing..
Me: Ma’am, are you SURE you don’t want something.
Her: Whatever gave you that idea, dearie?
Her behind my back: nosey little eavesdropper.

Cruiser's avatar

They are generally insecure, want a lot of attention and wear lots of really bad perfume!

stardust's avatar

They scream insecurity. They’re difficult to be around, so small doses with those types.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, insecurities and petty jealousies.

I cannot STAND women like this!

I have never been the jealous type and genuinely love my female friends, I only have one in the bunch now that falls prey to these petty attacks of insecurities and sour grapes…I just deflect the arrows and take space when she goes into her pissy mode. lol

BoBo1946's avatar

@ChazMaz And, why are some men, son-of-bitches? Damn if i know! must have been a full moon when they left the womb!

rooeytoo's avatar

I just gave GA to everyone who pointed out that this nastiness is not a female only trait. I have worked in many different situations and believe me, men excel at this sort of behavior as well, they just call it ambition or something less demeaning.

cockswain's avatar

Is it possible to answer the question in terms of men and point out my mistake by mentioning men can be catty too?

The irony of some of these responses is wonderful

rooeytoo's avatar

@cockswain – To me the sad part is that when you posed the question, it apparently never crossed your mind that this was sexist or offensive or even untrue. That is the culture we live in. It is not pc to make racist remarks or jokes, segregation is a thing of the past, unless it pertains to gender, then it is still acceptable.

What is ironic to me is that some women jump right on the band wagon with you instead of being annoyed by the slant of your mistake.

keobooks's avatar

@rooeytoo Passive aggressive bullying and nastiness has been documented and studied as a common behavior pattern in girls and it carries on for many into adulthood. I don’t see why it’s so wrong to admit it’s true.

Both women and men have their shortcomings as a gender. I think that passive aggressive snarkiness is a weak point of American women. I think pretending that no stereotypes at all have some basis in fact is naiive.

cockswain's avatar

@rooeytoo My wife didn’t find it any big deal to talk about this morning, or on other occasions. I’ve participated in conversations with men and women alike about “catty” behavior, yet some people like yourself appear to be quick to offend. Yes, I grant should you wish to find fault in the statement, it is your choice to view it that way. Or you can accept the fact I’ve admitted I should have rephrased the question to avoid this problem, and actually contribute something to the discussion, like @keobooks, @Coloma, @stardust, and @Cruiser have. Or you can be catty and attack the women who participated in the discussion by calling it a “bandwagon.”

I don’t routinely make jokes about gender, or sexist statements. I viewed the topic as more psychological in nature. Would it be sexist to ask “what factors influence a woman’s behavior when she enters menopause?”

If a woman had asked this question, you wouldn’t even have batted an eye I bet.

gailcalled's avatar

“what factors influence a woman’s behavior when she enters menopause?”

That one’s easy. An enlarged wrist muscle in dominant hand, enabling one to fan one’s face at a frantic rate,

Coloma's avatar

I think ‘menopause’ is just another excuse like PMS for a lot of crappy behavior.

Bottom line, if someone is a jerk when they are young they will probably be a jerk when they get old too!

A moody & mean young dog most likely will be a moody & mean old dog. lol

HoneyBee's avatar

Women who are catty are usually extremely insecure of themselves and resort to petty behavior to some how make themselves feel superior to others. I don’t get involved in this sort of cat and mouse behavior. It’s a huge waste of time to me. I’m not saying I don’t have insecurities like everyone else but I don’t feel the need to tear others down to make myself feel better. I have had it done to me my whole life by my older sister and I know how mean and hateful it is and how much damage it can do to someone, especially if it’s repeatedly done at almost every encounter.
By the same token why are some men such assholes?

le_inferno's avatar

Wow, I don’t understand how it’s justified to turn this question into a feminist rally. It really bothers me when women seek out oppression in places where it doesn’t exist. The knee-jerk feminist responses are really getting old. Try turning it down a notch from “foaming-at-the-mouth-feminazi” to “Actually having a legitimate grievance.” My goodness.

Nowhere in this question does the OP imply that only or all women are catty. Not at all. He is merely zoning in on one aspect of society. That’s where the question is aimed. It’s a question about the way some women behave, as observed by the OP. If he asked, “Why are some children so disrespectful?”, would he be implying that no other groups of people are disrespectful? Of course not. But the question is about children. This is no different.

Now, to answer your question… I believe you did it yourself: Women who bring down other women do it because it makes them feel better about themselves. The attractive ones are the biggest threats to their ego, so they attack them.

evandad's avatar

It must be the crowd you hang with. I haven’t noticed that behavior, except on TV.

Pandora's avatar

Low self esteem. Make no mistake. Men suffer from this type of behavior as well. Only their low self esteem comes out in other ways.

rooeytoo's avatar

You can explain it away all you want, your question/comment was directed at women, why are women catty. And as I said it is sad that women are buying into it and defending you. Some PEOPLE are catty, end of story.

I am not a knee jerk anything, I have been fighting against stereotypes such as this all of my life. I just don’t like being characterized and categorized because of my gender. If I am cranky, it is because I am cranky, not because I have PMS or am menopausal. I am sometimes cranky when neither one of those conditions is present. And men who cannot claim either one of those ailments are often cranky and catty.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ChazMaz Speaking from experience?
@cockswain I agree with @keobooks to an extent – the culture in which women are raise, in our western society, ironically makes them turn on themselves and they don’t see that they’re not doing anyone any favors by policing other women.

keobooks's avatar

If anyone wanted to know the book I was talking about, I finally remembered the title. It was “Odd Girl Out” by Rachel Simmons.

Here’s a quote from the Barnes and Noble Review:

When boys act out, get into fights, or become physically aggressive, we can’t avoid noticing their bad behavior. But it is easy to miss the subtle signs of aggression in girls—the dirty looks, the taunting notes, or the exclusion from the group-that send girls home crying.

In Odd Girl Out, Rachel Simmons focuses on these interactions and provides language for the indirect aggression that runs through the lives and friendships of girls. These exchanges take place within intimate circles—the importance of friends and the fear of losing them is key. Without the cultural consent to express their anger or to resolve their conflicts, girls express their aggression in covert but damaging ways. Every generation of women can tell stories of being bullied, but Odd Girl Out explores and explains these experiences for the first time.

rooeytoo's avatar

@keobooks – so because it was written in a book and perhaps even prints statistics to prove it, that makes it an irrefutable truth??? I am not quite so gullible to believe that.

And let’s turn this around, how about if we say why can’t men keep their trousers zipped, all men are cheats if the opportunity presents itself, no man can be monogamous or faithful. After all, it is their biological imperative to spread their seed, they are the same as animals in this regard.

Is that offensive to males in general? Is it sexist? Is it an unfair stereotype? @cockswain, how do you feel about that one?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@rooeytoo Did you read the quote – I don’t think it speaks about biological imperatives for females at all, nor do I think @keobooks considers it truth – but you know what isn’t truth, for sure…people thinking their gendered stereotypes are results of nature.

cockswain's avatar

I think you’re acting nuts. If you say “why do men show a greater propensity to cheat on their spouses than women” I think you’d have a reasonable question. Like I do.

“You can explain it away all you want…I have been fighting against stereotypes such as this all of my life.”

Those statements tell me you are unwilling to consider the reasons that myself and others have given you, and you are blowing this way out of proportion.

rooeytoo's avatar

@cockswain – well thank you, I truly enjoy being told I am acting nuts by a guy (I assume, forgive me if you are not a guy) who has just lumped me into a pile of females who according to your theory have a biological imperative to be catty. And really do men show a greater propensity or is that another stereotype? Did you read recent statistics regarding children not being the offspring of the man who thinks they are his?

“I have been fighting against stereotypes such as this all of my life” is a simple truth and not a pleasant one for someone such as myself and the other women who have always sought to act not on biological imperatives but in a logical, considered fashion. I don’t feel I am blowing anything out of proportion, this affects me and the way I am treated in the world, that is a pretty big thing to me.

keobooks's avatar

@rooeytoo: If you’re going to discount someone’s research, which they travelled all over the country interviewing hundreds of women for several years just because you don’t like the answer then I have nothing else to say to you.

Can’t really argue with someone who is just going to use the “nu-huh” tactic with you.

rooeytoo's avatar

@keobooks – The National Enquirer makes the same claim, do you believe everything you read there?

Also I feel the main difference is that when males behave in the same fashion, it is simply called by a different name. If you think teen age boys never insult each other or make “catty” remarks then I don’t think you have spent much time around them.

I have nothing else to say, believe and propagate what you choose, it is only women and I assume you are one judging by your avatar, that you are hurting.

cockswain's avatar

Did I ever once in this post deny men can be catty? No. You are ignoring research, and comparing it with the Enquirer. You are being completely close-minded about the whole thing, and I should have just ignored you. Here is your logic:

You state “why are some women catty”
Therefore, you imply all women are catty
Stating all women are catty is a stereotype

le_inferno's avatar

@rooeytoo So you’re saying because the word “catty” is applied exclusively to women, it’s sexist? Look, there are plenty of male equivalents to “catty.” Dick, asshole, jerk… not really used on women.

keobooks's avatar

@rooeytoo seriously.. If you can’t tell the difference between a well researched article that took place over a period of years and the National Enquirer, that is your issue, not mine. I’m not going to bother defending it.

You’re sounding like one of those “ain’t no such thang as evil-ution” folks. You don’t like my opinion. Fine. You’re going to discount anything that supports it, no matter how sound the source. Fine.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am saying any statistic can be manipulated. They are every day by the government, industry, anyone who has a vested interest in making their own position look favorable. A question worded one way instead of another produces a slightly different response. You are saying that because a woman wrote it in a book and provided her own data to substantiate her claim so she could sell her book, it is true. Seems a bit slanted to me, but perhaps I am a cynic.

You have to admit that cattiness is applied virtually exclusively to women (or occasionally gay men) and yes it is sexist. Asshole and jerk are really not gender specific.

You didn’t state all women are catty but your question applied the term to women only which is typical of the use of the word so yes that makes it sexist.

I cannot make my position any more clear.

keobooks's avatar

@rooeytoo Sure. Fine. Whatever.

le_inferno's avatar

@rooeytoo So if I asked a question, “Why are some men such dicks?” would you call it sexist?

rooeytoo's avatar

@le_inferno – to me that has a different connotation. It would be like saying to women, “Why are some women such boobs.” Because boob is a “a foolish or stupid person” according to the mac dictionary. And before it became the flavor of the day word for breasts was used for both sexes dick often is. Here if someone says you are a clever dick, it is a compliment. But catty is a word that refers to women only (or gay men) and has a sexist, stereotypical and degrading view of females.

I am finished defending my position. It is the way I feel and why I responded the way I did.

SVTSuzie's avatar

Jelousy. Unhappiness and insecurity.

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