“The competition between shearers is keen, and noticeable when they’re at roughly the same stage in the process.” — Sheep shearing competition, photographed by Peter Shanks, on Flickr
This comment below is by Alastair on the post “How Competition Among Women Reinforces Sexism” by Susie Meister
Looking at this as a man, it seems to me that it is not competition per se that is the issue. I have found competition to be an incredibly enriching force in my life. Competition encourages me and pushes me to play to my strengths. I have also found that competition can be great at producing respect for those with whom you compete. In competing with them, you explore their strengths and start to admire them for them. Competition strengthens and develops my sense of agency, which is central to my identity.
In competing with someone I seek to outperform them at something. My goal is typically the pursuit of excellence and the excitement of overcoming a challenge. Once I have overcome my opponent, I do not kick him when he is down, or viciously crush him with excessive force. The sort of natural competitiveness that many male groups enjoy is something that encourages mutual respect for each other’s strengths.
However, when I look at the sort of relationships described in this article what I see is not competition, but envy. Envy is a destructive force that is not focused on exploring your strengths in competition with a respected opponent but which seeks to tear down and attack anyone who seems to be a rival. It is vicious and personal. The envious person isn’t even focused on their own pleasure: all they want to do is to destroy the enjoyment of the other. They hate the other person for being more popular, smarter, prettier, or wealthier than they are and so will go to whatever lengths they can to poison that enjoyment.
The number of women who have independently commented to me that they find such envy to be peculiarly characteristic of all-female groups has surprised me. I think that many women could gain a lot from learning the value of healthy competition, which depends upon a detachment of one’s identity from contexts of stifling intimacy, where differences and oppositions cannot be explored, where those that surface result in demonization and cruel and personal attempts to destroy others, and those that don’t surface simmer away in vicious passive aggressive tactics and backbiting. Such competition enables non-personal opposition, non-poisonous conflict, the encouragement of a thick skin and a sense of humour, and a general attitude of playing to strengths rather than using one’s weaknesses and sensitivities to leverage attention and privilege.
Read How Competition Among Women Reinforces Sexism by Susie Meister
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