Comments on: Women bullying women History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sun, 21 Sep 2014 12:24:08 +0000 hourly 1 By: Historiann Mon, 19 Jan 2009 05:11:19 +0000 I would not address it at all. Unfortunately, and unfairly, it won’t do you any good to bring it up in an application or interview, and it will only raise questions as to whether or not you were the source of problems in that work environment. You should just be positive and forward-thinking, and pretend when you send out applications that you’re just looking for new challenges and not running for your life. No one stays in the same job for a lifetime, so think about other good reasons that you might throw your hat in the ring for new opportunities. Focus on your skills and achievements and on your future goals.

If you land in a new and much-improved work environment, then you may feel that you want to share information about your former job, but I would still proceed cautiously with that. If you do tell your story, make sure that you’ve established yourself as a solid colleague and co-worker–no one wants to hear someone complain endlessly about their old job. It may make people think you’re disloyal, or a chronic complainer. However, it might be useful someday to share your experiences in the service of heading off a problem in your new work environment. People who have worked in dysfunctional work environments often have valuable perspectives in how to avoid creating another one!

Good luck, and godspeed, labrat. It’s a big task, but have confidence that you will find a job you enjoy with coworkers who respect one another and work together well.

By: labrat Sun, 18 Jan 2009 23:33:19 +0000 I’m so glad to have found your blog and all the resources that it contains. One more question: in leaving a position because of bullying, how is this addressed in the job application process, if at all?

By: Historiann Sat, 17 Jan 2009 02:07:06 +0000 Wow, labrat–what a tale. I’m afraid that I personally think there’s nothing to be done about it in most cases, other than waiting it out (as you have) or quitting. I think it’s sad that people who were bullied end up bullying others. Good for you if you’re resisting this tendency and are reaching out to be a good “big sister” to the other women you work with now.

If you run into bullies again, you’ll need to figure out if they have allies (bad) or if they’re isolated (good.) If they’re isolated and don’t have any power over you, then it’s not such a panic. If they have power over you, well, I think the best thing to do is to leave. Bullies, and the work environments that tolerate or even encourage them, are not going to change, and it’s too much for one person to try to oppose.

Check out this post for a compilation of posts on bullying in academia.

By: labrat Sat, 17 Jan 2009 01:48:44 +0000 I am a female graduate student in a male-dominated field (chemistry). On top of the typical gender issues that a female expects when dealing with The Old Boys’ Club constantly, I have been on the receiving end of girl bullying by a senior labmate.

In reference to John S.’s comment, I think that girl bullying is easier to perpetrate when there is a high ratio of boys:girls. In my situation, I felt there was no one from whom I could seek advice or in whom I could find an ally. I felt as though no one really understood the problem fully. Thus, Senior Bully was much more effective at making my life miserable.

Klaus’s article resonated with me strongly (the discussion here is interesting as well), but I was rather disappointed that there was no practical advice on what to do about this apparently common problem besides encouragement for women to be nice to one another. I think this encouragement is needed, but I don’t think it’s applicable when the bullying has already commenced. Are there tips somewhere for dealing with girl bullying in the workplace? I have found lots of parenting advice for dealing with school age girls, but not for workplace peers. In my situation, I just hung on for dear life until the bully graduated and now try my very, very hardest to be a good colleague to other women in my lab/department. The years during which I was bullied were extremely depressing and difficult, though, and I would like to know how to deal with it if I encounter it again, whether someone tries to bully me or someone else.

I wonder if methods for dealing with girl bullying differ in academia vs. industry? There are so many sorts of abuses that go unchecked in academia, but I only have experience in that realm. Also, in my situation, my bully had in turn been bullied when she was a young graduate student. Is this a feedback loop, where the behavior is passed down through the ranks?

By: Satsuma Wed, 14 Jan 2009 22:03:12 +0000 Yes Historiann, you are so right about this. It was a shock to my feminist soul to see the venom of anti-Hillary comments by liberal women as well. The Obama supporters were very very bad in this respect.

We need solidarity among women so badly. I’m working harder than ever to connect with and support women. And, I was very impressed with your advice for women going on academic interviews! It was practical, down to earth, and much needed. The academy sounds like a scary place to me compared to a corporate environment where I work. I bring in the business, they respect and leave me alone. It’s very production oriented, and so personalities and politics are less visible.

Best of luck to you on your blog, I’ve added you to my “favorites” and will read you regularly.

All women need to band together. Just because we lead very different lives doesn’t mean we can’t connect. We have to understand that patriarchy trives on dividing women, and that is part of the structure of this soul destroying system. Palin and Clinton, two extremes perhaps, and yet we should be excited at how women are pushing and pushing the men to get those jobs. I smiled to myself to listen to white male christian talk radio get mad at the “sexism” directed toward Gov. Palin. They used the word “sexism” what’s the world a-comin to? :-)

By: Historiann Wed, 14 Jan 2009 15:50:07 +0000 Satsuma–thanks for stopping by to comment. I agree with you about the odd spectacle last fall when so-called feminists and liberals deployed ugly gendered and sexualized language and rhetoric against Palin. (Then again, many of them had done this all year long to a woman in their own party!)

I chalk it up to the Dems being unwilling to examine the ugly and large stripe of misogyny running through the party, a party that is only able to win (when it does) because of women’s votes.

By: Satsuma Wed, 14 Jan 2009 04:39:09 +0000 This article was really fascinating. I can’t say that I’ve seen either men or women be exceptionally mean or nice in my office ALL the time. It’s varied. I do notice that women support staff are always nicer than men in authority, however. Men in authority and men in general get away with scowling looks, bad manners and clueless personalities. I’ve never kow towed to the “niceness” obsession which always seems to be the cross straight women have to bear. I’m aggressive, outspoken and can really go after men if they make sexist comments about women. I’ve never ever seen a straight woman haul off and yell at a man for a sexist comment, or go into combat with a man who gropped her breasts. I’ve done both.

I’m not in an academic environment, and am in charge of bringing in new business. The women support staff have always been exceptionally collegial with me, and it is they who hate the gruff emotionally boring and shut down men the most. Sometimes, they’ll put the paperwork of a hated male to the bottom of the pile as a kind of passive aggressive resistense.

I do see that it is very hard for women to be loyal to each other, and I’ve never seen straight women ever punch a man out. So I can’t say. It seems that straight women are very very afraid of making scenes, bragging or telling off men. I actually enjoy telling the men to fall on their swords and die a long death, so I suppose I’ll always be the odd warrior dyke in the corporate world.

What did shock me was how women piled on against Sarah Palin, something I would never do to a woman who was running for office at a level like that. I didn’t have it in for conservative women, believing that they often “pretend” to be more conservative than they really are. I was shocked that liberal women called Gov. Palin the b-word and wrote the nastiest political emails I had ever received during the 2008 election year. No men wrote such mean emails about Gov. Palin to me personally.
When I confronted a few of the women who wrote the mean emails, they wouldn’t even discuss the subject they were so filled with liberal hate Palin venom. I think my complex idea that I don’t really care all that much if women are liberal or conservative, since I think the office often makes the woman was a bit too complex for a lot of liberal women out there.

I have no problem helping women in their careers and have bent over backward to do so. It is, however, often a thankless job with little reward, unlike younger men who remain loyal to their mentors through the years.

Women have still yet to assess just what divides women from each other. It is complex. I know I get sick of the niceness that straight women seem compelled to show the world, when I do get very angry and am not afraid to show it, or I am patient. I’m just my lesbian self, and don’t have to go home in the evening to be even more male pleasing to a husband. Perhaps it’s why I may have more energy to support women, as I don’t serve men in my home, have never been saddled with children, and focus heavily on an intellectual life.

A lot of women I think don’t take enough time for themselves, and thus fall victim to this stuff.

My favorite groups are either all men or all women. I don’t liked mixed gender environments at all, so that’s a bit different I guess. The men can tolerate my aggressive in your face style that so scares straight middle class women, and women like my rather fun loving and intellectual side. It’s interesting.

By: Heart Tue, 13 Jan 2009 20:04:45 +0000 Yeah, I agree, criticism/questioning do not equal bullying. In the original post, the word “undermining” was used and that’s a good word for what goes on a lot in professional settings, I think, this kind of undertow that is created when a woman is targeted in some way by other women. I don’t know how often undermining rises to the level of bullying, but I think that whenever a woman is effectively silenced because she has been so relentlessly undermined, wherever she finds herself without friends, excluded from important discussions and meetings, formal or informal, she probably has been bullied, though quietly and stealthily.

By: Historiann Tue, 13 Jan 2009 19:55:27 +0000 Thanks, Heart, for those additional examples and elaboration. I agree with you.

I will say that my friend who had 2 kids on the tenure track (and is now tenured) wouldn’t say she was bullied. I think she was hurt that her nominal allies weren’t as supportive of her as they had been, but I don’t think she’d call it bullying. (Not all criticism or questioning of one’s decisions is bullying–it’s frequently obnoxious but it’s not necessarily bullying!)

By: Heart Tue, 13 Jan 2009 19:20:09 +0000 So true that feminists are people too! I am really just saying that feminist critique and analysis can be used as weapons by, as squadrotomatico called it, “the bully brigade” in their ongoing project of bullying, and it can be hard to nail it or even see it because it can be passed off as feminist critique and analysis. The women you’re describing who have bullied a colleague who got pregnant can say that wasn’t their intention, they were just speaking as feminists in an uncompromised way. When in fact, there may be all sorts of stuff going on, odd resentments or regrets around having wanted to have a child but deciding not to for feminist reasons, or regrets around having had children and feeling like a bad mother or a bad feminist or both and so feeling a strange mixture of fear and anger towards a younger woman who is making those choices. I think the productive and useful response is to get busy making knowledge and theory out of our own responses to a woman who keeps having babies, compromising her tenure track! But too often the response is to attack her, or ignore her or kick her to the curb in some way, bully her, in an attempt to distance ourselves, make ourselves the exception, the woman who would never do that because we are just far too serious about our feminism to ever do such an anti-feminist thing, kind of a deal.

Bullying of this type happens for reasons other than a feminist colleague getting pregnant of course, i.e., it can happen if she marries, it can happen if she was a lesbian and now she takes up with a man, it can happen if she gets her stomach stapled to lose weight or even if she goes on a diet. The issue is, I think, is it ever a useful response to attack or bully an individual woman for what she’s done, however nonfeminist someone might think it is. I don’t think it ever is, but I think it happens a lot for the reasons everyone here has been talking about.