Bully for Bullies

Bully for Bullies

Bully for Bullies

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
May 12 2009 4:20 PM

Bully for Bullies

I was perversely pleased to read this story in the New York Times about women bullying other women at work. A new study by the Workplace Bullying Institute-who knew such a thing existed!-reveals that men aren't the only elbow-throwers in the workplace: A full 40 percent of workplace bullies are women. Why, exactly, would this please me? Because the impish part of me is happy anytime a finding comes along that challenges stereotypical views of women as "nurturers" or "supporters"-a view that is all too common, as Peggy Klaus, an executive coach, tells the Times . For me, the upside of feminism had everything to do with making more identities possible for women, not fewer; with allowing each of to let our inner "freak flag" fly, as what's-his-name urges the uptight Sarah Jessica Parker in The Family Stone. That's not to say I think anyone should yell at her assistant today; but I do think that anything that reminds us that women hardly conform to a single type, in the workplace, at home, or in the bedroom, is a plus. That's why I never really got into difference feminism, which would have us believe that XX and XY are apples and oranges: Where men charge ahead alone, women are good co-operators. This study seems to challenge that. The downside, though? According to this study, women bullies seem to bully...other women. I'm not sure this has to do with gender so much as it has to do with power structures.

Meghan O'Rourke is Slate’s culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at the New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother’s death, is now out in paperback.