Lowest Common Denominator

Ladies, this post is for you, although I have a sneaky suspicion guys can benefit, too. When you’re with girlfriends, how do you talk to each other? Even better, how do you talk about and talk to other women in general? Rachel Lucas posted her observations (warning: some language) on how women in their 20s address each other and behave in general. Suffice to say, I’ve heard and seen similar. And I will never understand it.

Crazy enough, all this has happened after the most liberating time in the history of women. Personally, while I suspect there are still plenty of men happy to hold women down, I believe women have become equal contributors to their own misery and lack of advancement.

For example, while I had plenty of male executives pat me on the head, I eventually gained respect from most. The women, however, mainly peers, were some of the most vicious, cutthroat adversaries that ever crossed my path.

Gossip was the order of the day, and it wasn’t limited to workplace events. Anything that took place outside of work was fair game, too. They didn’t want to see me, or any other women for that matter, succeed. Their version of success? Watching someone else fail.

Why? What drives such behavior? Why is such pleasure taken in bringing other women down? Beyond taking potshots at one another, why do women seem to revel in behavior (see Rachel’s post) that I suspect even most men would find disgusting?

For me, this issue boils down to a larger question: Who honestly believes the lowest common denominator is something to strive for?

We’ve gone from following in the footsteps of Rebecca West,

“I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”(link)

to girls trying to outdo each other by dancing on top of bars and making out in public.

How can women (or men) ever reach their potential when they settle? Some of the greatest changes in history happened because individuals said, “Enough. The bare minimum is no longer acceptable.” These individuals rose to the moment. I wonder what they’d say if they could see what we’ve done with the future they worked so hard to achieve.

Some might argue that I’m attacking women with this critique. I would argue that equal rights doesn’t require that you act with equal stupidity. Somewhere along the way, we started confusing equal rights with equal “bad” behavior. Will you really feel like more of an empowered woman if you get rip-roaring drunk, puke all over the bathroom, and fail to remember the name of the person in your bed the next morning?

I always thought the point of feminism was to demonstrate that women were, at minimum, the equal of men. I’m not so sure that goal included drinking an equal amount of alcohol and swearing like a sailor. The lesson I fear we’ve failed to learn as women is that just because you can do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.



2 Responses to “Lowest Common Denominator”

  1. October 11, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    You and Rachel may have observed something more related to age and maturity than gender. Stupid doesn’t discriminate. Too much energy, too many hormones, whatever you attribute it to both men and women are dumb in their 20s. Take heart, some will outgrow it.

    I once suggested that feminism was an evil invention of a male actuary at the IRS (those greedy #$@s) who “discovered” that if it is desirable for women to work and earn money, dual incomes will result, and therefore double tax revenue.

    Imagine him presenting the idea to his male superiors:
    What if females could be tricked into thinking that work is the only way for them to advance, that an equal wage is some holy grail, and that ONLY numerical equivalence will validate them? Could we control them by simply “moving the cheese”?

  2. 2 Britt
    October 16, 2007 at 10:35 am


    I think you’re skipping over a key part of the argument. The issue is only partly about age. The bigger factor in my mind is how women have adopted traditional male behavior and defined it as empowerment.

    I never saw feminism’s main objective as encouraging females to behave as badly as males have for centuries. I always thought the point was prove that women were as capable as men when placed in similar circumstances. At the heart of it, women shouldn’t be judged just for being women.

    My biggest concern is that the question of stupidity aside, women are failing to realize that regardless of the freedom to behave badly, they will still be judged by a stricter measurement than men. An attitude of “boys will be boys” still exists. The equivalent behavior perpetuated by a woman will be judged more harshly.

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