Synopses & Reviews
Catfight: Women and Competition
is Leora Tanenbaum's dissection of the gender war waged among women. Tanenbaum meticulously analyzes the roots of destructive competitiveness among women, asserting that "catfights" thrive because, despite women's many gains, American women are conditioned to regard each other as adversaries rather than allies. She investigates the arenas from diets to dating, from the boardroom to the delivery room in which American women are apt to compare their lives with the lives of others in a tacit contest over who is the "better" woman, a contest in which no one wins. In a hopeful conclusion, Tanenbaum also finds two instances, one historical and one contemporary, in which women have successfully cooperated to achieve legal and social change: suffrage and sports.
Throughout Catfight, Leora Tanenbaum puts her own life experiences under the lens of scrutiny. As a writer, a friend, a mother, a wife, and a daughter, she analyzes her own insecurities and socialization, and how they influence her relations with other women. With the sociologist's perspective of a Barbara Ehrenreich and the feminist's outrage of a Gloria Steinem, Tanenbaum demythologizes the age-old "catfight."
"Although Tanenbaum provides the latest in academic research, she also includes an entertaining mix of examples from pop culture, newspaper and magazine articles and original fieldwork. She makes the subject personal....The book's accessible approach...is sure to attract even more attention for this fast-rising social critic." Publishers Weekly
"[Tanenbaum's] haphazard approach makes for an erratic read, veering from the convincingly sociological to the cringingly subjective....Cramming every indication of female division into [her] conceit of 'competition,' Tanenbaum overlooks signs of individuality (or individual neuroses, as the case may be), and sees instead a societal problem. Thus she offers concrete political solutions to the particular predicament of working mothers (better and more affordable child care), while her resolutions for the beauty and dating divides remain facile and downright embarrassing..." Amy Farley, The Village Voice
"Leora is one of the most astute and thoughtful of the new generation of feminist writers, bringing both a rare warmth and a courageous conviction to all her work." Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation and Bitch
"Tanenbaum's prose is provocative....This book is an excellent history on the evolution of the socialization of women in modern culture....But Tanenbaum refuses to recognize how competition can make us not only better women but also better people, and how this is a necessary element to succeeding in a male-dominated society that is competition-based....Despite her plentiful research, her suggestions for alleviating the 'problem' of competition among women seem trite and ineffectual." Karen Solomon, The Bay Guardian (San Francisco)
"Tanenbaum relates her own experiences and interviews a variety of women and psychologists to explore the seemingly eternal adversarial relationships that exist among women despite many recent feminist gains." Vanessa Bush, Booklist
Is the myth of the catfight real? Do women really resort to pettiness and backstabbing when in conflict with each other? Has it always been this way? With a sociologists eye and a feminists passion, Leora Tanenbaum examines what happens when women compete. She discovers that the stereotype does have a basis in fact. Whether in the classroom, the boardroom, or the delivery room, there is a kind of brutal competition between women that does not exist between men. She examines the reasons for this and discusses who really gains when women are locked in battle with each other. She also shows there is an alternative. Tanenbaum presents two major examples of women successfully working together to bring about social change: the womens suffrage movement and the battle for Title IX, which led to the rise of womens sports.
An examination of competitive behavior between women considers its unique factors, the reasons and benefits of female competition, and the converse possibilities that can occur when women unite.
About the Author
Leora Tanenbaum's first book, Slut!: Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, was critically acclaimed and widely influential. Tanenbaum has written for Newsday, Seventeen, Ms., and The Nation, among many other publications, and has appeared on a variety of national television programs. Tanenbaum lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.