Women Avoid Revealing Clothing in Order to Avoid Aggression From Other Women

a dressform bust with fabric wrapped around it
Image by Chellbie / CC BY

A while back, I was talking to a woman who in general really liked her new mother-in-law. (As we noted in an earlier installment of these series, this is not uncommon; many women get along great with their mothers-in-law, in spite of cultural jokes that would suggest otherwise.)

However, the woman I was talking to had run into one hitch with her mother-in-law, their very first. Her female relatives had thrown her a bachelorette party. As part of this, my friend was taken off to a strip club where men were performing a show.

The strip club in question was largely filled with women, who were there to ogle the male performers. Some of the female attendees were quite scantily clad themselves, essentially in club wear.

My friend recounted great surprise — and great disappointment — as she witnessed her mother-in-law, a person she generally admired and got along with, slut shaming these other women for what they wore.

I was sympathetic but not surprised.

In general, this has been my experience with many other women. While I find it does happen more frequently among straight women and particularly straight women who are a bit older, even now I’ll have a shocking moment where a young woman who loves other woman will indeed insult another woman for wearing too little in public. (A standard which shifts depending on the observer’s biases, of course.)

And it turns out that this general phenomenon is also captured quite well in a recent study.

Women Expect Aggression For Wearing Revealing Clothing, But Only From Women Who Don’t Know Them Already

A recent set of studies found the following:

  • Women were more aggressive towards women who dress in revealing clothing.
  • Both men and women were aware of this tendency and knew to anticipate this aggression from one woman to another.
  • Women who were planning to attend an all-female gathering chose more modest clothing than those who were planning to attend a gathering where both men and women would be present.
  • This tendency to dress more modestly in all-female gatherings was most pronounced in the women who rated themselves most attractive.
  • Notably, when women were dressing to meet a preexisting female friend, they did not follow these same patterns of dressing more modestly. The patterns were noted for when women met other women they did not already know.

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This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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