cover image Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry

Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry

Susan Shapiro Barash, . . St. Martin's, $22.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34231-9

The recent rash of books and movies about mean girls may seem to indicate a new phenomenon, but Longfellow observed about a certain little girl almost 200 years ago, "when she was good, she was very good indeed/but when she was bad, she was horrid." The 500 women gender studies scholar Barash interviewed for this exhaustively researched book on female competition confirms that women can indeed be mean. Barash outlines why women compete with each other differently than men do with other men and why women often want to sabotage powerful female rivals. Male competition is goal-oriented and limited, Barash says, while women compete over appearance, children, the workplace and relationships. Why? According to Barash, for women, competition is about identity and relationships, and they have a harder time setting boundaries to competition. Barash devotes chapters to specific areas of competition, from looks to career, and then presents real-life examples of situations in which resentment and jealousy can be used to improve one's life without destroying anyone else's. Overall, this study provides a helpful starting place for any woman wondering if it's possible to get what she wants without hurting or being hurt. (Mar.)