A recent study called “Frenemies, Fraitors, and Mean-em-aitors’: Priming effects of viewing physical and relational aggression in the media on women,” demonstrated the effects of watching aggressive behavior between women on the behavior of the women watching — you know, your Basketball Wives, your Housewives, your Mob Wives…all of those wives. It probably comes as no surprise that women who watched scenes of other women behaving badly were in turn affected by it.
The study had 250 female college students watch three types of scenes: one depicting physical aggression like knife fights and murder, one showing relational aggression like gossip-spreading and friendship fights, and a third that was simply a horror scene. Researchers then measured reaction times when aggressive or neutral words flashed on a screen and found that subjects “who had watched either aggressive film clip ascribed more meaning to words connected with aggression.” In other words, they took the both the violent and the “frenemy” scenes to heart.
Researchers explain that “this matters because relational aggression tends to be considered more socially acceptable — it’s often portrayed on television as funny and how friends treat each other. Yet, several studies are starting to show that relational aggression can cause long-term harm.” Much like the link between viewing violence and seeing violence as the norm, the link between watching people treat each other poorly and doing so yourself like it’s no big deal is becoming established in the scientific community.
I have to wonder what the results would be like if the subjects were men instead of women, and further why society continues to focus on conflict between women as this singular phenomenon and not just plain old aggression that, like violence, is just in bad form.