Indeed, feminism evolved conceptually largely in response to the need for adapting domestic female culture to the predominantly-male business world. With it's emphasis on equality and sisterhood, feminism (Equity feminism, mind you -- this was before Gender Feminism declared holy war on all things XY and poisoned the well) was supposed to be about women helping women compete in a man's world.
Of course, that happens so often it's comic. As female managers deal with countless petty personal attacks on their leadership in the form of constant gossip among her female subordinates, they have to contend with a far different range of expectations from their female employees than their male employees. Their male employees, for the most part, stick to the male-hierarchical business model and are actually more likely to treat a female boss impartally and objectively, looking at her performance and leadership before allowing their personal feelings to enter into their judgment.
But the Crab Basket is a vicious place. Her female subordinates will often be brutal critics - not of her performance as a leader, but of her personal life, and use that as the basis of their level of cooperation.
As Dr. Drexler reports, women in a subordinate role to other women -- particularly younger women -- will often inspire a "mothering" reflex in them. She recounts one woman who had a string of female
That's key to the Crab Basket model: when all of those women are pulling you back down to their level, they aren't being malicious . . . they genuinely think that they are "helping" you.
Call it the "Bless Her Heart" stratagem that is extremely popular here in the South. When a woman gains accolades or achievement that singles her out -- sends her to the top of the Crab Basket -- then the FSM prohibits open activity against her, because that violates the Matrix's rules. Direct confrontation is an affront to the dignity of femininity, or something like that. You can't go after another woman directly without appearing to be a Bitch (which is something of a mixed blessing in the corporate Matrix).
There's a great example of this in that most estrogen-poisoned of environments, the Disney tween drama.
Blame my Daughter and my grandmother for why I know this. Fuck you.
In particular the film Ice Princess, starring Michelle Trachtenburg (from Buffy) and Hayden Panetierre (from Heros) as rival figure skating students under the same Queen Bee coach (Kim Cattrall). Michelle's character is a brainiac nerdling who uses the power of physics to skate well, and (surprise!) has a talent for it. Hayden is the bratty daughter of the icy skating coach whose own Olympic dreams were dashed, and who is now living vicariously and viciously through her daughter's competitive hopes.
The coach decides Michelle's character is too much of a threat for her daughter's chances . . . but instead of actively sabotaging her, ala a regular villain, she instead . . . buys her new skates.
The coach "helps out" Michelle's character because it is, technically, "assistance": Michelle had been wearing crappy skates to a competition and couldn't afford new ones. So the coach "thoughtfully" buys a brand-new, expensive pair of skates for her. Michelle was thrilled . . . and then wrecked the competition because the skates were new, unbroken in, and sabotaged her performance. Her daughter later calls her on the unfairness of it -- as a novice skater, Michelle has no idea that skates need to be "broken in" before being used in a performance. She tries to compete, she shreds her feet and botches her routine, and blames herself for the failure . . . with the kind and caring assistance of her coach.
Then Hayden busts her mom for "helping" Michelle, because she knows exactly what her mom did by exploiting her rival's ignorance.
That's just one good solid example of the Crab Basket in action. The claws that come grasping and reaching for the offending achiever are always doing so ostensibly out of a sense of love and concern, not hate or rivalry.
Most women know this instinctively, thanks to their multi-track communication modes. When a man hears, "Would it be helpful if I came over and gave you a hand around the house?" from his sister-in-law, to him it's a friendly offer. To his wife, it's a tacit condemnation on her skills as a wife and mother.
No, Dudes, really.
This element of the Crab Basket has to be seen in light of the Hamster Wheel of collective femininity. Essentially the "bless her heart" motivation is the rationalization of competitive behavior as assistance, with compassion during crisis being placed at the highest level of female values. Everyone's buddies and BFFs and the basket is stable . . . until a crab shows weakness. That weakness is an opportunity to strike, while gaining Matrix points for the overt demonstration of assistance.
Another example: Ms. Apple is the head of her department, and is not just doing well, she's doing very, very well. Numbers are up. Employees are motivated. Making good decisions. Getting noticed by those higher up. In good ways and bad ways. And the more she rises, the more she comes under scrutiny and criticism over her personal life - which everyone in the Matrix seems to (or claims to) know all about. As long as she doesn't fuck up, they have to keep their claws under the table.
But then, say, Ms. Apple's mother gets cancer and needs chemo, and she has to take time off to care for her. She files an FMLA and takes leave for the purpose, assured that she will have a job when she comes back from her crisis. In the meantime, she does what she can to prepare for her absence. If she's any good, she'll be able to to delegate enough to subordinates, post-pone non-essentials, and monitor affairs remotely if necessary, to put out any fires. It's a hassle, it's a pain, but it's necessary and Ms. Apple can handle it.
But the moment the scent of crisis is loose upon the Matrix, Ms. Apple's "need" for compassion turns into an opportunity to exploit a weakness. By "helping" her. To death.
Her female boss (who has been growing more and more threatened by Ms. Apple's success and inevitable rise in the company) moves in and assumes an executive role in a time of crisis. She assures Ms. Apple that things will be just fine in her absence because everyone cares so deeply about her and what she's going through. Open displays of sympathy that visibly break normal work protocol may abound. Cards. Flowers. Fund raising. The more agitation that the Matrix can generate around the "wounded" member, the more points available for everyone.
Then the deeply sympathetic boss completely re-organizes Ms. Apple's department and workflow to "help" her become more efficient. That is, run more to her liking. She'll appear matronly and concerned to the rest of the staff, which preserves her position in the Matrix -- hell, it improves it. Bestowing Compassion is an automatic 50 points. Compassion In A Position Of Leadership is double that.
But it doesn't stop there -- the Matrix is ubiquitous, and the weakness is an opportunity for everyone. Ms. Apple's female subordinates take advantage of her absence to advance themselves shamelessly, "helping out" Ms. Apple by taking away cherished projects, key client relationships or plumb assignments. They'll sign a card and chip in five bucks, too, just for the cheap points. Generosity In A Time Of Crisis is a cool 200, They'll simultaneously begin sabotaging Ms. Apple's efforts subtly, working through the Matrix with gossip and speculation ("Did you see how haggard she's looking? She's aged ten years since March! Bless her heart, she loves her Mama! And did you say she only offered you ten percent? Mr. Banana, I can go fifteen . . . I have no idea why she wouldn't treat you right. Must be the stress.")
Even her female allies will accidentally work against her, in the name of "helping" her. Phone calls, texts and emails keeping her appraised of the corporate Matrix re-positioning can call even more attention to her. Attempts to defend her turf by her loyalists can result in even further loss of power and position, and can endanger their own positions.
Of course, by the time Ms. Apple comes back from FMLA, her mom might be better . . . but her career is screwed. The law says she has a job to come back to . . . it doesn't say it has to be her old job. She could even wind up as assistant to her former subordinate ("You were gone so long, we just couldn't be without a leader that long . . .") and subordinate to her former rival ("Judy knew it would take you a while to get back up to speed . . . I'm sure this is just temporary, until you've recovered") and safely neutralized as a threat by her former boss.
But gosh, everyone's just oozing with compassion, worry, and concern. Did you see that card? Everyone signed it.
And goddess help her if she becomes entangled with a man -- or even a rumor of one -- while she's gone.
One little "I thought I saw her the other day at a restaurant when she was supposed to be taking her mother to the doctor . . . and you should have seen the guy she was with!" whispered in the break room and it's all over.
Mere speculation of her personal life, with a built-in opportunity for judgment and loss of position, is when the claws really come out from under the table. It doesn't have to be true. It just has to seem to be true, or true enough to sound good to the woman in Accounting. Concern becomes an opportunity for judgement and criticism. And it is always personal.
While all of this is happening, the men in the office are largely clueless or impotent. They have neither the tools nor the knowledge of how to deal with this level of Matrix activity. All they see is a lot of whispering, a lot of cards and flowers, a lot of posturing, and a lot of speculation on what might or might not happen to Ms. Apple.
Any attempt by a male to dissuade the women from going after Ms. Apple's position will result in a united
front of the corporate Matrix chastising him for his lack of compassion -- can't he see that everyone wants only what is best for Ms. Apple, they love her so? Female rivals, allies, subordinates, and superiors will all insist that they are acting out of a sense of love and compassion while they effectively hamstring Ms. Apple's position. Every crab in the basket is insisting that they are helping Ms. Apple as she gets pushed lower down the Basket. If you're a dude and you know what's actually going on, it can be ghastly to watch.
It's the difference between "Is there anything I can do to help?" and "LET me help you . . . no, really, I insist!" So the next time you see some up-and-coming shining example of female success about to storm the glass ceiling and take the job you covet, pay attention to just how quickly her fortunes turn around through indirect attacks and social manipulation when she's going through a "rough patch". As a dude, you're actually pretty lucky. You don't have to do a thing. The Matrix will take care of her for you. The collective weight of their Hamster Wheels will flatten a female rival far quicker than mere out-production.
Oh, if you're a Black Knight you can muddy the waters with a little disinformation mumbled in the right ear, to either hurt or help her ("Cancer? Funny, I heard she was interviewing for a Director-level position with our biggest competitor." is one that can throw the Matrix into a tizzy, for example.) While it is generally ungentlemanly and unclassy to bring up a personal issue when competing with a rival, don't forget that Ms. Apple would not hesitate mentioning that she saw your truck in the parking lot of a strip club to your female boss, if she has the chance.
So if you really want to fuck with a Ms. Apple's career, the quickest and most direct way is to casually mention a potential indiscretion of hers to pretty much anyone in the Matrix. Mention just once how you saw her flirt with a married dude to the "wrong" node in the Matrix, and she's toast. No one in the FSM likes a woman who will flirt with another woman's husband, even if they do so regularly on their own. Unless Ms. Apple is a confirmed lesbian, that's all the rationalization the FSM needs to tear her apart in abstentia.
So be aware of the hazards of the Crab Basket, regardless of your gender. You can't avoid it. It's How Things Are, no matter how many feminists rants and sisterhood chants you hear.
Watch what they do. Not what they say. That's what will clue you in.