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Chick Fight! All Female Groups Have a Pecking Order


By now most of us are familiar with the term “pecking order,” a colloquial term originally coined byThorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe in 1921 to describe the social hierarchy that takes place amongst chickens. Almost 100 years later we are still using his model to describe the process for determining social hierarchy, amongst humans. The basic concept behind the establishment of the pecking order is that it is necessary to determine who is the 'top chicken,' who is the 'bottom chicken,' and where all the rest fit in between. The establishment of this dominance hierarchy reduces the incidence of intense conflicts. (

All animals have some form of pecking order at play within social groups and humans are no exception. When everyone agrees on what makes one person better than the other, the group functions like a well oiled machine.

Mankind leads the way through this social dynamic with the simplicity of an amoeba. When a decision has to be made between two or more men who disagree, the strongest man wins. If the two men cannot or do not wish to settle their conflict in hand to hand combat, then they will settle the score by competing in any other number of ways ranging from Xbox to table-hockey until one man comes out on top. I’ll never understand why earning the title of master golfer makes a man master over his friends, but winning the game makes this man qualified to rule the day and his male companions. This whole process works because of the unsaid agreement between all men and animals; the strongest man wins.

Girls also have a pecking order, but due to our inability to agree upon what makes one girl better than another, we constantly adjust the pyramid of popularity like a Jenga game until the whole thing comes crashing down. Our hierarchies are not fixed and depend on any number of changing factors like who was there first, who has the most knowledge, experience, talent, resources, or any other number of criteria which we can’t agree upon. Women rarely experience the one major benefit of a pecking order, the peace that is established once everyone has found their place. We can barely find our place let alone stay there. Nothing upsets the group dynamic more than when the hierarchy is in transition, which for women is always.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you are probably a beta-female, i.e. a follower. You slip in and out of groups like an old man waking from his afternoon nap. No sooner than the time it takes for the noisy info-mercial to pass, you have dosed back off before you even realized what all the racket was about. Who cares who’s conducting the train, you are just along for the ride!

If you know exactly what I mean, you are the alpha female, or at least you used to be. There is no way the undercurrent of social tension in large groups of women could pass you by. Studies show that the dominant member of the group is the most stressed out, but then again, you didn’t need me to tell you that. Being the leader of the pack can have a variety of adverse health effects including immunosuppression, increased appetite, osteoporosis etc. Perhaps this is the reason why subdominant individuals (beta girls) are so reluctant to challenge the dominant individual for their position.

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While we can’t escape social hierarchies, we can learn to navigate through them like a T-Mobile goddess weaving in and out of traffic on a motorcycle. Identify the alpha female as quickly as possible. This shouldn’t be hard. She talks loud, interjects at every opportunity, and has to let everyone know her opinion- even if it isn’t warranted. Once you have identified her you must decide whether you want to serve under her rule or rule over her. There is only room for one alpha female in every group. Decide quickly; once she feels threatened she’ll be all over you like a lioness on a gazelle. Those poor things never seem to see it coming, and you won’t either. No matter what you decide, don’t worry, things will change soon enough. It won’t be long before the hierarchal structure your group has worked so hard to develop tumbles over like a house of cards. Until then, hold tight, possession is nine-tenths of the female law.


Philomena on July 18, 2020:

This is all true. I am an INFJ. I have managed a team of women at work successfully, but in my social life, always seem to be at the bottom of the pecking order. Even in aged care, I saw how groups of women formed very distinct and ruthless hierarchies.

ziyena from the Somewhere Out There on August 03, 2013:

Very creative! Love the article ... sharing UP

Lou on May 25, 2012:

Fun read!

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