Over at Pandagon, Amanda has a post up commenting on John Tierney's continuing discussing of competition; specifically, how women aren't as competitive as men.
My own theory is that women are *more* competitive than men, but they hate losing so much that they will often opt out of competition rather than risk losing. Although I may be extrapolating too much from my personal feelings about winning & losing.
As I child, I hated losing - at anything - so much that I was not above cheating to win. More than once, I upended a game board when it was clear that I was going to be defeated. I was a big time sore loser.
I learned how to lose graciously when I played team sports - particularly softball. It was easier, of course, because the whole game wasn't in my hands - when we lost, I didn't have the shoulder the full blame.
(And through all of it, I was always a gracious winner - I never gloated or taunted the losers, although I will do it now when I'm playing a game with one of my brothers-in-law, just for laughs.)
Anyway, my evidence for the competitive nature of women comes from my experience in Motherhood Competition, East Coast division.
There are many divisions, of course. From the moment you are pregnant, you can participate in the "Pukiest Pregnancy"*, "Gained Most" or "Gained Least" competitions.
When the baby is born, there are competitions for "Lightest" and "Heaviest", "Most Hair", "Cutest", "Ugliest", "Longest", "Shortest", "Funniest Shaped Head". There are sub-divisions for "Longest Breastfeeder" - a very cut-throat competition - when you drop out, you will be accused of negligence and child abuse.
Things heat up in the Toddler Division: "Earliest Walker", "First to be Potty Trained", "Most Words". There is an elite group of moms that compete for their children to be the youngest baby to do everything. I suspect a lot of them shave months of their childrens age when they report in.
It doesn't stop at school, either, although the track is much different and the competition very subtle. You might not realize that volunteering to chair a carnival for the PTA will not actually move your standing any - people will still look at the way your child dresses and snicker about your attempts to move up in the Motherhood Stakes.
Most moms I've met seem to lose their zest for competing when their kids hit high school. You suddenly realize that while you signed up for a sprint, it's really a marathon, and the finish line is so far away, and the requirements for winning seem so fuzzy and ill-defined, and the child you've been proudly displaying like a show horse is really not interested in competing on your behalf - you just realize it's not worth it.
Some moms keep it up forever. We hate those moms.