Women Are Natural-Born Stalkers, and That Can Be a Good Thing

When you become romantically interested in a guy you just met what's the first thing you do? Google him. Find him on Facebook. You gather intel (a series of photos in which he's seemingly very familiar with a pretty young woman?) which you then analyze (oh, OK, she's just his sister) to create a composite of his life (seems like he's very into "family") that you believe will lead you to have a better understanding of him as a person (yep, he wants children). Most women do some version of this in varying degrees—not because they're psychos, but because they're smart. In fact, if women weren't so good at stalking, we never would've caught Osama bin Laden.

Not to be all gender essentialist about it, but there's something about borderline-obsessive curiosity that is more in line with the personality traits of women. Maybe it's a result of being raised in a world with implicit biases regarding our behavior as females. Generally considered as physically weaker, it only makes sense that we would develop our strength through social acumen and find power in trading information.

And so women just want to know WHAT THE FUCK IS UP, like all the time and with everyone. The Kardashians have built an empire on that ethos. Entire genres of media—talk shows, tabloids, the E! channel—have been invented just to cater to an audience of nosy-ass women. "TMI" stories on the internet are typically written and enjoyed by mostly women, because for us, there's no such thing as "TM" when it comes to "I."

Ask any woman if she knows what her current boyfriend's ex-girlfriend looks like. Ask her if she knows what her ex-boyfriend's current girlfriend looks like. The answer is likely "yes." Obviously, the internet makes this kind of thing way easier for us, but decades ago—back when Facebook was just swimming around in Mark Zuckerberg's dad's balls—your mom undoubtedly had her methods of digging up shit on whatever guy she was seeing.

Like most anything traditionally associated with women, gossiping and cyberstalking are derided and disdained. Sure, when used to keep tabs on celebrities or ex-boyfriends, those activities aren't particularly noble. (But neither is watching football with your hands down your pants. We all have our own ways of passing the time.)

However, the same innate invasiveness that compels women to scour the profile pages of friends of friends of their target in search of even the smallest morsel of info is, indeed, an incredibly valuable quality that can be put to practical, professional use. In fact, the safety of American citizens relies on stalker-y women, otherwise known as CIA terrorism analysts.

It was a group of six women—known within the CIA as "The Sisterhood"—who discovered the existence of Al-Qaeda and began tracking Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s. Their story is told in the HBO documentary Manhunt.

They issued report after report warning the president of the danger of the group and that an attack was imminent, but prior to September 11, by nature of what they did—being analysts instead of operations officers—the women weren't really taken that seriously.

Barbara Sude, a former senior Al-Qaeda analyst who was interviewed for the doc said they were considered "lowly" within the CIA. "The rest of the organization didn't necessarily think much of terrorism analysts," she said. "And they said, 'Oh, the terrorism people are just tracking things. That's not a real analysis. That's just tracking things." Later, those "trackers" were key in successfully hunting down bin Laden.

Nada Bakos, one of the members of that original team, believes that women are "fantastic" at being spies/analysts. Along with their expert analysis, they used a lot of the same skill set—patience, perseverance, emotional focus—in gathering intel to catch a terrorist as the rest of us do in gathering intel before our second dates.