Some of you might know that in my other life…
If you could get every woman into a room, what would you say about the ways we interact with each other? I don’t believe any woman thinks she’s in competition with every other woman. However all of us have experienced moments where unwarranted rivalry and antagonism have reared their ugly heads. I don’t think women themselves are to blame, but I do think there is a cultural issue to be discussed.
A woman is not always arrogant because she’s smart, pretty, strong etc.
There is a culture of competitiveness and jealousy amongst many women that still lingers strong and too many of us buy into it. Some might say it is more prevalent in the younger teens to twenties set, but even outside of this, it exists. Any woman reading this can likely pick an aspect of themselves and recall a time in which they were made to feel ‘too’ something. Be it too smart, too opinionated, too independent, too prudish, too sexual, too ugly to be noticed, too pretty to be taken seriously. Yes, men can be our accusers, but there’s something particularly sad when women fall victim to their insecurities by turning on each other.
And often there are entire female friendship groups that revolve around bringing other women down, subversive jealousy becomes their reason for bonding. What they are doing is perpetuating the notion that women are only allowed to stand out when it is comfortable for others. Outspoken and opinionated women pay the price for their courage. They are discounted as ‘crazy’ or ‘off hand’ and in many cases other women are their biggest critics.
I had an experience recently where one of my articles was published on both a male dominated and female dominated website. While I got mostly open-minded conversation from people on the men’s site, on the women’s website the initial reaction was an excess of mean-spirited criticism. The most telling incident was when one woman criticized a point, only for a man to come along and defend what I’d said, after which she decided she agreed.
I asked a few friends why they thought this might have happened. Some assertions were that some women don’t know how to back each other up, that our society breeds an air of rivalry. It pits women against each other and puts less weight on the validity of their opinions. Another idea was that in a society where men often have the upper hand, they feel less threatened and therefore it is easier for them to be less critical. The friend who suggested this went on to explain that women are so used to the onslaught of judgment and competition that it seems like a betrayal when another woman questions their world or dares to speak up. Thus you get a scenario where the abused becomes the abuser.
Sex, virginity and what one wears is highly overrated.
“In ten years you’ll wish you stood beside your shared sex rather than be proud you belittled their choices & agency.” Caitlin Stasey via Twitter.
I don’t dispute both women are allowed their opinions, but what concerned me was the flood of hatred directed at Caitlin by the media and various pundits. News sites and observers (who were mostly female) readily referred to Ms Stasey as a slut, citing her recent acting roles involving graphic nudity. One news outlet even went so far as to refer to her as a “bizarre, raving, sexual lunatic”. Most disturbing of all was the number of women who fervently agreed and asserted that women should be – and dress – ‘modest’.
I don’t recall anyone calling Hugh Jackman a slut for his role in the most recent X-Men movie (he’s just one example). But I do recall watching the movie in the theatre and how the audience whooped and hollered with glee as he climbed out of bed, naked and post implied sex scene. I am yet to see anyone, male or female, tell him to hide his body and so far he continues to be god-like in his open sexuality. The problem for Ms Stasey and the reason she is persecuted for her ‘lack of modesty’, is the amount of politics loaded onto women’s bodies. A man with his shirt off is nothing special, but if a woman does the same, for some reason it’s an issue of great consequence. And a woman who has taken her shirt off seems to no longer be allowed to have a valid opinion about anything.
What I seek to point out is that sex and appearance are too often used as a yardstick to measure what a ‘real woman’ is. Real women have curves. Real women cover up. Real women monitor the number of sexual partners they have. These statements become a currency, which women must be careful to spend wisely. We should still appear ‘approachable’ but not so much as to invite shame. It gets to the point where we have a culture of women who ‘slut shame’, they throw the word at each other largely because it is a term they fear being called themselves.
Men, Marriage and Babies and how we approach them are an individual choice.
There is usually a certain level of pressure amidst female friendship groups when it comes to the topics of men and babies. Much of this pressure is well meaning, but much of it is also unneeded. It refers to a culture where it is hard to fathom that a woman of single status might actually be happy. I’ve lost count of the celebrity breakup stories where the female within the relationship is depicted as more sad and desperate than the man.
Despite the best intentions from friends, what often underlies the advice and the offers to set their friends up on dates, is a belief that women who choose to hold off or never go down the family route do so out of lack of choice. This ‘help’ is offered without fully believing that aspirations really can differ when it comes to such personal life choices as love and family. We need to let our friends be, boyfriends and babies don’t have to equate to happiness. I say this as a (former) meddling friend – unless the advice is requested – assume your friends are happy, with or without the partner or children.
And while on the topic of men…
If you have a boyfriend/ husband try not to think the worst of their female friends. Despite what popular belief dictates, not all women are trying to ‘steal your man’, it really is possible to ‘just be friends’ with the opposite sex.
When it comes to your female friends, do not let a man’s presence bust up your closeness. Do not assume your girlfriend’s interaction with your partner equates to an interest to make a move.
If there’s a man you like, but he is interested in one of your friends, don’t take the perceived rejection out on your friend. Give both people your blessings and honor their ability to make choices for themselves.
Let other women be your compass.
If there’s nothing else you get from this article, it should be that the world isn’t going to see our full potential if we cannot see it within each other. When we buy into the notion that other women are competition to be run down and judged, we become the victims of what we are trying to outrun and we become our own jailer.
Look for the commonalities in the interactions with other women, not the differences. Our experiences run parallel and there are moments where knowledge can be shared and mistakes can be avoided. Respect, support and encourage, so that these things may be the fuel that keeps us going; rather than wage the invisible war we’ve been programmed to fight amongst ourselves.
Statements such as “I prefer hanging out with guys over girls” need to become obsolete, they are not something to be proud of and not much better than the backstabbing and self-policing that already exists. We need to guard each other, lose the gossip and focus on seeing the joy that can come from great female friends.
Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.
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