Are Women Their Own Worst Enemies?
Recently, this woman whom I have known casually for some time, suddenly mentioned in the course of a conversation, that she preferred being friends with men. She smiled as she said that she found men easier to get along with than women. “They don’t always talk about clothes, makeup, men or children, are not so critical, and most of all, they are less vicious to me than my own sex. Women hate other women.” Of course, she realized immediately that she had made a faux pas and changed the subject.
I initially felt rather resentful about what she said. ‘Typical’, I thought, ‘here’s another woman who thinks she is a cut above the rest of us.’ But then it set me thinking – was there any truth in what she said. Are women really critical and vicious, particularly with their own sex? Why do women judge other women so harshly?
While we would hate to admit it, there could be a grain of truth in what she said. I remember the countless times when I have heard a woman make a less than flattering comment about another woman’s appearance. “She’s put on weight since the last time I saw her – that dress seems a little tight, doesn’t it?”
Do these situations sound familiar? Perhaps many among us will protest that such statements are sexist and chauvinistic. But are they entirely untrue? Many women are instinctively wary of another woman who is better looking. Look at the comments that are made about female stars, every time they gain half a pound or step out looking less than perfect. Look how viciously we comment about pretty women when they age and start losing their looks.
These comments are not all made by men – women do their bit. But how many times do women make similar comments about a man? Or “She’s lost weight. Of course, she spends a lot of time looking after herself. I myself hardly find the time – I am so busy looking after my family, you know. I like to do all the housework myself”. The implication being that the other woman who lost weight is a narcissist who neglects her family.
Actor Ashley Judd speaks about this in her blog, citing the unkind comments that were directed at her when her face appeared bloated in some photographs. The actor had to clarify that the puffiness was due to flu and sinus medication, and not plastic surgery. She also mentions how she was called a pig and cow when she gained weight, and states that “this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact. That they are professional friends of mine, and know my character and values, is an additional betrayal.”
Many working women will tell you that women are as bad as men when it comes to discrimination.
And are things any different at the workplace? We keep talking of how men discriminate against women at work – but do women treat each other any better? Many working women will tell you that women are as bad as men when it comes to discrimination. Most women openly say that would prefer to work for a male boss, and women bosses have been criticized for being more supportive to male employees.
If this is true, the question is why. Why are women so critical and almost cruel to their own sex? One reason could be that women have been conditioned to accept the patriarchal view of things – that is, women need to be put down, bullied and discriminated against. So unconsciously, we do the same. We are cruel and vicious with women, but not with men, because we accept that men should not be criticized – they have the right to their follies and defects, while women have not.
In the workplace specially, it is easier for a woman boss to side with the men and treat women as inferior. That way she blends right in with her male colleagues and also eliminates any competition for herself from other women.
Half of the society comprises of women, so should we not accept part of the blame?
Yes, perhaps a lot of it has to do with social conditioning over centuries. But then, wait a moment. Half of the society comprises of women, so should we not accept 50 percent of the blame? As women, we face discrimination every day. So why don’t we support another woman when she is discriminated against? Why do we ourselves continue to discriminate against our own daughters and other women in the family? As bosses, why don’t we mentor our female employees, and as employees why don’t we support female bosses?
Yes, society, religion and all systems discriminate against women. But that is not an excuse for us women to be against one another. The fight against gender inequality can never be won if we ourselves continue to propagate gender injustice. Women need to stand together in support of each other and work together to bring about a change in attitude of the society. And no, we don’t need to start protest marches or burn bras – I think we can achieve a lot if we simply choose to support each other and stand together as a sisterhood.
So let’s do it – support and care for each other and make sure that when a woman needs help, it is always available to her – especially from other women.