Why Do Women Hate Women?
We’ll never get ahead if we delight in each other’s downfall.
Recently, a female friend of mine remarked that she preferred being friends with men, rather than women. She smiled as she said that she found men easier to get along with. “They don’t always talk about clothes, makeup, men or children, are not so critical, and most of all, they are less vicious and jealous than women. Women hate other women.” Almost immediately, she realized that she made a faux-pas and changed the subject.
Initially I felt resentful about what she had said. ‘Typical’, I thought, ‘here’s another example of women hating women.’ But then it got me thinking – was there any truth in what she said? Are women really that critical and vicious, particularly with other women? Do women judge other women more 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. Or the times I saw a girlfriend relish in criticizing another woman based on any range of issues, from her looks to her character to who she dates, etc, like: “She’s put on weight since the last time I saw her – that dress seems a little tight, doesn’t it?” Or passive-aggressive snips, like “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.
And I certainly know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of harsh and unfounded remarks.
Do these situations sound familiar? Many women are instinctively wary of another woman who is better looking, and happy to find fault in them. Look at the comments that are made about female stars, every time they gain half a pound or step out looking less than perfect. Or how viciously we comment about pretty women when they start losing their looks.
These comments are not all made by women – men can be just as bad or worse. But how many times do women make similar comments about a man?
Actor Ashley Judd speaks about this in her blog, citing the unkind comments directed at her when her face appeared bloated in photographs. The actor had to clarify that the puffiness was due to flu and sinus medication, and not plastic surgery. But even if it had been from plastic surgery — why should we criticize her for that? Why not, instead, have empathy about how we all live in a society that puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on women to stay young looking? Ashley Judd also mentioned 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.”
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 sexist 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 cruel to their own sex? One reason could be that women have been conditioned to accept the patriarchal view – that is, women need to be put down, bullied and discriminated against to keep them oppressed. 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, wrinkles, ambition and defects, while women do not.
In the workplace specially, it is easier for a female 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.
Yes, perhaps a lot of it has to do with social conditioning over centuries. But then… wait a moment. Half of society is comprised 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 continue to discriminate against women? Why do we feel competitive and insecure around beautiful women? As bosses, why don’t we mentor our female employees, and as employees why don’t we support female bosses?
Yes, society, religion, the media, and even Disney pits women against women. But that is not an excuse — we must educate ourselves so that we can rise above our conditioning. The fight against gender inequality can never be won if we continue to propagate gender injustice. Women need to stand together in support of each other and work to bring about a change in society. 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.