I’ve been called a bitch, whore, slut and ugly. I’ve been excluded at the workplace and made to feel like I wasn’t good enough. I’ve been told to my face that the only reason I am successful is because I’m young and have big boobs.
Sounds like a mysogynistic nightmare, right?
Except that all of that hatred and anger came from other women. I don’t think that a man has ever verbally assaulted me. But women have. And they still DO. We think of gossip and competition as a phenomenon of high school mean girls. Unfortunately, I see it more now with women in the workplace and in my social circles than I ever did in high school.
Recently I had a client who came to me after a tough breakup. She was relieved the relationship had ended and had started a great friendship with her ex. But she was struggling to get over the fallout from the relationship. Her closest group of girlfriends wouldn’t stop judging and made her feel like a failure. She felt constantly hurt and insulted by her ex’s best friend (a woman) who had committed the last few months of their relationship to driving them apart. She had spread terrible rumors and used every opportunity to plant seeds of doubt and insecurity. Even after the relationship ended, the drama got worse.
I had a friend kicked out of her shared apartment by two girls who claimed they didn’t want to live with all women because there would be too much drama. They preferred to live with men because they were “cleaner and easier to get along with.” Not surprisingly, both girls started dating the new roommate.
I see this ALL THE TIME.
Sometimes it’s outright hatred and outspoken abuse. More often, it’s the subtle undercutting of our happiness by the women we call our friends. Even last week, I started gushing about a new crush to a group of girlfriends and one of the women sat fuming while I talked and then added “Well, don’t sleep with him until you’re in a relationship. You’re starting to get a bad reputation…” I immediately felt so hurt and embarrassed and insecure. What an unnecessary thing to say.
So I asked her about it. We talked it through. It was awkward at first and then a lot of good came out of it. We as women can make changes to our conversations to support each other rather than tear each other down. Listening to her story and hearing her experiences showed me that she really was trying to protect me, in a backwards sort of way. This gave us the opportunity to change the conversation and before jumping to conclusions I was able to show her love.
As I started to ask around about the topic of women-hating-women, I got a flood of similar stories. They were stories of outright discrimination, but because they aren’t cultural or based on gender, we don’t have the language we need to talk about it. It’s not sexism or racism or ageism. It’s just mean. There is no reason for this unnecessary anger except fear and competition.
The perpetuation of discrimination towards women is surprisingly not just an issue of misogyny. It’s a women-vs-women hatred that needs to stop.
So far, I have more questions than I do answers. So I am hosting this month’s Red Lipstick Project Book Club on Wednesday (Nov 19 at 7 p.m. at Etain on Congress Street) to ask those questions to an amazing group of women.
Please come and bring your input and experiences. I’d love to hear from a wide range of women about what we can do to support each other and how that could change our communities.
Until we start treating each other with respect, love and support – how can we expect men to do the same?