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We speak about sexism shown by men from a position of privilege. Do we also speak about the prejudices shown by women toward other women?
On this Women’s Day, I have chosen to write on a topic that doesn’t talk about women in a romanticized way, but tackles head on, an honest fact check of a not-so-nice feature we women could change.
Women are known to be are more generous, kind, nurturing and empathetic than men. We women are not known to start wars based on religion. When it comes to looking beyond ‘false appearances’, most of us consider ourselves more evolved than our male counterparts. We generally believe in the greater good of humankind. Now, the same bunch of us are also capable of secretly harbouring a somewhat catty, grouchy streak within us, especially towards other women.
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Consider this scenario. You uncover that a certain brilliant and professionally competent acquaintance has had a failed marriage. How many of us would in a teeny weeny measure, tag the lady for being ‘over-ambitious’ and partly blame her for the fall-out? We will then inwardly pat ourselves for not being ‘that’ kind of professional driven person. Sounds familiar?
There is something profoundly unsound for a person who is naturally wired to be protective and maternal to be also capable of judging our female friends for the choices they make and making ourselves feel good about ourselves based on that. Let’s be honest here, us ladies, we like to appraise our sense of self-worth by judging on how much better or worse our female friends/relatives are doing.
A personal example – I can’t see myself running a day-care. But when I found out that a mousy looking, forgetful, ordinary, clumsy person way back from school is now running a successful chain of day-cares, it took considerable strength of character in me, to not find that disheartening. I mean here I am leading the ordinary life, mother of two, a part-time artist, struggling to put down my thoughts into words, and this girl who was not cut out to do anything remotely entrepreneurial is managing a business. Go figure!
There is a sense of jealousy we relish from social comparing, it comes about from juxtaposing ourselves with other women. Clearly, it is not entirely untrue when they say, that women are their own enemies.
Compared to men (who try to impress the opposite sex), we are solidly into the business of impressing/outdoing our own. We look at ourselves in the mirror and want the mirror to send a signal of being at a higher status than the women we find we feel most jealous about. Call it competitiveness or insecurity, women are found to be extra critical of others of their sort.
How many of you admit to using the word ‘dumb’ to describe someone who you don’t like, thereby asserting yourself as smart? ‘too fat’, ‘too slim’, ‘too sensual’, ‘too plain’, ‘too smart’, ‘too domesticated’, ‘too bossy’, ‘too shabby’, ‘too uptight’, and sometimes when there is no adjective to go with the ‘too’ we dislike a person just because. We must be the only tribe that judges one of their own so harshly on the choices they make, without understanding the narrative or the whole story.
I have read that women are not wired to pull one another down like the crabs in a bucket, but that we are conditioned to discredit so as to rise to the top. I had laughed when my 4 year old daughter said that she would rather play with the boys in her class than girls, because girls are mean. They fight with their besties, then don’t talk with each other for several days, make other friends choose between them she says… “it’s just too much work, mumma, with boys it’s just so much easier, we play during the break and then that’s all to it”. You see what I mean by ‘we are conditioned to the cattiness from early on’?
Women are known to value collaboration over isolation. Motherhood programs us to cultivate bonds of a lifetime and to understand that in the larger scheme of things we are all dependent on one another for vitality of the humankind. It’s time we focus on valuing each other for our individuality, and respect other women for the choices they make, even if we don’t understand them.
Pushing past something that is ingrained into us deep enough to become second nature might not come easily. But acknowledging the spirit that drives us to be cynical might perhaps help us to make a better choice between outrightly discrediting another woman or empowering her, between envying or admiring her. At the end of the day the choice is for us to make.
Happy Women’s Day 2016!
Image source: mean girls by Shutterstock.
Writer/artist. Combining my artwork with creative writing as a medium to put forth my
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