It seems to be quite a natural phenomenon, and isn't that sad?

Women versus women, often escalating into the worst kind of social torture and passive aggressive exclusion. 

In an age of inequality (still), women are each other's best allies. For some reason, a lot of women still prefer to attack instead defend their fellow female.

It'a a bit depressing. 

Why are women mean to each other?

According to this article from the New York Times, it's a combination of anxiety, an acuteness to social standings, insecurity, and the environment we were raised in. 

Makes sense: how many women do we know are cruel to other women out of jealousy or a feeling of inadequacy? How many times do we snap to the negative when we feel threatened in our social standing?

It's not necessarily a bad thing: just because we think nasty things from time to time is natural. We all do it, and just because you might gripe about another woman in your head every once and a while doesn't mean you'll act on those emotions, or that you even truly meant what you thought.

But there's the issue: acting on these feelings. This is where women run into problems with each other. We often do take action, and may even find pleasure, in putting another woman down.

This also counts for what we say in our heads. Yes, sometimes we're not angels, and we're not supposed to be. You may have a snarky moment. Fine. But indulging and continuing on a track of bad-mouthing against someone who doesn't deserve it (or even someone who does) is just as bad, for yourself and for others. 

i've been the victim and the aggressor, and i'm not proud of either

I've had my fair share of experiences as the victim and the aggressor. Neither situation made me feel as if I accomplished anything.

I once felt threatened by a girl who I thought was popular. I was jealous of the way she seemed to attract friends. 

Did I use this experience to befriend her and get to know how she uses her confidence?

Not exactly. Instead I talked a lot of trash about her behind her back. Naturally, word travelled to her immediately. While I was expecting backlash, she treated me as she always had: with kindness. I don't think I've ever felt so much shame in my life.

This saving grace doesn't happen all the time, and some of you might be thinking: Better to be the one in power than the one taking a beating

Some research might disagree:

Further, when women bully they can elevate their own feelings by diminishing those of others, as they gossip, discount, reject, demean and exclude the focus of their enmity. These behaviors sabotage any opportunity for direct, honest and healthy friendship.
— dr. gail gross, huffington post

Is power defined by the loss of true, genuine relationships? Would we really want to sacrifice our own chance at connection and friendship in favor for false feelings of dominance? Would we really want to cover our own insecurities and push away the people that would accept us for those insecurities anyway by treating others like crap?

On the other side, women who stand aside in the face of female bullying aren't great efforts at progress either.

 Photo by  Louis Seigal

Photo by Louis Seigal

let's talk about the victims of female bullying

There is no excuse for bullying, period. Shame, ridiculously enough, is already abundant in the female community without the addition of female bullying. 

Out of all the players in female bullying, the victim has the hardest experience. This doesn't mean, however, that victims don't play a part in taking down bullying.

The following are two parts of my life where I could have made more of my experience as a victim:

I joined an improv group my freshmen year of college. One actress did not take a liking to me. She made sure that the other women in the group did not treat me kindly.

This also, interestingly enough, spread to the men. One of my most painful memories is being in a sketch with two actors. Every time I tried to speak they would interrupt me. They even turned their backs on me and excluded me from the scene, right in front of the rest of the cast.

This was not an unusual experience. I remember feeling as if I were walking into a nightmare each time I went to improv class. Did anyone stand up for me? No, not even my closest friend at the time. 

Here's the bigger problem: did I stand up for myself? No. Why the hell was I even going back? Stubbornness? A willingness to learn?

No, and no. I wanted to belong, and I focused on trying to see what I could do to make myself more appeasing. Eventually I went because I was angry, and I would show them that they didn't have any power over me.

You see what's wrong with this situation, right? Not only was I taking the treatment without complaint, but I also ended up giving them all of my power, and all of my self-worth.

In another instance, I was helping to shoot an information video for UBS financial services (I wrote about another experience with them here).

This time I was assisting with audio. The spokeswoman was a high-level financial advisor. When I asked her if she could count to ten for an audio check, she replied, for all the room to hear: "I bet you'd like my pin number instead."

Did I say anything? Not a word. My silence let her know that her behavior was okay.

A female bully is only as powerful as those who give it to her.

We all have a part to play. We all have to contribute to the end of female bullying and the strength of female relationships. We cannot afford to be separated.

We need to strengthen our relationships with other women. To do this we need to focus on our own well-being and confidence. Wellness of self allows us to contribute to the world with strength and love.

There are multiple ways we can go about achieving this, but one easy way we can start is by encouraging a change in our mindsets.

Let's get back to the shit-talking and impulses to act on thoughts and feelings that spring from insecurities. When you find yourself in these situations, take a moment. Think:

Is it spurred by my own insecurities? Why exactly do I feel threatened/anxious/etc.? Am I having a bad day? Or did I just have a nasty thought?

Guess what? Any answer is fine, but as the smart, badass women we are, we should recognize by now that over-indulging or acting on those thoughts sends us in the opposite direction of progress.

We are each other's greatest allies. Our revolution for change, for equality, isn't over. As long as we focus that bad energy towards each other, it never will be.

Honoring your fellow she-warrior honors yourself.

Let's realize that we can gather strength in each other, let's see that just because we're jealous or uncomfortable of another woman's appearance/success/whatever it is, we actually know nothing about her or her struggles.

When you respect your fellow woman, you are saying that you feel you are enough, that you are great just the way you are, that you accept yourself as a flawed, beautiful woman. You honor yourself by honoring the women around you.

And again, you'll never completely get rid of the bad words in your head. Some days you'll just be mad. There's always someone who makes us feel a little uncomfortable about ourselves. You know what? You're okay.


What do you think?



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