On this Women's Day, I've chosen to write about one of the less ideal aspects of women: our not-so-nice tendency to hold prejudices against other women.
Women are known to be are more generous, kind, nurturing and empathetic than men. We 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. At the same time, however, we are also capable of secretly harbouring a somewhat catty, resentful streak within us, especially towards other females.
Let's be honest here ladies, we derive much of our self-worth from how much better or worse off than us our female friends/relatives are.
Consider this scenario: You discover that the marriage of a certain brilliant and professionally competent acquaintance is failing. How many of us would (even if just in the recesses of our heart) tag the lady as being 'over-ambitious' and partly blame her for the rupture of the marriage? Many of might then inwardly pat ourselves for not being that kind of professionally driven person. Sounds familiar? There is something profoundly incongruous about people who are naturally wired to be protective and maternal to also be capable of judging their female friends for the choices they make, and then using that comparison to feel good about ourselves. Let's be honest here ladies, we derive much of our self-worth from how much better or worse off than us our female friends/relatives are.
As a personal example, when I found out that a mousy-looking, forgetful, ordinary, clumsy person way back from school was now running a successful chain of daycares, it took considerable strength of character for me to not find it disheartening. While I can't see myself running a daycare, I got to thinking that here I am, leading an ordinary life, mother of two, a part-time artist, struggling to put down my thoughts into words, and this girl who did not seem cut out to do anything remotely entrepreneurial is managing a business. Go figure! There is a sense of jealousy that arises from social comparing, from juxtaposing ourselves against other women. It's not entirely untrue when they say that women are their own worst enemies.
How many of you admit to using the word 'dumb' to describe someone you don't like, thereby asserting yourself as smart?
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 that we are of a higher status than the women we are most jealous of.
Call it competitiveness or insecurity, women are also extra-critical of other women. How many of you admit to using the word 'dumb' to describe someone 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 whole story.
I read somewhere that women are not wired to pull one another down like crabs in a bucket, but that we are conditioned to discredit so as to rise to the top. I had laughed when my four-year-old daughter said that she would rather play with the boys in her class because the girls were mean. She described how they fight with their besties, have long-lasting silent huffs and then make other friends choose between the two 'enemies'. "It's easier with the boys," my daughter explained. "We play during the break and that's all." These schoolyard differences make me think the conditioning to be catty starts pretty early on!
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.
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 the vitality of 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 a tendency that is so deeply ingrained might not come easily but by acknowledging that our reactions have come to be instinctive rather than thoughtful might help us pause. It might help us make a better choice--we might be able to admire her rather than envy her, to move towards empowering rather than discrediting her. At the end of the day the choice is for us to make.
Happy Women's Day 2016!
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