Women pretend that they don’t hate each other, but it’s a waste of our time. Women say, “Hey girlfriend!” when what they mean is, “I hate you so much right now. I hate you so much right now. I hate you so much right now!” Women will smile, hug and say nice things to your face and criticise you behind your back.
Yes, men hate each other too, but they’re more honest about it. If women were honest, we would admit that we act extra nice to mask our dislike of another woman. We would tell the truth about feeling competitive when we encounter powerful women. We would admit to having fantasies of Chenai being blinded by her mascara drenched lashes, tripping over her six inch heels and falling flat on her high cheek-boned face.
I used to think that mean-spiritedness amongst women was an adolescent phase that ends when you leave high school. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve seen how women don’t get over hating each other, we just get better at hiding it. Maybe you’re a sceptic who believes that the cat-fighting, gossiping and back-biting woman is just a myth. In this post, I’m going to show you that there’s a lot of truth in what the media portrays.
My aim is to be painfully honest because this is the first step towards growth. I’m going to draw from conversations I’ve had with women about this issue and provide a clear picture of what it looks like, why it exists and how we can successfully overcome it.
An Everyday Scenario
She walks through the door and the reactions go through the room like a Mexican wave. The men in the room will stop breathing for a solid ten seconds and will lose brain function for a few minutes. The women’s reactions, on the other hand, won’t be so obvious, but you can be sure that there’s an internal audit going on. Here’s what Chenai, a woman in the room is thinking:
Ah, it is so typical of her to make a grand entrance just so she can get all the attention. The invitation said semi-formal and she shows up in a ball gown and her mother’s pearls. How can someone who has three kids still have the perfect boob-to-hip-to-waist-to-thigh ratio? Either we’re not praying to the same god or there’s a surrogate involved somewhere. Clearly it’s a surrogate. I wouldn’t put it past her, she’s probably the small house of some rich man, and she can afford it.
Everyone is thinking it, but no one says anything because women have a Sister Code that says that we should never display open hostility towards each other. You must play nicely with other little girls. You compliment her on her outfit, comment on her beautiful necklace, and smile at her sweetly even if all you’re thinking about is what a perfectly annoying little snob she is!
As women, we encounter scenarios like this every day. Sometimes you’re Chenai, other times you’re on the receiving end of the hatred. When I look back on my female friendships and where we started, I realise that I disliked many of them in the beginning. Why? Most of the time it was because I took the role of a critic and made up my mind about them before I even knew them.
The way that women relate to each other has everything to do with the mind-sets towards women that we have developed over time.
Attitudes Towards Sexuality
We are quick to judge another woman that we perceive as overtly sexual or sexually promiscuous. Note that the word used is ‘perceive’ because this attitude is very rarely grounded in fact. We draw conclusions about a woman based on the way she’s dressed or what we perceive to be flirtatious or attention-seeking behaviour. The stereotype about the housewives meeting at the fence to gossip about the single neighbour who comes home at all times of the night is true because we have seen it happen.
In our communities, women are held to a higher sexual standard. The sexually promiscuous woman is stigmatised, whereas the sexually promiscuous man is accepted. Both men and women eagerly enforce these rules, veiling the double standard with words like, ‘be modest’, ‘have some self-respect’ and ‘value your body.’ How do we cure ourselves of this hypocrisy?
Firstly, you must have sexual standards, they are essential for governing what is right and wrong. Secondly, you must apply them equally to both men and women and get out of the mind-set that reinforces the double standard. Thirdly, make up your mind that you will never use them as weapon of character assassination against another woman, even if you think you have every right to.
Poverty Mentality vs Abundance Mentality
The poverty mentality is based on the economic principle of scarcity. Scarcity is the idea that there are many human wants and needs and too few resources to fulfil them all. Economics is therefore about allocating limited resources to unlimited wants. Think of it this way: there are eight slices of pizza and ten people. If we share the slices equally, two people won’t get any. If we divide the eight into sixteen so that everyone gets, someone has to receive a greater share than the others.
Applying scarcity to our relationships, it inevitably leads to competition instead of cooperation, especially in our careers. If you’re getting it that means I’m not. If I decide to help you out that means me missing out. Both men and women are competitive, but it is my argument that this kind of thinking has more devastating effects amongst women, particularly in industries that are still male dominated. When women in powerful positions feel threatened by each other we compete for the leadership space instead of spurring each other on.
The poverty mentality keeps you staring at that one pizza. The abundance mentality says there may be one pizza today, but if we work hard, build strong networks and support each other, we can make more pizzas than we ever dreamed and create better opportunities for those who are coming after us. There is more to be gained than lost when we support each other. Celebrate the success of other women, both privately and publicly and make it your mission to do everything in your power to push other women forward, even if it means them getting ahead of you.
The Comparison Trap
Social media has made it too easy to compare ourselves to each other. If you scroll down your Timeline for long enough, it won’t be long before you fall into that trap. The problem with Facebook and Instagram is that it’s like a movie trailer. All they show you are the highlights of the movie, with filters to mask the imperfections and cropping to cut out what they don’t want you to see.
Comparison can make us feel bad about ourselves, but it’s also something we do to make us feel better about ourselves. So when we compare our lives to women we think are worse off, we take comfort in the fact that we may not be where we want to be, but at least we’re not her. We fail to see that this impulse to constantly compare is driven by our own feelings of inadequacy. The root of comparison is deep insecurity, the fear that you are not enough and never will be.
Overcoming insecurity requires changing your source of validation and then channelling affirmation towards other women. Refocus your energy away from other people’s opinion of you or how you think you measure up and instead find security in the fact that you were created by God in love. As you learn to love yourself, you will gain the courage to speak life, love and encouragement to other women.
Truly powerful women pull other women up.
Read more of Zola’s writing at https://realmukoko.wordpress.com/
Main image from www.youtube.com