Germaine Greer, a major feminist voice of the 20th Century, once said “What worries me about the future of women’s equality and feminism is women’s own misogyny.” Looking at today’s society , I think Ms Greer most definitely had a reason to worry.
It seems that amongst my peers of young women in their early 20’s there is a sense of mass insecurity and a jealous undertone to a lot of the relationships we engage in on a day-to-day basis. I know that I have definitely experienced these feelings throughout my early adulthood and I fear for future generations when I see the direction in which this epidemic is going.
Instead of supporting each other and giving each other the confidence to strive for our goals, we put each other down, talk behind each other’s backs and try in any way possible to make ourselves seem like the ones who come out on top. The truth is, however, no matter how much we think this behaviour will boost our egos, it is much more destructive to ourselves than the people we are putting down.
In the media today we are bombarded with photos of models , singers , actors and celebrities who are skinnier, curvier , taller or more beautiful than us. These images imprint on our brains and we try our hardest to emulate these images. All the pressure put on women to fit into a mould which is artificially constructed in the first place, pits us against each other to fight it out to see who can end up looking the least unique in the most unique way.
In an all girls secondary school , there is a very tightly wound clique system. There are the popular ones, the sporty girls, the artsy girls and the academic girls. If you didn’t fit into one of these categories. You eat alone at lunch and you aren’t greeted in the hallways. Likewise , cliques don’t intersect .Every group keeps to their own group and there is no such things as taking the time to meet new people and learn about different interests.
Rosalind Wiseman, in her book “Queen Bees and Wanna Be’s” describes perfectly,for me, the most frustrating part of the clique system amongst girls . She notes that ”clearly girls are safer when they look out for each other , paradoxically ,during their period of greatest vulnerability , girls competition with and judgment of each other weakens their friendship and effectively isolates all of them. This is what the power of the cliques is all about”.
“Queen Bee’s and Wanna Be’s” is the book inspired the movie “Mean Girls” – the most insightful movie into women’s jealousy of each other that I have ever seen, even if it is hyperbolised. The way in which girls go to extreme lengths to out-do each other in the movie is both hilarious and concerning.
The way in which women refer to their friends in the movie as “sluts and whores” is very telling of how our society uses harsh , destructive words to express eachother as women. One of my favourite scenes is when Tina Fey’s character , the teacher , tells the assembled girls that they have “got to stop calling each other sluts and bitches because it only makes it ok for guys to call you that”.If we , as women , can forget about who is the skinniest and the most attractive and focus on our common interests and common causes i think we would get a lot more things achieved in a shorter amount of time.
The way the movie gets inside young women’s brains and exposes all their thoughts , fears and shortcomings is so clever that it is nearly depressing to us as females. I think one of the most crucial elements of the jealousy between women and the competition between us to compete ,is the fact that it is all done in such secrecy. We would never ever admit to anyone that we are jealous of our friend’s figure or that we envy the attention she gets with her new hair colour. It is so important to us to keep up a façade of confidence because then we seem just like everyone else , even though we are all suffering in silence together.
In an article in Forbes by Caroline Turner, author of Difference Works: Improving Retention, Productivity and Profitability through Inclusion, she explains that in the workplace females are not as likely as men to want to have a woman boss. This depicts, first hand, the unwillingness of women to co operate with each other because of jealousy getting in the way . Women bullies are reported to bully other women 80% of the time. One research study suggests that, when there are few women at the top level or an organisation, they get compared to one another, leading to competition; it concludes that women in leadership want to avoid being seen as favoring other women”
When we all get so wrapped up in what other people are doing and how we measure up ,we become so involved in ourselves that we can’t see a way out and end up doing our egos serious damage.
The most detrimental thing any woman , or person for that matter , can do is compare themselves to other people. Once you start comparing yourself , you set yourself up for disappointment every time. There is always going to be some woman who is better looking , better at their job, thinner , curvier , funnier than you. The key is to find your unique strength and let that shine . When we recognise what other females are good at, we should encourage them. This in turn will help boost our confidence and decrease the green –eyed monster raising his ugly head.
I think the focus needs to be pulled back from asking ourselves question like “am I skinnier or prettier than her?” to asking “ How can we as women pull together to support and enlighten each other”.