No, I’m not referring to “mysteries” like why women want control of their own bodies or the sad, sad questions men who apparently skipped middle school science post on social media about the female menstrual cycle. I’m not asking why women’s clothing gets destroyed the dryer but men’s clothing does not (although if you have the answer to that please let me know!). I’m not going to tackle the world of make up- in part because I don’t know even enough to be dangerous.
What I’m pondering today is this- why are women so awful to each other and why are we so fake about it? And yes, we ALL do it, so anyone on a high horse just go ahead and get off it right now. Even Mother Teresa held a couple grudges.
Most of us are fortunate enough to have a small core group of female friends whom we would take on a zombie horde for. But sometimes, if we’re honest, we find ourselves secretly judging even them. And everyone else? Fair game. We bond over mutual dislike of a member of our extended friend group or coworker like we bond over little else. Worse yet. 9 times out of 10 we are sweet as pie to that person face to face.
And no, I’m not suggesting that men don’t have self confidence issues or that men can’t be petty. But I can’t speak to what it’s like to be a man, so I’m not going to.
Why are we like this? I suspect the fake nice is part of how most of us were raised. We were told to be nice to everyone, which is in an of itself a good thing to teach. We were told to “make along” and be nice to people who made us uncomfortable. But, we also observed. We saw adults criticize the dress and make up of a woman as soon as she left the room, even when it was subtle and the adults thought it was going over our heads. We saw adults looking down on people who didn’t look like us or dress like us.
The overall cattiness is usually learned too. If we didn’t see that modeled in our families we certainly saw it in school. Much was what is now considered bullying was just called “Kids being kids” when we were growing up. So we laughed when someone made fun of another student or talked behind their back because we didn’t want to be next. And we learned that behavior was OK. So, that became our normal and what we took with us into adulthood.
My theory is that, as is usually the case for mean/ petty behavior, that it’s our own insecurities that drive it. We put down other women because we put down ourselves first. In spite of all of our “She believed she could, and so she did” and “real women do (insert vague thing here) and the other happy memes we post on social media, most of us are pretty insecure on the inside. We wonder if we are doing the right thing as parents, in our careers, or in our relationships. We look for validation from others. And sometimes that includes talking trash about someone who’s main fault is not being in the room at that moment.
So, what do we do about it? It’s hard to break bad habits, especially when they are shared with people who you’ve known for a long time. But we can all try. We can all be more thoughtful of what we say and who we say it to. We can take a step back from a toxic conversation. Is it easy? Hell no. But it’s worth it. We aren’t in middle school anymore- it’s time to start acting like it.