I think part of the problem is that we don't always realize when we're undermining each other. So instead of crying "sisterhood," I thought I'd name some specifics. Here are four things that many women do, without realizing that they're hurting us. If you do these things (and I think all of us do at least one or two of them), please stop.
1. Implying that everyone is jealous of your boyfriend.
Here are some things I've heard said, or seen Facebook-ed, by women who are supposed to be my friends.
"Hands off, ladies--he's mine!"
"Sorry girls, this one's taken!"
"All my friends are jealous of my awesome boyfriend!"
"Maybe if you [something to the effect of "acted like me"] you could get a man like mine!"
OK, I know this is going to be hard to understand, so I'll speak slowly. No one…. cares…. about…. your… boyfriend. At best, we are happy for you. At best. I mean, we're really not that happy for you. If you're in the relationship of your dreams, it probably means you'll be hanging out with us less, which is sad. And you'll be talking about him all the time, which is annoying. Or he could end up really hurting you, which is awful. (I know, I know, he would never do that, he's amazing. We've all heard that one before. Most of us have said it.)
One of the most hindering obstacles to womankind is this innate myth that we are all in competition with each other. And here you are MAKING IT TRUE!
I know you are mostly trying to just give him a compliment, in a backward sort of way. But it really puts us off. And just as bad, you might be hurting someone who is jealous. Not jealous of THAT ONE MAN that you're fending off from an imaginary army of succubi, but jealous that you have found happiness and they don't think they ever will. There are people who go to bed crying every night because they want to be in a happy relationship. Be happy, and express your happiness, but stop rubbing it in.
2. Ripping on people's shoes.
I get it. Your snarky wit is part of your charm. And even if you have nothing else in your life in order, at least you don't wear Hated Shoe Fad Of The Season. Because all people who do are morons who should be shot. Or at least ashamed.
What if I told you there was a device that would make it difficult for you to walk more than a few blocks, and almost impossible to run, and make you easy to knock over by anyone who felt like attacking you, damaged your knees, feet, and spine alignment, all while taking your money by the bennies? Sounds pretty awful, right? What if I told you this tool of entrapment was made especially for women? Sound shockingly misogynistic? And what if I told you you would strap on this device voluntarily, due entirely to pressure from society, especially from other women? Well that's just fucked up.
OK, obviously I'm talking about shoes. And if you like shoes, that's totally cool! Wearing gorgeous high heels makes many women feel empowered, sexy, and, well, tall. Believe me, I teach pole dancing, I see how different people feel in a pair of flattering platforms. And some polers like to dance barefoot. And that's OK; I think almost all of us accept that it's a matter of personal preference and there are benefits and drawbacks to both.
Unfortunately, this "live and let live" doesn't carry over into the real world. With every comfortable shoe that becomes popular, some people--usually women--feel the need to rant about how ugly and gross they are and how they would NEVER EVER wear them. Crocs, Uggs, Birkenstocks, flip-flops, Vibrams. Somehow other people's choices of footwear are a GREAT OFFENSE to the people who have to look at them.
Crocs are not contagious. There is no second-hand flip-flop pollution. If you don't like it, walk around looking fabulous in your FMPs, you sexy thang. And if you want to have a private, unvoiced (and un-smirked and un-eyerolled) moment of self-satisfaction for looking better than everyone else, that is fine. I say you've earned it.
I usually wear relatively nice shoes. I'm VERY picky about comfort, but I try. Last week I realized that I have a bunion. I always knew I was going to get one (my mom has a bad one and had pre-bunion symptoms), but I thought I had a few more good years left. Until I was in choir and realized I could feel it pressing up in front of the side of my shoe. So I'm basically fucked for pretty footwear now. I hope you'll forgive me if you see me walking around in my Birkenstocks. If I had been doing that in the first place, I probably wouldn't have foot problems as it is!
It's not just that, though. Hobbling around in pain because your shoes are biting your feet is stupid. It's 2012, we've invented space rockets and Hulu and isolated soy protein! Why don't we have nice shoes that we can walk in? (Yes, I know there are some, but they are exceptions, plus you don't really know until after you've bought them and worn them around town a bit.) Because we'd rather tear each other down for making sensible choices than demand that the fashion industry stop glamorizing fashion-induced suffering.
I wish I had the confidence to rock a pair of Vibrams--would probably help my bunion--but I don't. Your judgements are not helping.
3. Listening behind people's backs.
It's funny how we've all come to a consensus that no one should talk about anyone behind their backs. Funny for two reasons: 1. Everyone does it, and 2. We don't have a consensus about what talking behind someone's back means. (Usually, it means something other people are doing, but never you!)
I think what most people mean when they say "I don't talk about people behind their backs" is "I don't say mean things about defined people in front of a large group or in front of a person I don't know very well." But to your best friend? Your husband? Your mom? Your inner circle of confidants? If you are talking about someone behind their backs to one other person, the one person you trust more than anyone else in the world, in a room where no one else can hear, you are still talking about someone behind their back!
That's not what gets me, though. I think that's just part of how we deal with life.
What gets me is that this whole "talking about someone" is, at the least, a two-person process.
If I say, "Mary's a jerk, she did x y and z to me," and you say "I don't want to take sides but I'm sorry you're fighting," you are as guilty as I am. Especially if the conversation started, "What happened between you and Mary?" So then I answer your question, causing me to talk about Mary behind her back. But then you don't participate in the discussion (aside from milking more juicy gossip out of me) because you don't talk about people behind their backs. Hmmm.
You've got two choices here. Gossip back (or don't) and stop pretending to be a saint, or stop me. Cut me off. Have you ever said "Please don't talk about my friend that way?" Have you ever said, "I don't want to know what happened?" Have you ever said "Let's not gossip"--BEFORE I told you what you wanted to know? It's hard! You look like an asshole to your friend who wants to vent, and you're left in the dark about the situation. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, I'm just pointing out that speaking up in the face of injustice--especially when you're the only one speaking up, which you will be--is, and has always been, hard.
And honestly--and I do believe that we shouldn't be two-faced towards each other--but honestly, when I reflect, I think I have the most respect for people who just told me. "Here's the drama, here's what happened, I know I shouldn't be telling you this, but you deserve to know." Pussyfooting around a subject, especially among friends, is not productive.
We're at a point in history where almost everyone in our society admits to liking sex, admits to having premarital sex, and admits to having more than one sexual partner over the course of a lifetime.
The great equalizer, right? We're all doing it! There must be no such thing as sluts anymore, because we're all sluts!
What kind of logic says, "It's OK if I have sex with two people this year, but she's a whore because she had sex with four people this year"? Or says, "It's ok if I show my legs up to the knee, but she's a slut because she shows half of her thigh"? It's a couple lousy inches of fabric and a couple lousy penises.
And what in GOD'S name kind of logic says "He's going home with that bar skank, good for him," but "She's going home with that frat boy, why can't she keep her legs closed?" I know I'm not the first person to point this out, but it takes two. Or more. But at least two.
If we have ALL had sex, premarital sex, sex with different people--we are all sluts, or none of us are. The way a person dresses and how many drinks it takes them before they let their inhibitions go doesn't change that. So the next time you look at another woman and think to yourself, "What a trashy whore," remember that you are saying that about yourself, too.
Are you guilty of any of these? What would you add to the list?
Image from youthvoices.net.