Disclaimer: This has been said before (like here!) but I think it’s important that women in all spheres (even the most liberal) think about this problem and how they can fix it. Also, hi, this is a blog post not about MS.
I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a post on why women are terrible to each other. I think what’s been holding me back is a combination of a) fear, b) not knowing the answer, and c) a lot of negative feedback. Like, don’t I know that saying this will just provoke other women? I don’t think any of those reasons are good enough anymore. So hi. I have some thoughts.
I’ve been hearing for many years that women in academia eat their own. And at first I thought this was just an academia thing that was weird and built out of intellectual competition, but I’ve been realizing that it’s not just academics. It’s comedy and body image and performance and social situations. Women are in constant competition with each other, and I’m really not chill with it.
When you go to the gym with a friend and they’re trying to beat your calorie count on the stationary bike, that’s not healthy. When the comedy groups I’m in have auditions and the women in the groups are being more critical of the women auditioners, that’s not really okay either. (Full truth: I have participated in those situations too. I’m not good at this stuff either.)
Why are women in constant competition with each other? I think my basic theory on this is that women are underrepresented everywhere. In politics, it’s extremely evident. Women make up just 18% of Congress. And in college admissions, more women than men typically apply to schools, and the same number of women and men are often let in, because many schools want to keep the ratio as close to 50/50 as possible. I have a lot of feelings on that ratio, but moving on… Anyway. I think that because women are so underrepresented, there’s a constant feeling (even in arenas where the ratio is 50/50) that there are only so many spots for women and we just have to push each other down to get those spots. That’s fucked up. This desire to be smarter, funnier, skinnier, and prettier than all other women is natural in a sense (natural selection! don’t be the weakest!), but the way that it’s manifesting isn’t healthy. Instead of women wanting to be the best that they can be, just for themselves, most women seem to mainly care about being better than the women around them. Can you go to the gym more than your friends? Can you be in more extracurriculars? Can you get better grades? Is your significant other prettier than theirs? And how much sabotage are you willing to get into to get to that “better than her” spot? Based on what I’ve witnessed (at college, in high school, middle school, at work), it’s a lot of sabotage. A lot of this also comes from women who self-identify as feminists, and who openly blame that ol’ heteropatriarchy for all of women’s problems. And yeah, the heteropatriarchy sucks, but women are also fairly awful to each other.
Since I don’t really expect to fix this problem, I have an alternative: help your fellow women out! But wait, don’t do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because the more women in a given field means more equality between the sexes, and definitely don’t do it out of compassion. Do it for the wrong reasons. Do it because if you let more women in (though only the qualified ones!), you can actually prove that you’re the best. If you’re the only woman somewhere, it’s really easy to be the best woman. But once you have something to compare to, you can really show off. And don’t be the best by sabotaging those other women, be the best by working hard and striving. And then, if you’re still the best? It’ll mean more.
(yes this is a real poster that I own)