Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Women's worst enemies

Ok, so why is it that women make lives of other women so much harder? This topic has come up several times recently (like in yesterday's post), in different settings, with different people, in different contexts, and even in different countries but the conclusion seems to be unanimous: women make other women's lives complicated.

It all started last Saturday during our get together when the 6 guys present said that women are complicated. It was especially funny to see their reaction when the 4 women present resoundingly agreed. I mean, we know women are complicated. And that's why we (most women) like men. So it was up to the guys to explain why they like complicated women, but no reasonable answer came out (except physical attraction). Then one of the girls brought up the topic of how mean women can be to each other, giving an example that she'd MUCH rather have a job interview with a guy than a woman. And we (women) all agreed. The guys disagreed, saying that interviewing with women was much easier. The conversation went on about how women can be harsh to other women at work, making unreasonable requests or being harsher to the female colleague than to her male counterparts.

Then during the discussion about Indian aunties yesterday, :) rightfully pointed out that it is not a "Indian" aunties issue but a "aunties" in general issue. Women tend to be harsher and more judgmental in social settings too. Women seem to be the first to criticize someone's choice of significant other, be it verbal or not (those feared piercing stares). Women also many times carry the burden of taking care of and following tradition, even when the traditions go against their own liberty. It is probably not a formalized task assigned to them but somehow it seems to be ingrained??

So I can only come up with few attempts at explaining it, but please help me out with your thoughts:
- Competition: according to this "theory" (:o) women would be harsher to women they see as competition. This would explain work and MIL/family harshness. In the sense that having another woman around would "steal" attention from the one already there. I think competition for male attention goes into here too, and I also think that this goes much further than a guy you actually have an interest in, it could be based on plain old jealousy for a situation you are not living.
- Stability: as women are usually seen as the center of a family or social circle, caring for all the ones involved it would seem natural to "shoo away" factors of instability or innovation that go beyond what is within cultural norms or what is acceptable. If things change too fast it could affect a woman's social circle and throw it off balance, a balance that has been painstakingly woven. This would explain animosity against mixed race, intercultural or interfaith couples, for example.
- Men vs women: this is not so much a reason for women's behavior but rather just pointing out that there might be some ingrained differences. For example, A. always wonders how can women spend so much time talking about "nothing" (meaning people, relationships, analyzing each situation critically, what ifs) while he and his friends usually talk about "ideas or things" with silences in between that do not make either uncomfortable. I guess this explains why women are complicated :)

So, where does this animosity among women come from? Do we un(consciously) perpetuate it? Why??? 


  1. I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately with Jubee's post on feminism, Cyn's post and comments about the wretched ways auntie's criticize her as a mother, and all the responses to my post about trying too hard to be the auntie's idea of a "nice girl." (I have a post of my own brewing--not sure when).

    I think that the women who bear the greatest brunt of the women-hating-women thing are young mothers with small kids (like Cyn). I've noticed in general that women, rarely men, feel like they can give condescending, patronizing, unsolicited advice to other women about having children or raising children. This seems to be true everywhere. This happens everywhere. There are these women out there that I simply call "free-range know-it-alls." The things these women say to other women are never helpful, never kind, never well-intentioned. Rather than asking a mother with small, cranky, fussing child if she could use some help, or even smiling at her to let her know "hey, it gets better!", these free-range jerks take it upon themselves to either give the woman a disapproving look or tell her what she should be doing. As if that mother isn't under enough stress! I know my mother got it when we were little. Other women just had to give her their opinions on having children too close together in age or how we should have been dressed. The worst one I heard was from a woman who had adopted her baby only a week before and was sitting in a coffee shop. She got out the bottle to feed her new baby and this awful woman decided it was her place to get up and tell her, "Breast is best!" The poor mother, totally flabbergasted, finally managed to say that her baby was adopted. This awful woman then proceeded to give her a lecture about how her baby's brain was going to suffer because she wasn't breast-feeding him. The words, "my baby is adopted," just never sank in to this sanctimonious jerk's brain!

    It's strangest when I hear it from women my own age. We were having dinner with my husband's cousin a while back, and she started going on and on about how incompetent women are. We, of course, argued back, but as we got into the car, Mr. 4B said, "there's some self-sexism for you!"

  2. Hi BBBB,
    I completely agree, young mothers seem to be the aim of the greatest amount of know-it-all comments. And I agree it is strangest to hear women our age doing the exact things we have such a hard time fighting...

  3. hehe I could write a novel about all the advices I got from "know-it-all" ladies :) And the worst is that it all start when you are pregnant, with non sense things like "You should not go out at night it is bad for you" or "You should get a full time maid now you can't go on moving around the house that much it's bad for the baby" Then once the baby is there the "advices" keep coming at an even faster pace, from wollen sweater to wear when it's 25 degree celsius out there "Just as a precautiion to prevent the baby from catchin...SWINE FLU" or "Don't even go on the terrace at night because night invite evil spirits...been tempted to look at one Auntie in the eye and tell her "Auntie, I'm a vampire...don't ask me and my baby to go out during the day" :) but refrained myself as she might not have gotten the joke.

    I have no idea why women take upon themselves to uphold traditions (no matter how silly they can prove to be) or feel it is their duty to "educate" others than in their opinion appear less knowledgeable than her. I keep wondering what gives women the right to do certain things.

    Oh and on the breastfeeding thing? I got it too from one Auntie enquiring what I was feeding my DD, when she learned it was formula she was like "You HAVE to breastfeed, otherwise your baby will be unhealthy" Totld her politely that it didn't work out for me...trying to be crude and vague as possible because frankly it was none of her damn business, and she went on and on about how I should have drank more milk myself and eaten more fenugreek and what not...not even one asking me if I did all these the end I cut her and said "I could not breasfeed long enough for MEDICAL reason" and that finally shut her up, she didn't even appologise for her out of line advices though.

    DH once said he noticed women are more likely to be territorial when together...I agree, but again wonder why that is.

  4. Very interesting and thought provoking post and I'm very apprehensive about saying anything here, as this is completely outside my 'domain' :)

    But I'll say one thing. As BBBB and you have said, I've noticed how some people our age do the exact same things that the past generations have done, when all the while you think that it is the 'generation gap' thing. The more things change, the more the remain the same ...

    ~ Krishanu