We stand together because we naturally come together.
Why do I hate her? A question I frequently asked myself while growing up. As a kid, my parents didn’t care about the gender of my friends until I entered middle school. With raging hormones and never-ending puberty, my parents felt it best to separate me from the opposite sex (probably something they wish they could still do). So, I ended up hanging out with the girls in my class. And, when I say, “hanging out,” I mean sitting alone at the lunch tables or study rooms and eavesdropping on their conversations while I did other things.
When you’re insecure about everything, your stubbornness controls you. This allows you to assume that you’re perfect by focusing on the faults of others, which is especially true when you’re a teenager. So, I judged the girls in my class. I scoffed when they said they got up at 5 am to curly their hair for school; I commented about them wearing too much makeup or getting fake tans (BTW, white girls, go to tanning salons that don’t turn your skin orange); I rolled my eyes when they broke the school dress code or wore high heels to class; and, I disliked the girls who dated frequently. But, to be clear, I never openly hated these girls. I simply masked it with a sense of pity. “Oh, I feel sorry for her because [insert insult here].”
However, it was totally fine when I spent time on my appearance and desperately craved the attention of the cute boys in my class. I thought: I am ugly, unlikable, and not smart; I have to put effort. Fuck those girls for having perfect genes and nice bodies, or parents who let them date. But, looking back at it, my thoughts were wrong. Those girls probably felt the same way as me. Later on, I realized that I participated in a culture that promotes women hating on each other.
In a literature review by Tracy Vaillancourt, she found that women express indirect aggression to each other as “self-promotion.” Simply put, women are taught to see aggression as a combination of self-growth and shutting down the haters. Now, evolutionary psychology argues that female aggression comes from a sense of protection because we can have babies. Meanwhile, feminist psychology (which I had no idea was a thing) argues that female aggression is a way to internalize the patriarchy.
Basically, women are taught to battle other women for prizes. These prizes include but are not limited to: men, promotions, popularity, a sense of superiority, and a high number of Instagram likes. This mindset allows women to tie their value to their insecurities. If our value feels threatened then we turn on each other. Now, I can summarize a shit ton of research on female aggression. But, you all can google that shit on your own! Like, you can become culturally competent. So, instead of writing about the research, I’ll tell you the information I gathered from some amazing women.
All My Ladies.
“As a person who has spent a lot of time around women, there definitely is a certain amount of toxicity or competition that we have toward one another,” one of my friends told me, “For instance, I remember hearing snide comments from a friend once because I didn’t get enough Instagram likes and she always got more.”
“So mostly I remember when I was younger wanting to be ‘one of the boys’ or ‘not like other girls,’ because I believed being into girly things meant you were vapid” another friend shared with me, “and that girls were mean and couldn’t be trusted.”
“I hear women getting split into groups,” another friend stated, “for example, ‘liberal’ women, who are more career orientated, may shit on or get shit on by ‘conservative’ women, who are more family orientated.”
“I was never taught to hate other girls for the sake of hating other girls,” another dear friend shared with me, “but it did happen anyway. The double edge sword of growing up primarily with girls and women is that they were also my bullies.” This could not be truer for me. I felt the most marginalized by women. And, one moment from middle school comes to mind:
Our class had just finished dressing up as Greek Gods and Goddesses project, and we all had to change into our normal clothes. I came out of the girls’ bathroom wearing a short sleeves top and reasonably appropriate shorts. My hair and makeup were on point, which naturally made me feel good about myself. And, that was a rare feeling at that time. When I entered the middle school lounge to put my costume in my locker, one girl saw me and quickly whispered something to a male classmate. As she was whispering her comment, she continued to look at me. The guy laughed at her comment and jokingly stated, “you’re so mean.” I immediately lost my confidence, which allowed me to be insecure yet again.
“With my high school friends, we use to talk about boys…a lot,” a friend shared, “but, now when we met up, we talk about our lives. They’re healthy discussions on feminism, relationships, and even politics. Even though I mainly hang out with my guy friends, I often seek the opinions of my girlfriends. I feel validated when expressing my feelings to them because my male friends may not understand exactly what I am going through. But, my confidence in my female friends didn’t come until I started feeling confident about myself.”
“Female friendships can be slumber parties, glam sessions, science experiments, or whatever you need them to be,” another friend shared, “so long as there is no competition. Girlfriends see us at our weakest points, which allows us to be vulnerable with them. Not all of us agree with each other, but we are encouraged to speak our minds. Sometimes you need to have unconditional support and positivity just so you feel encouraged.”
“My most important friendships are with other women because we empower each other,” a friend told with me.
“My female friends are important to me because I can talk about things with them that I wouldn’t even think about bringing up to my significant other,” another friend shared.
“It’s supportive traits I look for in all of my friendships,” a friend stated, “I think there is a shared experience of going through the world as women that lends itself for a kind of support that you can’t find anywhere else.”
“Men don’t always feel comfortable going to their male friends when struggling in love, job, etc.” a dear friend shared, “on the flip side, women turn to each for that support. If one sister is down, then the community of women gets together to help.”
“My guy friends will vent to me about serious issues in their life, but not turn to their male friends,” another friend shared.
After hearing my friends’ stories, I imagined what life would be like if I’d known this stuff growing up. What if that girl in middle school complimented my look instead of making snide comments about it? What if I didn’t quickly judge the others in girl in my class, then alienate myself? When women are young, they aren’t taught to deal with their insecurities. Instead, women are taught to abide by the school dress code and compete for prom queen. Popular culture tells young women to focus on getting laid and bringing those other bitches down. It isn’t until women are older and more experienced they turn to female friendships.
Yes, women-hating each other is a form of patriarchy that allows being blind to the misogyny and toxicity celebrated throughout our history. And, yeah, some women don’t like each other because of different political views. But, female friendships allow women to see that they’re more than the gender roles placed on them. This friendship celebrates individuality within women. When women come together, it scares societies because togetherness represents real change. Regardless of their backgrounds, women will crave friendships with each other because women are simply taught better values. Their gender norms tell women to be caring and compassionate. But, men are taught to be silently strong.
In a nutshell, all women are glorious female warriors. Through our shared experiences, we naturally come together to help, care, support, and love one another.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned!