A few days ago, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. She had recently finished an assignment on women’s rights, and even so, still felt bothered by the topics discussed in her essay. I sat next to her, silently agreeing to everything she said as she was quick to point out that women are constantly and subconsciously tearing each other down. She was irritated by the habitual and constant use of the derogative terms “hoes” and “bitches” by women to address other women. Once class ended, our conversation stood prominent in my thoughts. Who is to blame for all the bad mouthing, and competition? Are women born with an innate ability to constantly tear each other apart? Or is it our patriarchal society to blame?
Women are known to compare, compete, and undermine other women, seeing each other as obtrusive threats. The cause for this form of interaction is still unknown, but theories as to why it occurs in the first place have surfaced through the years. This first theory has to do with evolutionary psychology, using natural selection to explain this unusual phenomenon. In other words, females have evolved to protect themselves from possible dangers, especially when it comes to protecting their future offsprings. As explained by author Noam Shpancer for Psychology Today, “As women come to consider being prized by men their ultimate source of strength, worth, achievement and identity, they are compelled to battle other women for the prize.” That is, when our value as women is placed on our male counterparts, it then leads to us, women, turning on each other.
This second theory has our patriarchal society to blame which, if you think about, makes complete sense. Patriarchy consists of a system of society or government in which men hold utmost power while women are largely excluded from such system. For a long time now, women have been viewed as sexual objects, born to please men. If we find our value in men, as mentioned previously, our only threat and competition left is other women.
Women are born and raised in a male dominant society, later on adopting the views and outlooks of their male counterparts — this is the root of competition in-between females.
In his article, Noam Shpancer further explains the theory, “The male view of women as primarily sexual objects becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As women come to consider being prized by men their ultimate source of strength, worth, achievement and identity, they are compelled to battle other women for the prize.”
Both theories discussed have one simple thing in common: women compete with other women with the sole purpose of pleasing and impressing men, that being through our psychology or patterns within our society. Women alter their bodies and create different versions of themselves to make men like them better, leading to competition in between women. Who can be prettier? Smarter? Funnier? All of this leads to jealousy, and envy for the “male gaze”. At times, the effect of this aggressive competition may not be jealousy or envy, but instead violence. As noted before, men view women as sexual objects, rather than people, which makes them lesser beings lower on the value scale. Women, faced with “threat”, tend to throw derogative terms at each other (whores, bitches, you name it) which reduces the victim to “sexual objects” rather than people, in this case, lower on the value scale. As you can see, females have adapted the perspectives of dominant male society, which brings negative outcomes. This effect is all driven by patriarchy. The hatred within women caused by sexism, and competition is then being projected onto other women. By society’s standards, if a man does not find a woman acceptable, she is somehow deemed as worthless.
Although we are living in a more modern and progressive era where little girls can dream of becoming president, many problems are still prominent in today’s society. Us women, are still taught to view each other as competition, letting our own self-worth and value be placed upon males. The more we learn to love one another, and understand that we’re in this together (not against each other!), the more we will progress. We are capable of so much more when we stand side by side, and use our strength to pull each other up, not to tear each other down. We don’t need to lower the value of other women to make us feel more validated or please anyone else. We should not feed into the inaccurate portrayal of us by society. Let us focus on improving ourselves, pleasing ourselves, and setting our own standards from now on.