It’s been established that being a woman isn’t easy, but what makes it even more difficult is when your fellow woman hurts you more than any man ever could. I think the most fertile soil for this occurrence is during the ever-awkward junior high school years.
Those three years were the most vulnerable years for me, fashion-wise and body-wise. Suddenly my flat-chest started blossoming into little rosebuds, Aunt Flow arrived, and a boy let me know I had big thighs. The hormone differential was plain to see around the hallways because some girls had apple-sized breasts while others had oranges, and a few had melons. The questions began, ‘did she get her period before I did?’, ‘why are her breasts different from mine?’, ‘why does he like her instead of me?’, etc. I remember that my derrière expanded at a much quicker rate than my top half, and I was highly aware that it attracted unwanted attention from the opposite sex, especially from gross older men. Walking down the street, walking past a bodega where the old timers hung out in packs; even while walking up the steps to the above-ground subway, a man heading down the stairs detoured right next to me, whispered ‘sexy’ in my ear as he continued walking down the stairs. I dreaded bending over to tie my shoelaces, having a shirt stop at my hips, or walking past seated guys in class because they were at eye-level with my bottom.
This hyper-awareness, I soon realized, was common in girls my age, as well as boys, because suddenly their bodies also changed. There were some girls that I thought were the absolute coolest, and I’d get nervous around them. It was almost like I was stunted by their auras, and my way of getting in with them, and avoiding bullying, was to make them laugh. It didn’t hurt that I was also very smart. However, I picked up a habit during these years that is still unfortunately embedded in me–I systematically broke down every imperfection I noticed to make myself feel better and less intimidated. The toxic habit included such gems as ‘her nose is big’, ‘she has no hips’, ‘she’s an idiot’, ‘she stuffs her bra’, ‘she’s huge’, ‘she’s a toothpick’, ‘she smells’, and many more.
These comments would surface during my lowest moments, and sharing my venomous words with girlfriends – aka: gossiping and trash-talking – led to building camaraderie, but I always felt like a terrible person. It didn’t take me long to realize how unfair and unwarranted this maliciousness was, and I found myself having an inner debate between the ‘mean-girl’ and the ‘rational-girl’. I still find myself falling back into the habit because it’s easy to be mean and irrational and, by justifying that since I don’t say it aloud it doesn’t hurt anyone, I delude myself that it’s ‘not that bad’. But it is.
Woman-on-woman bashing, to me, is a symptom of dissatisfaction about oneself. It’s a pathetic self-esteem boost that provides an instant ‘oh, I’m better’ moment, but it’s only a shallow boost that resembles placing a band-aid on an open artery. I’m dissatisfied about my body because I can’t fit the clothes I want the way I want, and instead of working on fixing that, I can point out imperfections on others. Realizing the reason behind the venom goes a long way towards correcting unproductive pattern that actually does more harm to the ‘hater’ than the person being hated on.
Breaking habits and re-wiring one’s thinking-process is incredibly difficult, but it’s worth the effort. Some men love to generalize and state that women hate women–and why would they say that? Most likely because they’ve seen and heard women spewing hateful words about other women for, from their male perspective, no apparent reason. We are exposed to this tradition usually from a young age through our moms, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, etc. It’s a vicious cycle that we must break because we women are fighting to not be dismissed simply due to our gender. What better method of devaluing women’s intellectual power than continually echoing the ‘women hate women’ generalization?
We must realize that standing together and refusing to perpetuate women-bashing is not only destroying a vicious tradition, but it’s empowering us as individuals. So the next time you find yourself mentally attacking another woman because you think her hair looks ‘better’ than yours or because she got a promotion instead of you, focus on improving yourself so your happiness can crush the elementary negativity.