Her Campus’ wonderful recent article from Olivia Garrett Let’s Talk: Female Competition and Camaraderie, explores the competitiveness of women in its unhealthy forms, and offers some lovely simple tips to counter female jealousy, and support one another.
The importance of countering girl hate is paramount, as it can have negative effects on women psychologically and prevent business opportunities.
Spotting it: Girl hate is not just disliking someone who happens to be a girl, it is particular cruelty laced with misogyny, due to insecurity and jealousy. Often girl hating surrounds “femme” areas such as appearance, clothes and sexuality. There may be varying reasons for the dislike of someone, but the expression of it manifests as criticisms of degrees of femininity, slut-shaming, and other interactions with men.
We can all be culprits of girl hate at times. Anne Campbell, a psychologist at Durham University, argues “young women tend to use indirect aggression to a greater extent than young men because that’s the most socially acceptable way for women to compete”. Women are taught this competitiveness because it fits within patriarchal structures, and often is to the benefit of men.
Agustin Fuentes, Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, points out: “women derogate other women on things that men value, such as sexual fidelity and physical attractiveness.”
Because of the patriarchal structures we are all manoeuvring our way through, it is easy to see why women are pitted against each other and feel that there is only room for one woman at the top. Unfortunately, often there is only one woman because women are treated as a group for which a certain quota needs to be filled. Whilst quotas can be good as a base line for inclusion and increasing diversity, it can also mean that its woman vs. woman when the quota for a women on the team is just one. (For example, comedy panel shows often appear to have just one token women, to represent half the population.)
The stereotype that successful women are intimidating adds to the culture of competition; success for a woman is coupled together with a harshness, which implies a cut-throat attitude, rather than encouraging women to help each other up.
There are so many social and business benefits to supporting women, as Kate Leaver, author of manifesto, The Friendship Cure, writes: “In an era of #MeToo and Time’s Up, we need female solidarity, we need female friendship, more than ever” as often victims of assault choose to confide in other women first.
Traditionally we have been taught to be competitive with one another. However, recent research in the Harvard Business Review showed that women who have an inner circle of close female contacts are more likely to land executive positions with greater authority and higher pay. Women trying to rise up into leadership often face ingrained systemic obstacles which make it harder for them to advance. One woman’s achievement is yours too as the representation of a woman in a successful position decreases the unconscious bias of society.
Men have had systems which benefit them for years such as the Boys Drinking Societies at Oxford and Cambridge, which allow young men to meet the “old boys” who now work in politics and business, making essential contacts and landing jobs. We need to keep building these kinds of networks for women.
Forbes magazine recently wrote an article entitled “The Power Of The Pack: Women Who Support Women Are More Successful” – Forbes Girls’ Lounge connected more than 17,500 corporate women and female entrepreneurs. LeanIn.org is an organisation which aims to connect women so we can lift each other up, and is supported by celebrities such as Emma Watson, Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington. Their website states: “Together women can do more, go further, and change the world”. (There are actually branches here in Exeter – https://leanin.org/together/women)
Encouraging female friendships and business alliances will actually benefit you and other women far more than competing to be the one woman at the top! Fighting the patriarchy includes supporting other women and wiping out the self-inflicted misogyny of girl hate.