Sexist tropes: The one where “women are women’s worst enemies”
How many women grew up thinking female friends are jealous women who they had to compete with for male approval? Or that being “one of the boys” elevates you to being a cool girl… “Not like the other girls”?
There’s a certain divisiveness that comes into play when female relationships are being discussed. We constantly see the deliberate stoking of conflict, the portrayal of simple disagreements as stains on all of womanhood and women’s interactions with one another and then, the ultimate conclusion that women; not misogyny, femicide, gender-based violence and so on, are women’s worst enemies.
When women disagree, it is not just that; it is an indication of the animosity that all women have for all other women on a base level. When men fight, it is never that, even when these “fights” morph into full-blown wars. The depiction of interpersonal conflicts between women as an indication of general hatred is another way the patriarchy seeks to pit women against one another.
Women are people and people disagree and fight. It is silly to expect women to like all other women simply because they are women. It is also ironic considering how women are socialised to regard other women as competition for male attention. Regardless, many women go on to form meaningful relationships with other women but at the slightest appearance of conflict, it devolves into a narrative of how women are unsupportive.
Another driver for this is how women are socialised to extend more grace to men than to their female friends. They’d forgive a man of nearly any transgression but cut their female friends off for the same reasons. Another indication women are socialized to aspire for relationships with men even at the expense of other women and to a personal detriment.
It is especially worrisome to see young women embody this narrative. There is a need to consciously unlearn biases instilled in us by society. Women also need to learn not to judge other women so harshly especially if they do not maintain the same energy with men.
Women are in fact not women’s worst enemies. We don’t highlight the beauty of symbiotic female friendships often enough. At the same time it is all around us. But the dangerous single narrative will have us believe otherwise.
It is also dishonest to act like the problems facing women as a collective stem from an imagined lack of support for one another. Women’s worst enemies are the systems and practices that continue to oppress, harm and even kill us.