A few months ago I stopped speaking to (what I would have called) a close friend, someone who I’d known for nearly two years. There had been months of seemingly harmless observations and, what I now see as, back-handed compliments which hit a nerve but which I’d also continually brush aside. The final straw was when she said “well I thought if you could do it basically anyone could!” That was it. That was the moment I took a step back and really looked at what this friendship was. Why was I, a fully grown woman, letting a this person, who was supposed to be my friend, who I had supported through some extremely difficult times, treat me in such a thinly veiled aggressive way!?! And it got me thinking. Why is that some women think it is acceptable to be a bitch to another woman?
It seems every day I am reading about the behaviour of men towards women, about the comments left on photos and the trolling that we all know exists and perhaps, sadly, expect. But what about women, for it seems we have mastered a less overt but perhaps far more damaging form of abuse.
I once heard it said that to hurt you, a person needs to know where you are vulnerable, and let’s be honest, women seem to have a knack of knowing right where to stick the knife. This can be anything from parenting styles, employment status, fashion choices to body image. It can be basically anything where society has norms that people strive to conform to.
The fat-shaming of celebrities is well documented, not to mention the much publicised best/worst dressed list for every awards ceremony ever! (Yet male stars remain relatively untouched).
I’ll be honest. I used to think that men were the worst culprits (I know, I know 🤦♀️) and yeah, a cursory search on the internet would suggest that most online abuse may come from men, but the strikingly common conclusion I noticed was that the trolling that came from women hurt the most.
I really love the idea of female solidarity, but it appears the reality is a lot more bleak.
Recently I have witnessed a growing trend of ‘divide and conquer’. This can be as low-key as a raised eyebrow that you see from the corner of your eye, yet it’s enough to make you feel like… well to put it honestly it’s enough to make you feel like shit!
I know that there has always been some level of this behaviour, but how has it become almost socially acceptable? We might as well go straight ahead and blame social media, it does get a bad rep anyway. I do believe it’s made this bitchy norm a lot worse; before someone might bitch to a friend but would be able to take time and think and stop before it got out of hand. Now there is nothing to curtail the impulse to vent and intentionally hurt and unfortunately the consequences are not always factored in and as the communication is instant does little to promote reflection either.
It may ‘seem’ harmless because it isn’t direct abuse, in that it’s not physical, but I’m sure in the current climate of domestic abuse awareness we have all read and are aware of the negative affects of, for example, using social loyalty and exclusion against another individual.
In my opinion the problem stems from the fact that in general we will be happy for someone as long as they aren’t doing better than we are! And therein lies another problem with social media, the perfect life which is presented for all to see can hide a multitude of real life problems that are, firstly, no one else’s business, and secondly, should not have to be publicised in order to save the person from being seen as fair game for trolls.
I have also noticed a strong underlying current of competition (for lack of a better word) which is not only unhealthy but equally unfounded in may cases. Women are not the sum of their success (or failure) and the compulsion to see them in this way and seek to stamp out others who they, perhaps, fear may be future competition shows an underlying insecurity and is as unfair as it is ridiculous to all parties.
As for me, yeah I’ve probably been guilty of bitching. Recently I realised that I was actively watching a celebrity’s downward spiral through reading the gossip columns and I found myself wondering was this actually giving me some sort of weird….. satisfaction? Although I don’t think that’s the right word! Yeah, I may not be posting about it or she may not know what I’m thinking or even saying, but it’s still being bitchy. So who am I to sit here and discuss women being bitches. Does it make it better (or less bitchy) because I am not saying it to her face or because she doesn’t know me? If we are so quick to find ways to justify being a horrible person then that suggests a problem with society as a whole and not just women.
On the flip side I’ve also seen women, very publicly, claim to be victims of bullying, when the reality may be that due to past experiences and their exposure to an environment where bitchiness is rife, every conversation, look and online comment (or lack thereof) is over analysed to the point where the perception of bitchiness is enough to have a negative impact on mental health. This tainted view based on previous experiences of bitchiness can lead to issues in personal and work life. It can infect and spread through friendship groups, slowly casting its shadow over logic and common sense as it chips away at self-confidence and fuels anxiety.
We all know not everyone is going to get along and that’s fine, expected and totally normal. The thing to realise is it doesn’t give us carte blanche to be a bitch, whether publicly or not. As it’s becoming the norm I find myself becoming less and less shocked about what I hear and see said about other women and the horrible realisation is that I might be just as bad. The things I’ve had said to me and about me (for never forget people-men included, love to tell you what others have said because they “think you should know”) are probably just the tip of the iceberg. But I do hold with the notion that what others say about me says more about them because I know If I’m annoyed at someone, or in general, I can easily turn into the biggest bitch I know. I can be the person who feels victimized, shut out and ignored, just as much as anyone else. Yes, there is a reason for my bitchiness but it never excuses it. My point is that there are women who choose to be a bitch, revel in it and use their skills (for want of a better word) to manipulate other women into questioning every aspect of their life and to the point where one has to ask just how dangerous these women are how in the hell they get away with it!?!
(I have an idea but that detailed analysis is for another time!)
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