One of my greatest frustrations is women who bash other women. It is not only frustrating to witness, detrimental to how women are perceived, but damaging to the ways women develop friendships. Basically, it creates a toxic environment, because women are perceived as threats to each other, not companions. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard women, even self-proclaimed feminists, say a variety of statements such as: “I have more guy friends—they’re so much easier to deal with,” “I’m not like most other women,” “I can’t trust other women, they’re too catty.”
The list of statements can go on. Most times, these statements are never questioned; if anything, they are taken as fact. It seems to be cooler for a woman to act as though she is “one of the guys,” instead of just simply being what she is: a woman.
1. Most girl-hate stems from insecurity.
Most dislike of other people isn’t about who that person actually is, or what they do. It typically stems from our own insecurities and jealousies. Instead of focusing on how much another woman pisses you off because she wears ugly jumpsuits, listens to Miley Cyrus, or seems to be flirting with your boyfriend, focus on why that should bother you. What is it to you, really? Disliking other people takes effort and time that could be well spent in other ways. Self-reflect about your own insecurities, and instead of directing those feelings at other people, tunnel them into creative ways to release: take a yoga class, start a diary, paint, learn a musical instrument.
2. Don’t take it personally.
I realized from an early age that ninety-percent of other people’s actions, however hurtful or thoughtless, are not personal. Everyone is dealing with their own problems, some better than others; most people live in their own heads without realizing that you may be dealing with body image issues, a break up, a bad job, or a fight with your parents. Learn to forgive bad behavior; it makes life more bearable.
3. Men aren’t any better than women, and vice-versa, so stop comparing.
While you may say that men are easier to be friends with, because they don’t gossip, aren’t as passive aggressive, or seem more straightforward, you must realize one important fact: people are people. Some men, like some women, are kind and beautiful. Some men, like some women, are insufferable. Most people you meet aren’t going to be your best friend. That instant connection you feel with a close friend happens rarely, and it is unfair to expect that connection with every woman you meet.
Sometimes we instinctually feel uncomfortable around other women because of our expectations. In film and television, female friendships generally tend to be portrayed as warm relationships full of rainbows and unicorns, where women seamlessly share secrets. This is unrealistic. We have different friends for different reasons; you may meet Mary for lunch to talk about writing, your friend Mark may be a great gym buddy, while Jasmine can listen to you talk for hours. Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses, and our friendships work around how various personalities intertwine.
4. Stop engaging with gender stereotypes by making excuses or judgments based off of them.
There is a strange double standard in the way women form friendships, in that there is more expected from their female counterparts. Women are expected to be on their best behavior when it comes to sex, loyalty, and intellect. Conversely, men are expected to be fun, adventurous, and carefree when it comes to their sex lives. If a man sleeps around, no one blinks. If a woman sleeps around, she is suddenly deemed as a competitor, therefore, a threat.
Kate Carraway states in her article “Girl News: Why Girls Hate Each Other” on Vice Magazine that you can’t be completely honest with a girl, because: “Girls exist in an elaborate network of lies that are all bound up with passive-aggressive assurances that you love each other soooo much.” This kind of ideology is not only irrational, but also poisonous. It perpetuates the notion that women can’t handle the truth, that women are too emotionally unstable and incapable of being upfront. I call bullshit, ladies.
My question is, shouldn’t expectations be the same for both genders?
5. When in doubt, take the extra step and reach out.
Instead of making judgments and becoming introspective, be kind. Compliment her hair, ask about her job, start a conversation about the latest book you read. In all actuality, you’ll probably be surprised at how wonderful the conversation is, even for a moment. Body language sends an array of energies and vibes—humans play off each other, whether positive or negative. In this way, we are defensive creatures, in that we give what we get. You can change the way energy is tunneled just by how you carry yourself.
Offer to get coffee with a girl you initially became critical of—choosing to be empathetic, open, and kind can truly change how other women respond. Build a network of support—life isn’t easy, so why make it harder by being lonelier? Put on your doc martens, your ballet flats, and make the first move. Ask a girl out on a lady-date—maybe you’ll even change a woman’s life.
Joanna C. Valente currently lives in Brooklyn, where she is a part-time mermaid. She received her MFA in poetry writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Some of her words can be found in decomP, Thrush Poetry Journal, La Fovea, The 22 Magazine, and other places. In 2010, she founded Yes, Poetry. Her ghost resides here.@joannasaid