Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
“Cat fight!” I remember when the spectacle of two females fighting was considered a titillating entertainment. Perhaps it still is in some circles. Today I read fallout from a digital-confrontation between women—competition, jealousy, one-ups-man-ship, disrespect, control. FLAG THROWN! UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT! Trapped in a male-dominated world, some women have adapted traditional male competition into their own backstabbing, face-clawing, distrustful, dishonest scramble for dominance.
Brain research tells us that female brains are hard-wired for cooperation and building community. So what goes wrong? As I said, traditional male-dominated society chortles at strong women trying to copy masculine power. We are set against one another (and sometimes set ourselves against one another) in the hope that we will damage each other enough to de-claw us—to send us whimpering back to our kitchens, bedrooms, and nurseries. But when women are shamed and beaten into submission, the society loses. We can’t contribute much when we’re sitting among the cinders waiting for a prince to save us. (“Woe is me!”)
Recently, I communicated with a woman who was frustrated by the apparent triviality of female communication—so many hearts and kisses and cute little cartoons. I reminded her that many women have been mocked and abused physically and/or emotionally until they don’t readily share their more serious thoughts. They begin communicating in a secret language that skims the surface of sisterhood and pain and hope for tomorrow. The secret language appears to demonstrate how very superficial and childish women are. It comforts those (male and female) who want to believe that women were meant to be subservient. No one can be threatened by these messages—even insecure females talking about themselves. Don’t be fooled. Few of these women are as shallow as they seem. They are reaching out for support. When/if they feel safe, the messages will usually deepen.
Long ago, I was the victim of a female witch hunt. I seemed to be too successful, so that had to mean I had dark, ulterior motives. I was devalued by other women who might have benefitted from my success if they had been able to see it as a boon and not a rebellion. We were all made less by the confrontation.
Women have the potential to be extraordinary leaders—more sensitive to the needs of subordinates than most men would be, better at marshaling cooperation and building coalitions—generally operating with more stamina, superior multi-tasking, and a smaller need for control. We often buy into the view of women designed to be background decoration, when we could be, if not always leaders, then powerful full partners to our action-oriented male counterparts.
A female friend once remarked that she couldn’t believe how often women sabotage one another. Sabotage is an act of desperation, of feeling powerless and hopeless, of abject jealousy. I’m a member of more than one female group actively dedicated to bonding with other women and what women can contribute to a healthier, happier society. History contains many reports of women who essentially stopped wars and initiated positive social change. Men don’t need to fear us any more than we need to fear ourselves. Once we believe our voices are worthy of being heard, we’re here to help. It’s okay to function beyond the kitchen/nursery/bedroom. We can teach our daughters to stand valued as human beings.
I’ve often struggled with this topic wondering where and how to fit in, feeling the sting of arrows from within the ‘sisterhood’. I remain leery to this day, but have more tribe then ever before so am cautiously optimistic we can begin to take our places without excuse. Wonderful observations, Ms. Harris. Oh, and I’ve decided to omit the emoticons. Hehe.
I read your article with much interest. Another well written piece. I’m very sorry to read that you too have been confronted with the wrath of women. I’d like to comment because women against women has been an important theme in my life.( Just like you, I was ‘attacked’ by women, including my own sister, after successfull trajectories). We can see its affects everywhere in the world. Personally, I have witnessed that loss of the Feminine Principles has made the world what it is today, a volatile, dangerous, warring planet resulting in transgressive mass migrations. On a global scale, I have come to find it almost too painful to watch. At times so outright terrifying that I wonder if i could be witnessing humanity’s sixth extinction. On a personal level, I no longer feel safe in a so-called community of ‘Goddesses’. Ironically, the goddesses site was birthed by a woman who originally set up a healthcare center called Women-TO-Women. Weary of cliques, yet elated with this community, I dove deep into my first exposure on facebook. Perhaps needless to say that what happened in the calendar debacle has hurt me deeply precisely because I considered myself safe amongst a well developed Feminine tribe. How wrong I turned out to be when my suggestion to appoint a charity of our choosing – AFTER Anna had received her commission – was either never read or deeply misunderstood. Anyway, in the blink an eye I was outcast and ex-communicated from the site, as well as the project. It hurt like hell. I had just conjured up the courage to publically share a poem. The Goddesses stood by and let it happen. Too trusting perhaps? Or could it be that a fleeting moment of glory, i.e. seeing their names on a calendar page, was worth ‘sacrificing’ one of them? I may never know. What i DO know and am reminded of is a worthy lesson from one of my first teachers: We are often most afraid of people who don’t know themselves. My two cents. For what it’s worth.
With love, Annelies
I hear and feel what you’re saying, but I’m more optimistic about the capacity of women to intentionally set aside their differences. If I can do it, anyone can! I’m focusing with almost painful purposefulness on what I love and have in common with other women instead of what might come between us. As for your conflict with the goddesses, my perception is that timing was part of the problem. When anyone is extremely tired and stressed, that person may lose empathy and become defensive. The easiest way to deal with perceived conflict is to avoid it–which is what happened when you were dropped from the conversation. You were perceived to be an obstacle to a tight deadline. That you’re writing in a second language (you do it so beautifully!), you may not realize the subtle emotional messages you would manage with ease in your native language. You may come across as more defensive and prickly than you intend, without ever knowing it has happened. Women tend to be so sensitive to criticism that we often perceive offense and/or criticism where none was meant. I can’t speak for the other women, but I think a huge misunderstanding exploded into hostility that was not warranted. Many (such as me) fell silent because we didn’t want to interfere in the affairs of others. The silence was not hostile–at least mine wasn’t–nor did we think of it as sacrificing anyone. No one meant to hurt you. Some people chose “sides,” which was unfortunate, but they were trying to support someone with whom they had interacted more than they had interacted with you. Naturally, there are certain individuals whose personalities will not blend smoothly with yours. That’s okay. We need to be individuals, but you aren’t alone.
It always surprises me too.