Last night, we saw a documentary about the UK and US Vogue editors. All week, the focus on this documentary has been the apparent rivalry between these two editors. A rivalry, we are told, that is rooted in insecurities and jealousy. Is this a reflection of our society as a whole? Are women really at war with each other because of fragile egos?
If I believe what I read in the news, then it would appear that us women really are at war with each other. The media seems to think that we can all be found verbally sparring on twitter or undermining each other in the boardroom. This week, there was an article written by Shona Sibary, in which she praised the new wave of "mummy bloggers". Bloggers like the 'Unmumsy Mum' and 'Hurrah for Gin'; bloggers who, she feels, share the real side of parenting. However, in her apparent attempt at praising these bloggers she felt the need to criticise other bloggers; bloggers who she felt were too saccharine, bloggers who didn't fit in with her ideal, bloggers that she didn't understand. Again, we saw women being pitted against each other by a woman. However, it isn't just in work we see women in apparent combat, it is in every area of our lives:
- breastfeeding vs bottle-feeding
- Stay-at-home mum versus working mum
- Young mums versus older mums
- Women who have children versus women who don't
Why is it that when it comes to being a women, everyone has an opinion? When did we become so mean? Let's be honest we aren't all playing roles in Mean Girls. Many of us have supportive colleagues that are female. Many of us have females in our lives that empower us. We aren't all at war. It is the media that is obsessed with pitting females against each other. An example of this is Madonna who they frequently like to pit against a younger female singer; recently this was Taylor Swift. The apparent suggestion being that Madonna is old and past-it and, therefore, she is furious that all these young upstarts, like Swift, are trying to steal her queen of pop crown.
Is the idea that all women are just mean girls an old fashioned stereotype? Being born a woman means that we are already imprisoned by patriarchy. Historically, women have had to fight harder for their rights. We fought to leave the kitchen, we fought for our right to work, we fought for our right to vote, and we fought to be able to sit in the boardroom. Women have often had to work harder than their male counterparts to get recognised. Perhaps this explains the stereotype. It's only natural that a woman might be wary of another woman, they are her competition. In society women are under closer scrutiny in every area of their life. The media has trained us to scrutinise women. Let's look at Renée Zellweger and the media's obsession with her weight loss and changing face. Yet, I've not seen a single news report on Tom Cruise's face. I was completely unaware he had even had work done, that was until I sat down to watch the latest Mission Impossible film. A film which showcased his frozen face in all its glory.
Personally, I completely understand that actors and actresses feel the need to get work done. They are in an industry where youthful looks are a valuable commodity. What I don't understand is this double standard. Reams and reams of reporting on Zellweger and I would imagine less than half on Cruise. It wasn't just men who were criticising Zellweger; a lot of women were apparently appalled at what she had done too. The hysteria surrounding Zellweger's face highlighted the shocking double standards we have for men and women. Women are always judged more harshly. A women's world is a brutal one.
We need to challenge the media's obsession with pitting women against each other. In blogging I have only come across women that are friendly and supportive. I don't see other female bloggers as a threat and I hope that feeling is reciprocated. However, the same can't be said in other areas of my life. I have been on the receiving end of bitching and back stabbing. I have had women judge me because I am younger than them, women judge me because I don't work, then judge me because I do work. I learnt very quickly that I can't please every woman in my life. I have also come to the realisation that the women who make you feel like outsiders aren't worth worrying about. Set yourself free by forgetting about them. You can't please every woman. Where one woman will praise you for your life choices, another one will quickly tear you down. Instead of our focus being other women, we should be turning our attention to the society that imprisons us. We need to be working together to tear down the sexist bars, we need be to ripping up the expectations placed on us by the media and society. We, as women, are united, whether we be married, single, old or young. We are united by our gender. We should be embracing that. We should be celebrating each other, we should be celebrating every woman. Mean girls is just another label. Another attempt to belittle and control women. It's time to rip-up the label, it's time to support each other.
This post first appeared on Island Living 365