We need to understand this deep dark reality if women are to enjoy complete visibility and equality, because without it, we are in danger of sabotaging our progress with our own internalised misogyny. And that is essentially what I believe it is. The ‘bitchy’ adolescent female culture is well documented, but if we see that as a symptom of female adolescence, we are missing something vital. Our young girls are showing us what happens to women’s relationships in a culture where women are not equal or fully visible. These 400 delegates at the Fem 08 conference voiced what all women know; ‘bitchy’ behaviour is not the prerogative of young girls, it happens at all ages!
"I frequently see women react with thinly veiled jealousy when they see other women stepping up and claiming a level of entitlement they can only dream of. An entitlement they either don’t know how to, or don’t feel entitled to claim for themselves"
Jealousy is rife among girls and women. I frequently see women react with thinly veiled jealousy when they see other women stepping up and claiming a level of entitlement they can only dream of. An entitlement they either don’t know how to, or don’t feel entitled to claim for themselves. Female jealousy is a natural reaction to our collective experience of being invisible and starved for attention. Generations of being the uncared-for carers of everyone else, silencing ourselves so not to upset anyone and putting our needs last, has left women emotionally starved. It is hard to see other women feed themselves with attention, entitlement, self-worth and self-care when you are starving for that yourself. And when we don’t recognise how starved we really are, the reaction to criticise, to put down and to tell other women that they are behaving in an unacceptable manner makes sense at some level, even though it isn’t OK.
"Fear of not being liked, of being alone, of the consequences of escaping and standing up for your rights and life, are strong motivators that make women pull each other back down to where it is sad but safe and familiar."
For women to flourish, we need to band together. We need to re-create the sense of female connection we once had during biblical days around the village well and in the Red Tent where women gathered, shared stories, supported each other, and passed on their female wisdom. I am not suggesting that things were great for women then, but I am saying that we have lost that essential sense of community that women had then. The saying “together we stand, divided we fall” is true. Together we are a force to be reckoned with. Divided and alone makes it harder to stand up and say “no”. I hear over and over how hungry women are for empowering, supportive and nurturing female connection and community. We need to recognise and unlearn our internalised misogyny so that we can thrive and save this ailing world.