Monday, August 10, 2009

What's the problem here? Is women-hating-women really a major concern?

So, I mosied over to Urban Curlz on my Google Reader (a must-read for curly-headed girls, but also a source of wisdom on weightier topics). A post called "Sistahhh, you been on my mind..." offered:

In the past few days, I've been noticing articles, Facebook updates, emails and conversations about women, particularly black women, and our love/hate relationships with each other. I feel particularly engaged by this subject because I'm a firm believer that women need to support each other in order to reach our full potential. I would go crazy without my girls! Who understands the headwinds we face each day better than another woman? The tension between women comes from the damaged self-image we have that tells that we should feel threatened by anyone who has something we don't have. Instead of looking at each other and seeing ourselves, we look at each other and see what we are not. And just like that, in the flash of a side eye, judgment is passed: "She thinks she's cute" / "She's ghetto" /"She's weird" /"She's a hoe" /"She's stuck up" . We look for flaws in other women to make us feel better about ourselves. We believe the hype that most women are dishonorable and can't be trusted. We try to avoid hate by hating.

Here comes the conspiracy theory: I think this miseducation is a strategic plot against us. Why should I hate my sister? Is she not made of the same stuff that I am? Why should I cancel her out and write her off? So we can be weakened and divided by fear, that's why. If just one of us is able to disassociate from the fear stories that tell us we should judge each other in order to feel safe, then that one person can start spreading a new attitude and enhance the unity of the whole group. Read more...
So true. For any group, particularly marginalized ones, unity makes it easier to "overcome." With women accounting for more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, we could change the trajectory of this nation forever if we could only work together to harness our power. And in today's consumerist times, where corporations are king, women drive more than 80 percent of all buying decisions. If we made purchases only in the ultimate best interests of ourselves and our families, what then? How would the healthcare debate change if women's voices were louder?
While there is no shortage of women's advocacy and activist groups, and women informally working together to tackle issues that effect us, there is no doubt that we could be stronger. But is the reason we are not because we hate each other? There is this accepted wisdom that when it comes to other females, women are singularly petty, hateful, judgmental and undermining. Is that accepted wisdom truth or a distraction?
Oh, I'm not being Pollyanna. I've known women who can't resist throwing shade on their sisters. I've known women who have unabashedly repeated misogynist beliefs about their own kind. I've known women who proudly crow that they don't get along with other women, preferring instead the company of men. (Interestingly, these women often cite the problem as other women's jealousy and "cattiness," when in reality the tension usually lies within the "man's woman" herself.) I've known these types of women and steered clear of them. They are victims who have internalized society's anti-woman bias. By far, though, most women I have met have been appreciative and supportive of their sisters.
So, why are women's relationships with each other perpetually defined by the bad apples not the majority?
This is particulary true, I think, when it comes to women of color. I recall once telling an acquaintance that I could never get into "Girlfriends," the Kelsey Grammer-produced, black girls "Sex and the City," because I couldn't get past the boyfriend poaching among the protagonists. This is something no real friend ever does and I was disappointed that, in comparison to the SATC girls who, no matter what, stayed true to each other, these black women were portrayed being disloyal and cavalier about their sisters' hearts. My acquaintance replied, "Yeah, but this show is about black women. You know how black women are!" Huh?
I have long suspected that the focus on woman-on-woman haterade is a by-product of how women's competitiveness is denigrated, while male competitiveness is celebrated. Men have their ways of undermining each other, but rather than being disdained, man-to-man combat is viewed as the natural order of things, like bull moose locking horns over territory. Hell, consider the rate of man-on-man violence, which seems far worse, with more global impact, than any mind games women might be playing with each other. For a pop culture example of what I'm saying (cause I'm that sort of gal), remember the episode of "Seinfeld" where Elaine's dislike of a creepy co-worker was constantly greeted by men with a "reeer" screech that implied cattiness, not legitimate differences? Then consider Jerry's ongoing beefs with men like Newman and Banya on the same show. No one ever accused Jerry of going against the brotherhood.
Like UrbanCurlz, I have a conspiracy theory, but mine goes like this: I think the constant drumbeat that we women are our own worse enemies is meant to distract us from our real enemies. Cause we'll have less discussion of domestic violence and poverty and environmental racism and the wage gap and reproductive freedon and healthcare and a host of other important issues if we're busy spilling ink about who said "that chick over there thinks she's cute."
Thoughts? Are women's relationships with each other really broken or is the notion simply myth and distraction?


Sista GP said...

I can't believe 'most women are dishonorable and can't be trusted'. It's the ones in the minority that exhibit this behavior are the ones that are getting all the attention. The honorable and trustworthy are holding down jobs and taking care of business, which leaves no time for foolishness or games.

Tracy said...

While there is truth to the dysfunction of women's relationships, I would lean more to the distraction side of it. Especially now that the empowerment movement is going full force. "How can you fully embrace change and empowerment when you all can't even get along with each other?" seems to be the subliminal message - and in some cases it is working.

And kudos for also noticing the media's role in this - SATC, in all it's vapidness, does promote a message of Girlfriends Thru Thick and Thin, while Girlfriends was just a hot mess of "Ima get yo' man".

By some groups focusing on trivial matters such as hair (sorry), skin color, bling etc. instead of real issues ( money, personal advancement, well being), bw have stayed in the same rut, and are continuing to have the same tired arguements .

Real unity and advancement cannot commence until we get over this hurdle.

Trish said...

I completely agree with your "conspiracy" theory. Often I hear the most misogynist statements come from women themselves. After all, at a party it is not the men who are commenting and critiquing other women's clothes, hair, makeup, breast-size, thigh-size, teeth etc. I too, think it is a great way to have us women distracted from the real sources of oppression in our society and disregard the patriarchal system that teaches us to be so judgmental of our fellow women. I think the same sort of "conspiracy" theory can be applied to the F-word status of feminism -- many women cringe at the word and will do anything to avoid identifying as a feminist. We've all heard the frustrating "I'm not a feminist but [insert feminist thought here]". Again, I can't help but feel that the bad reputation that comes tagged to feminism can only be a result of the patriarchal system itself.

Cheryl said...

I agree with both "conspiracy theories". If we're fighting over crumbs we won't have the power to demand a seat at the table.

Tracy said...

If we're fighting over crumbs we won't have the power to demand a seat at the table.

Well said, Cheryl. And now is the time when we should be grabbing all of the power that we can get. It's time to take our chunk of the world.

I attended one of those college "feel good" seminars on race. As usual, there was the cocky white guy, the angry bw, the hippie and the conservatives.

The cocky wm was doing his Fox News schtick - Obama is the devil, bla bla. One very astute bw stood up and told him that his fears were not unfounded.

She told him that he didn't need to fear the black poor - or any poor for that matter. What he needed to fear was Blacks like her...educated, semi upwardly mobile, grounded. She explained that Obama's election proved not that a black man could do it, but Blacks in general, who fit the criteria, could now be just as unqualified as whites and still expect greater things.

He needed to fear the Blacks that got this epiphany - and acted on it!

I laughed and cried because this sister had the fire! Cocky wm had nothing to say after that! LOL!!

My hope is that we will all get this fire soon, stop paying lip service to being "queens" and sbw's and start living to our full potential. We have much to offer this world....

Tracy said...

Sorry Trish!! I agree with your feminist stance also.

Too many of us see the F word as something white women do...just like the other F word (fitness)!

If we truly embraced the aspects of feminism, we wouldn't be breaking our backs for the crappy pay, and we surely wouldn't be at the bottom of the totem pole on the wage scale!


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