During the festive season I attended several evenings out, lots of gatherings where both couples and women only have been invited, and have found that I have left each time with a sense of unease as if something has stuck in my throat and I’ve felt unable to quite swallow it. What I’m referring to is not a new phenomenon; in fact, most people reading this will no doubt have experienced its dark, eroding force at some point. I am talking about bitching. Without exception, I have left each Christmas event having witnessed a catty comment made by one – sometimes several – women, about another. In each case the target woman has sometimes been single, often dressed in a way which may be viewed as provocative, and without exception has just happened to be attractive.
I’ll give you an example:
Woman 1: “ Is that really a leather dress she’s wearing?”
Woman 2: “Dress? That’s a crop top.”
Woman 1: (Cackles) “I mean god, no wonder her husband left. What a state.” *
Woman: (to nobody in particular), “Mutton. She needs to lose the heels and invest in some Tena Lady.”
This behaviour has left me scratching my head and here’s why; in spite of all the hype we are fed about today’s woman supposedly being what I like to call ’super’ – working long hours, leading the way in the workplace, tending to babies, teenagers, husbands, elderly relatives – are we really so uncomfortable in our own skins that we still feel threatened by other attractive women? Is the neanderthal, fellow-female-battling woman really so far removed from our evolved, super selves?
Surely a huge part of this new role should involve the support of our fellow sex, in spite of how she appears.
I grew up with a mother who was – and still is – non-pro-women. She often accuses her oldest and closest friends of flirting with her husband at dinner parties, and will eye attractive ladies at social gatherings with her upper lip well curled. Maybe this is why I feel so fiercely repelled by such basic behaviour; perhaps it turns my stomach that because a woman has good bone structure or a tiny waist, she must endure cold shoulder treatment and spite. They then must try harder if they wish to be accepted by the women around them.
This isn’t simply a social issue either; I worked as a nurse for several years with a variety of women from all backgrounds and witnessed first hand how prettier colleagues were often singled out, even humiliated by their fellow workers. Some were even passed over for promotion because of their looks and in 2012 The Workplace Bullying Institute reported that the rate of woman-on-woman bullying had increased by 9% since 2007.
As CEO of a skincare business today, I am often targeted to join female support groups aimed at providing a networking environment. But I feel we must deal with the undercurrent of competitive jealousy which fails to look deeper, admire and stand together, before we can truly help each other in a business sense. Taking this one step further, women must also learn to respect each other and until we address this head on, how can we really progress, socially and at work?
True; women are naturally talented in being able to spot a beauty in a crowd, but we simply must learn to cherish rather than envy, admire rather than judge and above all, remind ourselves that just because she is beautiful, sexy, stylish, (or all of the above), it doesn’t mean her life is perfect; she most likely, (in fact, I am certain of it), experiences the same daily struggles as the rest of us.
Oh, and I happen to know that the leather dress lady has been left a single mum of two small children against her will and hardly gets to go out at all, which is probably why she chose to make an extra effort with her appearance. She’s also 42 years old and runs a successful business.