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Friday, November 23, 2012

The sisterhood myth: The dirty little gender secret women don’t like to face

I’m about to betray my gender. That’s how many women will perceive this post. Betrayal. But it’s time to shed some light AND TRUTH in hopes that airing the dirty laundry will bring a healthy look at an important topic. (Please read the hyperlinks I have attached if you think I am alone in this view.)
I need to point out something from the start. This post is not pointed toward ALL women. My comments and remarks are not an indictment of every woman.  But I am seeking to dispel the glorified myth that women ALWAYS take care of or care about other women. The hard, cold, fact is that MOST women care very little for other women and don’t hesitate to step over another woman to get ahead- whether it is for a job or a man.

One of the lies many women tell themselves, and portray to the world, has to do with the concept of a sisterhood among women. It is an absolute deception and illusion. It honestly doesn’t exist.  Another lie is that we have each other’s backs.  Again, a fantasy.  In most cases, the only thing a woman has regarding another woman’s back is the knife she is about to insert in it. Sound extreme? Trust me, it isn’t.

In recent news, there have been examples of young, attractive, females poaching older and powerful men. Anyone who thinks this is not a common, everyday, occurrence needs to get out of fantasyland.   You might be surprised to know about those dating sites which strictly cater to married people. The statistics bear out that women are about even with men in the infidelity department, so there is certainly equal opportunity for cheaters.

For every heartwarming story of women doing for other women, and don’t get me wrong- they DO EXIST and should be noted and congratulated for their good works; there are also terrible, sickening, stories of women BULLYING, abusing and harassing other WOMEN! Read this blog post written by a prominent person who only goes by her first name.  (You may be able to figure it out, but if not, I will tell you if you ask.)
Like most stereotypes and myths, there are instances of truth and some women are very concerned about other women, but in my experience, the bad far outweighs the good.  I feel it is time to clear the air and dispel the myth because women are hurt by it. They have an expectation that women “out there” are looking out for them and they need a reality check.

Ladies- please stop pretending that you actually give a damn about ALL WOMEN. It’s okay to say that you dislike many of the women you encounter and that you feel no sense of allegiance or loyalty to them! It’s better to admit the truth and get it out in the open than to continue to dupe people, especially other women, into thinking that you give a damn about them.
If this fantasy sisterhood actually existed, how would we explain the following?
1. Women who actively and aggressively pursue and attempt to “steal” the affections of other women’s boyfriends or husbands.
2. The women who engage in epic gossiping, sniping, criticism, and character assassination of other women.
3. The petty, childish, snide, rude, comments women make about one another. GROWN WOMEN who should have better things to do with their time.
5. The competitive bitchiness related to other women’s life choices, child rearing, husbands, clothes, cars, homes, appearance, body shape, and many other things.
6. Women who, seeking to be more like men, use any opportunity to be ruthless, intimidating, cruel, and thoughtless, but usually target other women because they are easy prey.
7. The distorted and harsh perception that any woman who doesn’t agree with them 100% is either a pawn of the men in her life, or a simple and ignorant pawn of _______fill in the blank____.
8. Women who blame every bad thing in the world on men and resent any woman who doesn’t agree with as a traitor to her sex.
9. Female family members who abuse or ignore their brothers’ wives, their daughter-in-laws, their sister-in-laws, etc ., for whatever dysfunctional reasons.  Ganging up on another woman is never cool.
10. Last but not least, women use other women to build them up and make them feel good about themselves, and all the while, they refuse to do anything to help another woman succeed.
Many women like to pretend that somehow our gender is kinder, gentler, and more compassionate. Perhaps this was once true, but now it is a half-truth. I will put it this way- when we are good, we are very, very, good- when we are bad we are horrid.
 I always say that if you have a good female boss, you are truly blessed because they can be the best of the best. BUT, if you have a bad female boss, God help you.  I have experienced both sides of that coin in my career. I have been INCREDIBLY fortunate to have some excellent, professional, generous, fair, balanced, and brilliant female bosses, and they KNOW WHO THEY ARE!
I have also been cursed to have had to work for the unstable, unprofessional, ignorant, and toxic women.  THEY probably don’t know who they are, because they are deluded and unable to have insight into their pathological “leadership” style.
And when you are the object of an abusive woman, disappointment doesn’t even begin to cover the feeling. It is a betrayal because we have been brought up to believe that our fellow females would somehow have our back. GET RID OF THAT LIE and you may be able to survive the experience.

The point of this discussion is NOT to bash women. It is a call to action, a wakeup call, a true and honest desire for change.
To believe that women can’t be sexist or biased towards other women is ignorant and a denial of reality.  We scream like holy hell when men are cruel, biased, or toxic towards women, but we often feel we must ignore or cover when women do it to us. We feel we must suffer silently and accept the toxic females’ rage, scapegoating and even racial bias because they are- women. It shouldn’t matter what gender an abuser is- ABUSE IS ABUSE!
A tyrannical boss, regardless of gender, is an outrage and intolerable liability risk to the organization which is employing people. For that reason, quotas are completely absurd if the whole point is to employ women in leadership position. The sick irony of the female boss abusing other females is more common than many people understand.
In summation- WOMEN, wake up! Don’t assume that female co-worker, or boss, or girl friend really gives a damn about you JUST BECAUSE you are both women. Women have the capacity for all the things we accuse men of, and are even better at some of them! Equality covers the good, the bad, and the ugly.
If you believe in the equality of the sexes it is fair to expect that women can be equally unkind as men towards other women. I hope this is the wake up call that will call women to act against the abusive and toxic women in their own lives.  STOP making excuses for them, and stop pretending it doesn’t exist.


  1. Excellent post Diana! This has always upset me, women are so cruel to each other. More recently I've noticed how cruel moms are to each other. It's disheartening to deal with the "mommy wars" as you get ready to welcome a new life into the world. I go out of my way to cultivate female friendships and sometimes it feels like a losing battle when new female friends end up being toxic and draining. I have a handful of female friends from college that are fiercely loyal to each other. I'm also blessed to have my brother's amazing girlfriends, an awesome sister-in-law and several of my male friend's wives. I'm open to meeting new female friends through mommy groups and play dates but I'm sadly not hopeful. Women are not the sisterhood we should be and men are just as bad. We could all use a few lessons in loyalty, respect and morality. I hope to raise my children with this and give them coping skills to deal with a world that is not this way.
    Thank you for writing this! :)

  2. Powerful post, Diana -and very well put. This iconography of hand-holding, supportive "circles of women" blahblahblah has to GO. Not only is it not true, but it's destructive and limiting. It's a myth much like the ones around romance and partnership, lovely gauzy stories pedalled to women from a range of sources, from Oprah to fashion magazines to the advertising industry. "Oooohhh, sisterhood!" How does this marginalization exactly help anyone? It holds no purpose other than to entrench ugly gender stereotypes and cliches around the very people who've already been held down by them as relating to concepts of motherhood, parenthood, couplehood, and wifehood. "Without a man/child/your sisters you're NOTHING!" We're people, we don't all want the same things, we don't all hold the same opinions or values or belief systems. It's so easy to characterize women as being like "this" -but it's also dangerous. Not *all* other women are vicious homewreckers! Not *all* single women are selfish bitches! Not *all* mothers are always 100% in love with their kids! Not *all* female bosses are going to be nicey-nice with their female underlings! Okay? Male friends of mine tell me men are "simple creatures." NO, they're not, and NO, women aren't either, and YES, let's start appreciating the roles of subtlety and variance. "Circles of women," pfffft. Let's trash that along with the bullshit macho "he-man" myths, okay? Yeah.

    Good post, Diana. Bravo.

  3. I appreciate those great comments. I love the points you made and it really helps me when people leave intelligent remarks. THANKS SO MUCH!

  4. "Look at what HE's wearing.", said no man to a fellow male co-worker about another male co-worker ever.

  5. This is great! I'm so glad light has finally been shed on what all women are thinking but are too afraid to say. Hopefully now that the truth is out there, us women can start trying to be genuinely kind!

  6. Thank you all for the feedback, remarks and comments! I am very glad that the post spoke to many of you and brought up a topic many people don't want to discuss.

  7. It's partly because of the sisterhood myth that women expect too much from each other. Yea, you may be lucky enough at some point in your life to have one or two good friends who would truly drop everything to do something for you, but to expect that on a regular basis from a group of friends sets a person up for serious disappointment. It's as damaging as the myth of the romantic partner who "completes you."