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Sugar and spice... and absolutely nothing nice

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Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of... or so the ditty would have us believe. But already, from the naive age of nursery rhymes, we are lulled to sleep with merciless lies.

Sugar and spice? Those little girls turn into women (or even just bratty teenagers), and all of a sudden, it’s as though we're sucking lemons. Women too often compare, compete, challenge, undermine and undercut other women. Time after time we dress for each other, not for ourselves. Whether it’s at school or at the office, you know it’s true. Maybe Mean Girls is really a thing.

As New York Times journalist Emily Gordon speculates, that’s also why people like Taylor Swift have become such iconic figures in today’s society. They have grown to be regarded as feminist heroes; they support other women openly and everybody ends up asking: how do they do it?

It’s so nice, but I find it a little bit creepy. I catch myself thinking there must be something they’re hiding – but why? Why do girls in groups so frequently end up competing with each other?

Evolution

Ah, the wonders of science. Evolution states two main theories with regards to women competing against each other.

Firstly, evolutionary psychology suggests that since we have to capture the attention of those that might impregnate us, we have to automatically be better than the rest of the women around us. Pretty straight forward.

So we compete and we play for keeps. When we are feeling confident, we bash other women. When we are feeling insecure, we bash other women. Or, even worse, we eliminate ourselves from the game and pretend we don’t care that we’re losing the “best hair” war, and end up pitying women that possess a curling iron.

Secondly, even though we’re not loaded with testosterone, it doesn’t mean that biologically we cannot be bad bitches. According Florida State University psychologist, John Manor, women can – subconsciously – smell when other women are ovulating, and “one could speculate that women exposed to the scent of ovulation might become more antagonistic or competitive.”

Similarly, we are biologically constructed to make sure our womb is physically protected; this too causes us to resort to indirect aggression with others of our same gender.

Patriarchy

In a society where men have always been number ones (leaders, rulers, the holders of all power), women are automatically placed on an inferior level and subconsciously we can only compare ourselves to each other to feel more worthy. Along with constantly being oppressed by man’s inculcation of women as inferior, our eternal quest for personal power and worth grows even more desperate.

Similarly, women are often taught that it is cute to be afraid, and not be aggressive or assertive. The subtext is that men will take care of it all. Men will battle it out. So once again, we either have to pretend to be one of the boys, or grow catty. As our natural competitive spirit cannot be shared openly or channelled in a healthy manner, we grow envious and manipulative. We grow ferociously sneaky, perfecting our back-talking skills, greedily feeding on gossip.

Insecurity

All of the above are both causes and effects of our insecurity, and our insecurity is the cause and effect of our competition. There’s no way out. We grow to dislike other women very easily because, instead of seeing them for who they are, we see them for who we are not. We suffer from nurture-induced judgement.

All of a sudden, the comment “that dress is lovely” is undermined by the involuntary thought of “I want a dress like that!” So we slut shame and undermine; we don’t see other women at all, we just see better versions of ourselves: taller, thinner, smarter.

The other way round

Now from what I’ve written so far, it would appear I hate all women and all women are horrible people. That’s absolutely untrue, of course, but what is true is that girls in groups regularly get into uncomfortable dynamics. This results in more than just unhealthy competition, but sometimes psychological self-harm, too, thanks to evolution, patriarchy and insecurity.

Some women learn to feel guilty for feeling happy and successful, experiencing their success as hurtful or detrimental. Women then need others’ approval, but dependency on other people to maintain self-esteem creates a double bind, impeding women from embracing and using their own edge to achieve success, explains psychologist Lynn Margolies.

So this whole time we have been worried about the battle of the sexes, should we have been shedding more light on the intra-sexual battles that happen every single day?

Overall, the first way of changing a habit is becoming aware of it. If we understand why it really is we are cruel towards other women, it might be easier for us to avoid hating them on purpose. As writer Chelsea Fagan explains, these negative thoughts are mainly beliefs upheld by the cage of social and psychological trends that confine us. Outside this petty gold-leaf wiring, “there is enough room for every woman to be her own person without impinging on another woman’s existence”.

Plus, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we’ve been competing for something that is sort of a “limited commodity.” If you have it, I cannot have it, and vice-versa. But just because you have a gorgeous boyfriend doesn’t mean mine won’t be equally as handsome; it sounds so dumb to think back at it but then there we are, bitching about how her sweetheart isn’t “that fit after all.”

At the end of the day, if Mean Girls taught us anything, it’s that women should get together, or might risk getting hit by a bus.

 

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