We’re all guilty of being the one to criticise other women at some point in our lives.
Perhaps when we were much younger, and didn’t know better; or even now we’re older, and struck with feelings of jealousy or frustration. Occasionally it’s so subtle, we don’t even realise we’re doing it.
She’s not that successful.
She’s so bossy.
I bet she wears the trousers in that relationship.
Who did she sleep with to get that job?
She’s not a girl’s girl.
She’s too… fat, skinny, prude, sexual, tall, short, loud, quiet, old, young.
Who does she think she is?
Slut. Whore. Bitch.
I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been a “mean girl;” more often than not, I’ve been the one under attack. But I’ve said my fair share of the above, mostly when speaking to my female friends about other women.
Occasionally, it’s justified.
If a woman is behaving poorly, or has caused hurt or harm to someone else, I believe we have a duty—to ourselves and the collective feminine—to speak up, with fierce grace. Don’t fall into the trap of never criticising another woman, because you think it goes against “girl code.” That’s bullshit.
But more often than not, it’s completely unjustified, and unnecessary. And it usually comes back to the same root.
We feel small, or inadequate in comparison, or we haven’t given ourselves permission to chase our own dreams; so we criticise other women for doing just that.
We believe we’re in a competition with other women, and that we have to come out on top.
We’re stuck in a mindset of lack and scarcity, where we believe there’s only room for one woman’s success.
We carry betrayal and mistrust of other women in our ancestral lines, from the time of the witch hunts.
And we’re afraid to call other women out when we see them criticise other women. Because they’re our friends; we think we have to agree to show our support, and we don’t want to be ostracised from the group.
We will criticize, attack, and try to sabotage other women, because it rattles us to see in them what we have not permitted in ourselves. We will lash out if we see something emerging or expressed in another woman that we have squashed in ourselves. We won’t wholeheartedly support another woman following her passion if we’ve talked ourselves out of our own. We won’t support her idealism and desire to change the world if we treat our own idealism with judgment or harshness. We can’t celebrate success, ambition, assertiveness in another woman if we are curtailing any of that in ourselves.
It’s a toxic culture that we step into from a young age. We want to fit in and be liked, so we back our friends when they criticise other women. We hear our mothers, sisters, or grandmothers directing flippant, catty comments towards other women; women they often don’t even know.
We learn this is the way to be a woman.
But it doesn’t feel good, does it?
Perhaps in the moment, when someone laughs at your dig, you feel a sense of worthiness and confidence and sisterhood.
But it never lasts.
Because that worthiness and confidence and sisterhood you think you’re feeling isn’t real.
Attacking her won’t make you feel more confident in your own skin.
Criticising her won’t make you more successful.
Trying to take her down won’t help you rise.
So, how do we rise?
We give ourselves complete permission to be the woman we want to be. And we give each other permission to do exactly the same.
To dress how we want, to speak our mind, and fuck whoever we please. To chase our dreams, to follow our soul wherever it leads us; and to trust our intuition to guide us along the way. To say yes and hell no and I’ve changed my mind.
And we celebrate that woman, whether she’s loud, quiet, curvy, skinny, black, white, young, old, funny, serious, intelligent, ditsy, provocative, or prudish. Whether she’s a mum or childless; a CEO or a toilet cleaner; single or divorced. Because there is no right or wrong here. There is no better or worse. And there is space for all of us.
We forgive ourselves, and the women around us. For playing small, for competing, and for criticising.
We leave our judgement behind us, where it belongs.
We learn to trust, respect, and love one another, whether we’re friends or strangers. Because, despite our past and the scars we wear, the truth is we can be safe with other women.
You are safe with other women.
And this is how we rise.