Every woman has experienced it at least once. You’re out on the town feeling sexy and confident. Hair done? Check. Nails Done? Check. Super cute outfit and heels? Check and check.
Maybe your destination is a networking event or meeting the girls for drinks or a date night with your significant other. You walk into the place and the eyes of every other woman in the room turns to you. It’s not just them casually taking notice of a new person entering the room. No. Rather in a matter of seconds they have taken note of your shoes, dress, earrings, hair, handbag, even your makeup. From head to toe, they silently pick you a part taking note of anything that is not up to their standards. And after dissecting you with their eyes, at best you get a blank stare, but sadly it’s usually a smirk or an icy gaze, before they turn back to their business.
So that we’re clear, the issue is not with the act of checking out the new chick in the room. It’s the judgment that’s attached. It’s the nonverbal communication that asks:“Do you really think you look cute?” or that says: “Oh no she didn’t wear those shoes with that dress!!” And in the presence of men, ladies, we really show our ugly side by attacking everything from a woman’s physical attributes to making nasty assumptions about her personality. But news flash: whether he’s your husband, co-worker, brother or your best friend, men hate it when women criticize other women. When a man hears a woman ‘hating’ on another woman on any level for any reason she comes across as petty, insecure and catty. As a matter of fact, I think ‘not criticizing other women’ shows up repeatedly on the list of things not to do in the company of men taken from various men’s magazines and surveys. But I digress.
We have to stop assuming that the woman sitting across the room is plotting to stab us in the back, take our man, sabotage our job, steal our shine or is envious of the material objects we possess. And in turn, ladies we have to stop mistreating each other and be a better friend. I continue to challenge myself to smile at women I don’t know or offer a compliment when it’s due. Unfortunately far too many women have been burned and their hearts have hardened to other women who do attempt to reach out and be friendly. We are suspicious of the stranger with a smile and we often expect that other women will be our enemies. Ladies, we really have to do better. I’m not saying that we drop our guards and give our trust to every woman who crosses our path. We should still, as Erykah Badu suggested, “Pick our friends like we pick our fruit,” but if we want to put the jokes and stereotypes to bed about women hating other women, we have to start with ourselves and stop being so critical of one another.
I, personally, cringe whenever I hear a woman insist she can’t be friends with other women. Her statement is usually supported with generalizations like “women are back-stabbers” or “women are always jealous of me, how I look or what I have.” I get it. She’s probably been done wrong by a woman she thought was friend. But when I hear such blanket statements about our entire gender, I can’t help but wonder, if you are unable to form healthy relationships with other women, what does that say about YOU? Maybe that’s why Oprah and Gayle are constantly labeled as lesbians. Because society rarely sees two women, who never compete with each other or are jealous of the other’s accomplishments, demonstrate unconditional love, admiration, respect and support of each other in the way that these two besties have done. I’ve said it before: as much as I love men, there’s something special about the bond I have with my female friends that a male partner can’t provide.
Aside from our personal lives, we also have to do a better job of supporting each other in the workplace. Women often complain about sexism and the glass ceiling in corporate America, but too often I hear horror stories of other women, not men, who have sabotaged female coworkers or simply made the hours between nine and five a living hell. During a recent discussion about this topic, a female coworker, who revealed she had been terrorized by two former female colleagues, said that regardless of how she feels about a woman on a personal level, she owes it to that woman to support her goals and ambitions. For my co-worker, demonstrating her support could be as simple as not speaking negatively about the woman in public. And as we climb the corporate ladder, we can’t get so comfy in our corner offices that we forget to mentor a junior staffer or tip a former colleague on a job opening in our department. Even if that means the position may be lateral to or higher than our own. I was taught that when you recognize each of us was put on this earth with a special talent, you can be confident no one can ever steal your shine because these gifts have been given to you and only you. Unfortunately, many of us waste precious time we should be investing in ourselves because we are too focused on someone else’s lane.
And finally, as we prepare the next generation of teens and tweens, we have to serve as role models, which include promoting and displaying positive relationships with other women. Young women are literally killing themselves and each other because of cruel exchanges and personal attacks with their female peers that reach beyond the school yard. The torture is oftentimes made public via texts and social networks.
Most of us will agree that whether a woman is 14 or 40, this ultimately boils down to self-esteem. When you feel bad about yourself, you view other women as threats. Sure, we may mask our insecurities and self-esteem issues by one-upping another woman, pointing out what we have that she doesn’t, status-jockeying or publicly exclaiming that we are “all that” but the reality is, when you’re truly fabulous, you never have to shout about it, and you definitely don’t have to put others down; people will naturally take notice of your greatness.
It’s taken time, but I’ve accepted that there will always be someone who is, at least in others’ opinions, cuter, smarter, thinner, curvier and more popular than I am. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m good with me and that’s all that matters. I’m confident that Tyra Banks could walk into the room, but my boyfriend still wants to go home with me. And that as successful and gifted as Oprah is, my god-given talents make me just as valuable to the world. I’ve also become very comfortable telling another woman she’s gorgeous or that I admire her tenacity in the business world. When I offer these compliments, it doesn’t take anything away from me. In fact it makes me feel that much better about myself.
So regardless of the high profile job, pimped out pad, gucci bag, designer clothes, flawless makeup or x5 in the driveway, if a woman is judging another woman before she barely walks into the room, making backhanded comments, checking her out to find something she can tear down, or hating on her for no reason, she becomes diminished. She perpetuates the stereotype that women hate women. And there’s nothing appealing or lady-like about that.