"We aren’t competing with other women, ultimately, but with ourselves..."
Why are women competitive with each other? Evolutionary psychology says that it’s to protect their wombs from physical harm, while feminist psychology claims it’s because they’ve internalized the patriarchy.
A writer in the Times this past weekend posited a different explanation: “We aren’t competing with other women, ultimately, but with ourselves — with how we think of ourselves. For many of us, we look at other women and see, instead, a version of ourselves that is better, prettier, smarter, something more. We don’t see the other woman at all.”
In other words, it’s not you, it’s me.
One thing that pretty much everyone can agree on, however (okay, except for maybe the evolutionary psychologists, who never agree with anyone) is that female competition is an ugly thing. So here are ten ways to be a better, less competitive, less undermining friend to the fellow females in your life:
1. Don't make fun of vocal fry.
Or any other stereotypically “girly” ways of talking, like up-speak or saying “like” a lot. It encourages a culture where it’s okay to make women feel bad about themselves.
2. Don't fish for compliments about your body.
Because when you force another woman to say something nice about your body — even if you’re having a bad body image day — what’s really happening is that that woman is comparing herself to you. And, even if she’s Cindy Crawford, she’ll find a way to make a negative comparison and end up feeling bad about herself.
3. Never fight over a guy.
Don’t make fun of another woman, or dis another woman, to impress a guy. And don’t try to out-dress another woman, or out-flirt another woman. It’s never worth it in the end.
4. Don't Google his ex.
And don’t bad-talk her, either. It’s just bad female karma.
5. Don't primp in front of your friends.
As with fishing for compliments, this is just one more way to draw attention to your face or body, and no doubt your friends are convinced you have a nicer body and face than they do (even if you happen to think the exact opposite).
6. Don't mock female insecurity.
You’ve seen those women at parties who roll their eyes at other women who are trying too hard or wearing something too tight to gain attention or giggling too much or making a fool of themselves in an attempt to impress a guy. That doesn’t set you apart as a powerful, independent woman — it makes you a mean girl.
7. Don't try to be a "guy's girl".
It’s tempting to want to run away from female competitiveness and cattiness and just be friends with guys. But really, this is just a subtle way to denigrate women. If you don’t like female friendship, then change it!
8. Don't be faux humble.
Don’t pretend that you feel bad about your body just to make your friend feel better about her weight gain. This doesn’t count as empathy, it’s just one more way to subtly compare and contrast yourself with your “friend.”
9. Be a good secret keeper.
The best way to change female friendship is to be a good friend. Be kind Be a good listener. And never ever break someone’s trust just to make a guy laugh.
10. Walk in her shoes.
Not literally. Because that might make your friend feel bad about her hammer toe.
No, we mean, if you catch another woman being competitive, don’t respond in kind. Remind yourself that it’s not about you — she’s probably just using you as a warped mirror and feeling bad about herself. Take a deep breath and be the bigger person.
As Emily Gordon writes in the same article: “We don’t need to lower the stock of other women, either for the future of the species or for our own psyches. When we each focus on being the dominant force in our own universe, rather than invading other universes, we all win.”
So let’s be winners, ladies!
This article was originally published at Em & Lo. Reprinted with permission from the author.