I Compete With Other Women Because That’s What Badass Bitches Do

Photo: weheartit
women in competition
Buzz, Self

And that means ALL of you ...

One of my favorite quotes of all time is: “If women ruled the world, there would no wars. Just a bunch of jealous countries not talking to each other.”

When I first came across that quote a few years back as I was licking my wounds from a devastating friendship “break up,” I found it both hysterical and validating.

From time to time I have wondered to myself, however, if maybe isn’t just a bit tragic.

These thoughts came to the top of my mind when I came upon a recent study of 2,300 women conducted by SheSpeaks, an online community with the mission to “elevate and amplify women’s voices.”

The goal of their study was to better understand whether women feel supportive of each other.

The results revealed that the majority of women do NOT feel supported by each other, and that they find jealousy, competition and negativity to be barriers to connection with each other.

No real surprises there. So now the questions on the table remain these: “Why?” and “What can we do about it.”

In an accompanying video, SheSpeaks interviewed their founder and three of their regular contributors to get their thoughts on the matter.

Jenny Chiu, humorist, essayist and blogger of mommynanibooboo.com said, “We are trained at a very early age to view each other as competition. There’s the Miss Teen USA, the Miss America Pageant, Mrs. America pageant … I actually don’t know of any dude pageants.”

I don’t know that I agree.

I hear what she is saying, but A) two of the kindest, most sincere, loyal and least gossipy women I know both competed very successfully in the pageant world from childhood to adulthood, and B) there actually are "dude pageants." They’re called team sports.

This does raise an important point. Perhaps men aren’t afraid of competing with each other because they grow up participating in dude pageants  um, I mean team sports.

And maybe those two women are the spectacular human beings they are (astonishingly good looks aside) specifically because they grew accepting competition as a way of life.

The next to share her thoughts was Joey Fortman of Real Mom Media, who noted that when she made a professional shift to the “digital mom world” after 25 years working in the male-dominated field of radio, she “found it overwhelming and heartbreaking often ... the way women treated each other.”

I know exactly what Joey is talking about, from the reverse perspective, as I started my career in the heavily female-dominated field of non-profit fundraising.

The oddest thing about working in any “female-dominated” field is that males actually dominate.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, despite the fact that women make up approximately two-thirds of the nonprofit workforce in the U.S., “they are entirely absent from chief executive roles at certain kinds of big charities. No arts-and-culture organization, hospital, public-affairs group, Jewish federation, or other religious organization in The Chronicle's survey of the 400 biggest charities is currently headed by a woman.”

These jobs pay relatively low wages, even though most of them require graduate level degrees to be hired at even the bottom-tier of the employment ladder.

My own student loans for graduate school were equal to the amounts taken in loans by most of my friends who went to law school, medical school, or business school — and often much more than theirs, because there were far fewer scholarships available for my program.

Upon graduation, however, these friends were quickly earning more than four times the annual salary I was - an average of $75,000 per year more!

Not only were friends in for-profit, traditionally "male" fields earning more and paying down their loans more quickly and more easily, they were more highly regarded and respected both within and without of their professions.

Back then, when I was asked what I did for a living and replied that I was fundraiser, the response was often, “Oh, that’s nice dear. I’m sure you’ll marry a good man soon.”

That was always a chipper pick-me-up as I paid yet another drop into the student loan payoff bucket. Or something like that.

Here is what I saw happen among women employees in my field as a result of these demoralizing conditions.

Knowing we would never be rewarded significantly for our hard work with either financial or social status, and knowing that the room for women at the top was suffocatingly tiny at best, the women in less-than-executive-level positions went to war through the strategic methods women know best — gossiping, clawing for position as the boss’s favorite, and establishing inner-circles and cliques for social domination, all while stepping on any toes and stabbing any backs necessary along the way.

It was brutal. It was ugly. And it was tragic.

I have been working in the male-dominated fields of Family Law and online publishing for seven years, and I have not experienced this kind of behavior — not even once.

To me, this correlates perfectly with the data in the study mentioned above, which also noted that women feel most highly supported by each other in friendships, in person, with positivity on social media, in making connections and in respecting work/life balance, whereas they feel least supported by each other in the areas of gossip, mentoring, and helping each other professionally.

I agree with SheSpeaks founder Aliza Freud, who said, “Women have been competitive with each other really since the dawn of time, when they were competing for the best mate.”

These competitive behaviors are absolutely biologically ingrained and evolutionarily driven.

However, there is an important distinction to be considered in relation to her immediately following statement, “If this is really part of our DNA, it’s going to be hard for us to fight our nature, and might take more than just a discussion to really resolve it.”

Excuse me if this sounds like semantics, but bear with me and you’ll see why it makes a difference.

DNA is non-changeable genetic coding. We can deal with our DNA — work with what we’ve got, so to speak — but we cannot ever change it.

Evolutionary conditioning? THAT we can work with. THAT we can change.

For all of the brilliant scholars out there, I find much of Beyonce’s work to be some of the most profound in terms of modern feminism (stay with me!).

I just listened to her epic hit “***Flawless” for the first time last week, and it got me thinking BIG time.

If you are one of the few lost souls like me who hadn’t heard it yet, here’s your turn:

When I first listened, I found myself troubled by the harsh tone she took with other women in the repeating refrain, “Bow down, bitches.”

So troubled that I literally took to Google to search “Beyonce Flawless why say bitches.”

I found an article in The Atlantic explaining the evolution from a song called "Bow Down/I Been On" into the current single, which also features a stunningly brilliant out-take from a TEDx talk given by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

In the article, Beyonce's creative director, Todd Tourso, was asked if she altered her original song to appease critics who said she was being too boastful and taking on other women too harshly.

Tourso replied, "I think that when she started messing around with those sounds [for “Bow Down”] she started to make a conscious effort to make music for herself, have a little more fun with it, and not overthink it. And not be scared about what her core fan base, or, y’know, people might think about it ...

When all the pieces start to move into place, then you have the perspective where you can fill in the gaps and know what’s needed to complete the sentence. A big part of it for her was this idea of struggle and the fight to become a champion. All the defeats and hard times and losses that she’s had that felt like they were earth-shattering, in perspective, made her the warrior that she is today— made her be able to step out and say, 'Bow down, bitch.'"

OK, creative freedom and being yourself, yadda yadda ... Why say "bitches"?

Then I scrolled back to a quote Beyonce gave at the time the original version was first released.

Bey said, "I went into the studio, I had a chant in my head, it was aggressive, it was angry, it wasn't the Beyoncé that wakes up every morning ... Imagine the person that hates you. Imagine a person that doesn't believe in you. And look in the mirror and say, 'Bow down, bitch' and I guarantee you feel gangsta.”

And I thought to myself, you know, Kanye, Jay-Z, Eminem — those dudes talk trash like that to other guys in every single song they record.

Men compete with each other ALL. THE. TIME. Constantly. It is known and accepted, and it is a source of strength for them.

Why shouldn't Bey slay just like they do?

Why do women take everything so personally? 

She sure as hell has accomplished a shitload more than I have. 

And yes, life is a competition. That is how we survive. By doing our best everyday to be the best at what we do so people want to keep paying us to do it so we can buy food for ourselves and our children.

In the excerpt from Adichie's talk, she says, "We raise girls to see each other as competitors. Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men."

Which brings me full circle to Freud’s statement that “it’s going to be hard for us to fight our nature, and might take more than just a discussion to really resolve it.”

Here is a radical concept. What if we accept that we can’t and won’t resolve it  because what if women simply need to accept it and work with it?

Perhaps if women can embrace competition between females in more productive arenas, we won’t feel as much negative energy from the more archaic competition for male attention?

Side note (kind of): Men have to compete with each other for female attention as well. They just don’t get pissy with each other about it the way we do.

Side note (kind of) part 2: It would be incredibly interesting to follow this study up with one asking the exact same questions of lesbians. With competition for male attention removed, do they experience the same lack of support from and for other women?

But I digress.

Jenny Chiu paraphrased from America Ferrera’s dialog with Gloria Steinem, in which she said, “When I stopped thinking of other women as competition to me and started thinking about them as my partners in life …  my whole experience of life changed.”

Chiu elaborated, “I believe that to be true. Are there mean girls just like there were in high school? Yes. But you don’t need them in your life. You can cull the herd. You can cultivate your own life, online and in person. One that makes you feel supportive.”


Doing as Chiu suggests is not a way of resolving conflict between women. It is a way of managing it and working with it in a healthy, self-protective and productive way.

The best news in the SheSpeaks study is that in the emotional realm, the majority of women surveyed feel both happy and appreciative of their lives, with only 10% reporting pervasive sadness.

Yes, these women also feel — in this particular order — stressed, content, overwhelmed, worried, fulfilled, excited and frustrated. That’s life.

For myself, I feel a great sense of peace in recognizing that competition among women is NOT yet another thing I should feel ashamed of as a woman.

It is something I hope to watch for in myself with greater awareness paid to whether it is manifesting in ways that positively or negatively affect myself and the people in my life, deliberately fostering or cutting it off accordingly.

So bow down, bitches.

And let me know when you feel proud of something too, so I can bow down right back.



Explore YourTango