Why Women Tear Each Other Down
‘Aurat hi aurat ki sabse badi Dushman hai.’(A woman is another woman's biggest enemy). We have all heard this phrase whether it be in a movie or real life but have we ever wondered about the reason behind this?
It is not easy to attribute simple reasoning to why women pull each other down. It goes deep into our minds and how we are born and raised. We grow up in a patriarchal society. A society that early on decides the life of people based on their gender. We see women as less worthy, incompetent, weak, and less assertive in comparison to men. We tend to internalize these values and attitudes. This internalized patriarchy and sexism shows up in how we see women; in turn, women end up seeing each other as competition and rivals. Internalized sexism is when women subconsciously project sexist ideas onto other women and even onto themselves. This internalized sexism/patriarchy is so well ingrained that women unknowingly become misogynistic; we shame, judge, doubt ourselves and other women.
We are taught these stringent gender roles that must be followed and if a woman deviates from them, she cannot be a good mother or daughter or wife or sister, etc. Women are bombarded with questions and statements like Who will take care of the children? Do you know how to cook? Get married then you can have a career. Sit and behave like a girl. This is another way women bring each other down by invalidating women who do not play it by the book. These gender roles do not have space for women who are successful outside the house.
In a male-dominated society, men are seen as the torchbearers of everything. They have all important powers and positions, oftentimes women feel the need to be on the side of power structures and push other women down to climb to the top.
We as women also feel that there is not enough room for all of us to be successful, which may be partially true because women have been denied access in most spaces for many years and still are; we feel that our hard-earned position is threatened if another woman is doing well and due to which we feed into our insecurity and are harsh towards our sisters.
Gloria Steinem talks about “pull her down” syndrome which argues that women often slander and denigrate other women. This happens because we are conditioned into believing that women are not supposed to be successful.
We have all gossiped and shamed women. Acknowledging it is the first step, we are taught all our lives how women should or should not be, do or not do. It will take some time to unlearn and relearn these values and attitudes. Next time, you catch yourself or a friend slandering woman, introspect and reason yourself. Is this right or is this sexism? Be kind to each other because there is enough space on the top for all of us.