Female Bullying & Rivalry
In your childhood favorite cartoon, you may have seen bullies projected as a boy in a leather jacket, who waits outside of the unsuspecting victim’s house to taunt, tease, or even abuse them. Yet, women can be just as conniving, and oftentimes the bullying can run deeper.
In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, I want to talk about female bullying and rivalry, and how it may stem from nothing other than — patriarchy.
According to psychology, the reason individuals bully is because they may be bullied or neglected at home. They aren’t receiving the proper emotional care and nurturing support. However, people who had a relatively healthy upbringing can still be bullies: they may unconsciously pick up patterns of competition, domination, attention and power over that is celebrated in our culture due to patriarchy.
Just look at national sports, for example, and see how competitive they can be. Even the commercials are trying to one-up the other, oftentimes putting their competitors down. We can’t help it: trying to be better than the other runs rampant in our culture.
What’s more, the introduction of cyberbullying since the invention of social media and the internet has made things worse. You’ll see it in the media: news networks and mega-influencers oftentimes pick apart others or critique what other people wear, what they say or how they act. This is a form of bullying that can go farther because it’s easier to comment something negative when hidden behind a screen.
Many women may say they’re all for women’s rights, yet they pick up the culture of patriarchy: laughing at and taunting someone who is different, unique or even “too pretty” or special to where they feel threatened. This is extremely common in blended families as well, where the new woman in the picture is viewed as competition, and is often rejected and alienated by the other women in the family.
Where does this all stem from?
While there could be many reasons as mentioned from above, such as a cold upbringing or patterns of domination, it all really comes down to scarcity mindset and poor self-esteem. Scarcity mindset often brings us into shame and tells us we aren’t “enough” and that there isn’t enough ________ to go around. Enough attention, money, love, food, resources, or that you aren’t pretty, skinny, smart, special, important enough. If someone is so down on themselves, and stuck in shame and scarcity, they choose to pick someone outside of them to pick on and project onto to make themselves feel better.
Unfortunately, in the culture of patriarchy, this individualistic, one-upmanship is celebrated. So what’s the answer to dismantle this way of thinking and living?
Community & Compassion
I believe community is the answer. I believe working on ourselves is the answer, and I believe standing up for one another is what will tear this pattern down. Realizing that when we compete with or tear down another woman, it says a lot about our own insecurities, wounds, and things we need to work on and pay attention to.
If you notice your daughter, a friend, or even someone you don’t know getting bullied, scapegoated or alienated, or if friends are talking nasty to another woman or talking behind her back, be the bigger person, stand up for what’s right and speak up. Say you don’t believe in gossip or badmouthing. Give the benefit of the doubt. Understand you probably don’t truly know the other woman enough to assess her character and her heart.
If you are reading this blog, my guess is that you’ve done some healing work on yourself, and you’ve come to a place of empathy and compassion. Put yourself in the victim’s shoes–even if she has done something to upset you or another–there is no excuse for bullying. The worst possible thing we can do as women is to stay silent, turn a blind eye or worse, stand up for and justify the bully. It will hurt the other woman, but it will also hurt the relationship you have with yourself. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgement. And shame is truly what erodes so many things in our life, including our own self esteem, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, etc.
Practice this: next time a female friend is talking bad about another woman (even behind her back), don’t participate in the conversation …stand up for that other woman, or give another perspective, or if you have to, change the subject. The more fuel in the fire for the bully, and the more likely she is to continue her destructive ways.
Also, the next time you notice yourself judging another woman, shaming, or labeling her, start to notice instead how often you judge or label yourself. Notice that you’re probably in fear, shame and scarcity mentality. Forgive yourself, and give yourself some love and compassion.
We are communal creatures yet we live in an individualistic society. This is what has gone wrong. People feel isolated, like the odd one out, and without a support network. So both the bully and the victim may feel especially alone. Have empathy for all sides and suggest inviting ALL women to gatherings, to get to know each other, and give each other a fair chance at peace and harmony.
If you see something online, say something. Once you steer the conversation in a different direction and stand up for the woman being bullied, others will follow. It usually just takes one person. And that one person, in my opinion, is a true hero.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
Have you ever been bullied by other women? Do you have a family member or female friend who has been bullied by other women, whether in-person or online? Have you ever stood up to a bullying incident? What happened? Let me know in the comments below.
It’s time us women united together and wrote a different story to how we treat other women. If we truly want equal rights, we need to unite together instead of continue the destructive path of patriarchy.