Female rivalry is not a new concept but rather a complex issue that has been studied and debated for years. It’s a destructive force that holds women back from reaching their full potential and which now is becoming even more evident on social media. In this article, our expert and ageing mentor Brenda Ackerman will take a closer look at the issue of female rivalry, and discuss practical steps to break this cycle and promote solidarity among women.
In today’s interconnected world, it’s disheartening to see women tearing each other down. The toxicity of online bullying* and social media shaming, in particular, can be appalling and overshadow the incredible potential for women to support one another among generations.
Most of the time these attacks come from young women. I see them bashing ladies online for their decisions about everything from their physical appearance and clothing choices to their cosmetic applications (and this doesn’t spare even supermodels like Paulina Porizkova, too). If that isn’t enough, I see them viciously attack mature women by commenting that they are too old to be on some social media and don’t belong there.
This is “intentional ageism,” if you need to put a label on it, but I’m simply calling out these younger women for just being mean.
What they forget is that we are all part of the same club. And we are all connected because we aren’t getting any younger. None of us are covered with bulletproof coating. Words can hurt and inflict damage that can be difficult to overcome.
If we want to thrive in this society, we need to band together to support and uplift one another with mutual respect, dignity, and kindness. Instead of feeling envious or competitive, we should support and uplift each other when one of us achieves something great. This can create a positive and empowering environment where we can feel supported and motivated to reach our own goals.
Only in this way, we’ll be able to change the narrative on ageing for women collectively and succeed. As a society, we can do better. And as women, I know we can do even better.
What are the causes of female rivalry?
Female rivalry happens when a woman uses her power to keep another woman down, whether it’s by mistreating her or unfairly competing with her.
According to research, some reasons can explain this behaviour. From a young age, we are bombarded with societal expectations and stereotypes that pit us against one another. We are taught to compete for attention, validation, and success. This is evident in media portrayals of women, where women are often depicted as catty, jealous, and competitive. These stereotypes are reinforced in movies, TV shows, and advertisements, creating a toxic environment for all of us.
What’s more, in many industries, women are still fighting for equal opportunities and representation. This creates a scarcity mindset, where we feel like we have to compete with each other for the limited opportunities available. This is further perpetuated by the “Queen Bee Syndrome,” a term used to describe a workplace phenomenon in which a high-ranking female employee, usually a manager, intimidates and excludes her female subordinates, often leading to a hostile and uncomfortable work environment.
Other reasons for female rivalry may be the results of internalized misogyny manifesting in the form of self-doubt, self-sabotage, and a lack of confidence in one’s abilities. When women are constantly bombarded with messages that they are not good enough, they start to believe it and may project those insecurities onto other women. This can lead to feelings of resentment and competition, rather than support and collaboration.
How can we help break the cycle?
Whether you are in your 50s or 30s there are many ways you can help break the cycle of female rivalry and create a more supportive environment for women.
- Help Through Mentorship
Offer mentorship, advocacy, and opportunities to fellow women. Support and share your experiences and successes with others. If you see a woman struggling, don’t judge her; ask how you can help.
- Amplify Other Women
Reinforce the ideas and suggestions of women in meetings to ensure their voices are heard. If a woman is interrupted, encourage her to finish her thought.
- Give Credit Where It’s Due
Publicly acknowledge women’s accomplishments, both within and outside the workplace. Praise those who excel and be sure to highlight their achievements.
- Collaboration Over Competition
Shift from competing with female colleagues to collaborating with them. Create a supportive network where women can learn from each other, just like we are doing here at CrunchyTales.
- Avoid Gossip and Criticism
Refrain from talking negatively about other women or engaging in gossip. If you have constructive feedback, share it directly and respectfully with the individual concerned
Great examples of female solidarity
It’s possible to create a more supportive and empowering environment for women. Here are some good examples of what it means to stick together and empower a community where women can thrive and support each other.
- The Power of Female Solidarity: The “Me Too” Movement
One shining example of female solidarity and the collective power of women is the Me Too movement. This global movement, which gained momentum in 2017, emerged as a response to the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in various industries. Women, and some men, courageously shared their stories, breaking the silence that had long allowed abuse to persist.
The Me Too movement revealed the strength in unity. By joining forces, women created a supportive community that empowered survivors, holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. This movement demonstrated the incredible potential for women to come together, speak out against injustice, and effect meaningful change.
- Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globe Speech
Another powerful moment that reinforced the importance of women supporting each other was Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards when she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award. Oprah’s speech emphasized the need for women to speak their truth and support one another in the face of adversity. She spoke of the courage and resilience displayed by women throughout history and called for a world where no one would ever have to say “Me Too” again.
- The #ShareTheMicNow movement
Started by Bozoma Saint John and Luvvie Ajayi Jones, the #ShareTheMicNow movement saw prominent white women in the business and entertainment industries handing over their social media platforms to Black women for a day. This act of solidarity allowed Black women to amplify their voices and reach a wider audience, showcasing the power of women supporting women in the workplace.
Another great example of female solidarity is the American organization Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) which works to certify and promote women-owned businesses, providing them with opportunities for growth and success. By supporting these businesses, women can help create a more level playing field for female entrepreneurs.
Now is the perfect time to resurrect this powerful female cohesiveness. It’s essential to rekindle the spirit of solidarity in all aspects of women’s lives whether it’s in the workplace, social circles, or online spaces.
Female rivalry is a challenge that women face, but it doesn’t need to define our relationships. By recognizing and addressing unhealthy dynamics, women can build strong and supportive networks. Together, we can empower each other, challenge the scarcity mindset, and create a more inclusive and equitable world for all women.
In an era where unity and support should prevail. Let’s break the cycle of female rivalry and embrace a future where women champion one another, thriving together. As we rise, we lift others, and that’s where true empowerment lies.
Need some motivational tune?
Take a listen to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” song. This is a brilliant song, not only because of the infectious melody, but it is empowering. Let the lyrics help you regain your self-esteem.
* The Toxicity Of Online Bullying | Did you Know? Bullying can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. However, some research suggests that factors such as power imbalances, insecurity, and past experiences of bullying may contribute to why some individuals engage in bullying behaviour. If you have been a target of online bullying, here are some considerations: Take a stand. Do it with integrity, grace, and forgiveness. Yes, forgive the bully. That’s for both of you! Walk away from it and don’t engage your bully, block them, unfriend them, leave the group or whatever you need to do, but please don’t carry it around inside of you. Remind yourself that other people’s behaviour is a direct reflection of their wounds, and they are projecting onto you how they feel about themselves.