Let’s work together!
I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog and how I want women to work together to make the world a better place for us all. In the midst of this thinking, I received an email from a friend telling me that another woman friend of ours was verbally attacked by a woman at work while in the break room. Our friend had been able to tell the woman that it was not okay for her to talk to her like that. The woman asked how she wanted to be talked to and our friend said, “with respect.”
So, she stood up for herself, but the email said the whole incident caused our friend to have negative physical reactions and just feel awful. Of course it’s unfair that things like that go on at all, much less at work. I happen to know the person who did the attacking and my immediate thought was ‘she’s such a bitch.’
I don’t want people being mean to my friends. The thing is that this verbal attacker can be mean and it has nothing to do with her being a woman, but the word that immediately came to mind implies it’s partly because of that. I jumped to the word Bitch, which implies she’s awful because of her gender. I’m not the only one who goes there, and really, it’s a gender specific word. The word itself implies someone being under someone else’s control, someone who is annoying, overbearing, irrational, and spiteful. Bitch is almost always used for women.
We easily jump to gender-hating words, which just coat the overall tone of women being bitches- dogs, difficult, unpleasant (if we’re not in compliance with societal roles and expectations), lewd, overbearing, spiteful….
So it’s not okay that woman verbally attacked my friend, but it’s because she’s not nice. It has nothing to do with her being a woman. Let’s not generalize. I’m going to work on not immediately jumping to labels that insult her according to gender.
And no I don’t need to go “kick her ass.” I’m not generally a violent person, feisty, but not violent, though I’m not totally anti-violence either. At ‘Take Back the Night’ marches, people used to hold up signs that said “Stop the Violence.” I always thought:
Yes- stop the violence against women or anyone being physically or sexually attacked, but self-defense might look violent and that may be necessary.
But to go beat up another woman for being mean or for trying to be with your partner or… is not necessary and is unacceptable, though actually, I’ve heard those words too often. Sometimes it’s joking, trying to make someone feel better. Like, I’m on your side and we’ll kick her ass to show her who’s boss.
With high school students who I have worked with in the past, young women threatening and picking fights with other young women has been for real. I have also seen adult women start fights with other women. It’s such a male response, why are we saying stuff like that? We don’t need to copy the guys. Not to mention, that mentality is also part of the societal structure of patriarchy. Guys have to act tough and be tough to be valued. If they aren’t, they’re seen as ‘sissies’ or ‘girls.’
“You run like a girl. You throw like a girl.” Sound familiar.
There’s nothing wrong with the way girls and women run, throw or do anything, but it’s an insult for a guy to be anything but ‘tough’ and doing anything like a girl isn’t seen as tough.
As for the attacker woman in the scenario with my friend: How do we respond to women who act like that? She is also a product of this society. She clearly needs boundaries set on how she is acting, but making her the devil may not be the way to go either. We’re not all going to get along. That’s impossible. But I believe women can find a common thread to communicate.
I’m not saying this is an easy fix situation. It’s not, but there’s got to be a different way we talk about other women, relate with other women and even think about other women. I think it’s crucial that we start looking at how we relate with each other in order to make a larger change.
That would be part of the ‘Grrl Code: When women act like jerks, it’s because everyone can be a jerk and it doesn’t have to do with her being a woman. I don’t need to immediately put down women because a woman is rude or mean or does something I don’t agree with. I don’t need to fight women physically, verbally to their faces, or with mean words behind their backs.
How else can we stop working against ourselves?