The She-Woman-Woman-Haters Club

I love being a woman
I love the feminine spirit
The sexy
The tenderness
The clothing
The dance between feminine and masculine energies
I do love being a woman

But damn can we be bitches sometimes.

One time i was riding in a car with this woman (girl? I’m never sure when to say what) who i had met a few months earlier.   I had sort of followed her work and found her to be fairly inspirational. We had been through similar experiences. And she was one of those woo woo people i secretly aspired to be. We somehow got on the topic of talents, things we were good at.  She said that she could sing, but that it wasn’t something she wanted to pursue because she’d have to take voice lessons and so on to get really good.  And then i thought about all of the things that i, as a relatively right brained creative person, could do.  So i said, “There are lots of things i *could* be good at, but i just don’t care to pursue them.”  (e.g., that one time i learned a song on a banjo, that one time i painted a decent picture, that one time i sang a decent solo in church, that one time i drew a charcoal picture of a yoga model, that one time i learned to play the theme song from Titanic on the piano… the theme here being, once i figure out i *could* do something if I wanted, it looses its appeal. Now this for me, saying i *could* be good at a some stuff in life, was a huge leap from my former self-flagellation. Speaking kindly about myself has, thankfully, become second nature.  But she responded, in a mocking tone, something to the effect of: “Ohhhhh it must be soooo hard being good at so many things.” And then she laughed.  And then i laugh. But I was mortified.  Red heat reached my cheeks.  I tried to explain myself, to recover from whatever i had just done, although i wasn’t quite sure what that was.  This exchange haunted me for months, 5 months to be exact.
The hamster wheel that begins to run when we feel a moment of hot shame.
“What could i have said differently?”
“She’s stupid.”
“I’m stupid.”
“Was i being egotistical?”
“I didn’t think i was bragging, but maybe i don’t know myself.”
“I’m actually not very good at very many things.”

This was followed by all of the different scenarios that could have played out:

“OH, I didn’t properly self-loathe, thats why she thought i was bragging.”

For months I agonized over this.  Why i was so bothered by it?  And why she said it in the first place?  And then one day, in a white burst of clarity, it dawned on me: what happened in that car, my friend, is what’s been happening between women probably since the dawn of time.  When we see success or confidence in another women, we feel inferior (whether consciously or subconsciously). And we laugh. We dismiss. We scorn. We make fun. We snarl our faces. We think of all the reasons why that woman is justifiably the worst.  Embedded patriarchy has done such of a fine job of keeping women small and quiet, that even we women think we should remain so.  I realized that, because of the respect i had for this woman’s work and her message about body love and women power, i felt safe enough to say acknowledge i had a bit of womanly power myself.  I also now realize that no matter how long we fight against this tendency, we are still all very human.  She responded in a very human way.

I once went dancing with my sweet friend Heather.  We were at a particularly small bar, the dance floor slightly bigger than my dining room table. So if you were on it, you were seen by the entire bar.  On this floor was was a girl.  Wild blonde curly hair, dressed in a  full leopard print body suit that was perfectly cut so you could see her youthful breast protruding out.  And to beat it all she was wearing a fucking fannie pack! Her hips swayed to the beat in ways that i can do only in my wildest dancing fantasies.  She was stunning.  I couldn’t stop watching her.  And neither could the men in the room. But my first reaction wasn’t that of awestruck goddess appreciation. My first reaction was mild to moderate disgust.

“Who does she think she is?”
“Attention seeker.”
“Good luck with that body kid, you’re going to look like the rest of us in about 10 years.”
“How do think a gurddle is going to look with that outfit in a few years, huh?”
“You must have had a lot to drink to move like that.”

A lot of really nasty thoughts came up, which this beautiful girl enjoying herself on the dance floor did not deserve. I think back to all of the times i’ve cut other women down.  Because she was wearing makeup when i didn’t deem it necessary.  Because she was laughing to loudly while i was trying to enjoy a meal.  Because she thought she could pull off that outfit with cellulite on her thighs. Because surely that sexy picture she posted on instagram was for men’s attention. I’m embarrassed to even admit these are my gut reactions—it’s sooooo not enlightened feminist.
Have you heard of the mirror concept: the idea that our thoughts about others are often reflections of our judgements of ourselves? Now this doesn’t necessarily apply to assholes.  Sometimes people are jerks and we have every right to be discerning and make a judgement about their actions.  But i think Momma Brene summed it up so perfectly when she wrote: “When we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in other.” When i first came across this line in her life changing book The Gifts of Imperfection, it left me with this sinking illumination: “Fuuuucckkkkkkkkk, that’s what i’ve been doing!” We are talking my entire life i’ve been a she-woman-woman-hater.

Side note: When illumination hits, it’s a good time for a big dose of grace, because it’s highly likely that we are about to go into a self-hate spiral: “Oh god, i’m the worst. The actual worst.”
And then it’s also likely that we we will begin to feel a bit pious about it all and start to point out when other women do the thing we just realized we had been guilty of for so long.  (Sorry to all my friends; it was part of learning process.!)

To be honest with you, i don’t have much advice to give on how to fix the she-woman-woman-hater syndrome.  I’m still learning.  I do know that it starts with awareness. (I mean what doesn’t start there?) It took me noticing what and when my opinions of others showed up.  It took me asking myself some good questions like “Karly, what would make you think that?”  “Is there something that you don’t like about this woman, or is it actually something you don’t like about yourself?”  “Hey, Karly, why do you give a shit?”  “How would you feel if someone had an opinion like that of you? Would it be true?”  “Karly, do you feel free enough to ______(wear high heels, laugh uncontrobaly in public, wear lipstick to the grocery store, BE YOU, etc)???”

Amazing things happened when we get curious with ourselves.

So to all of your fellow she-woman-woman-haters, i get it.  I’ve been there.  But lets fight the good fight and become the type of women who build each other up and encourage each other , not tear each other down.  It’s hard work. But it’s worth it.  Because you know, we women really are amazing! And it’s hard enough finding our way in a man’s world without having our own sex as the enemy.

So much love to you, love