Monday, January 24, 2011

Ladies, let's be honest

We all do it. We all talk about other women behind their backs. Whether it's just a comment on a friend's clothes or hair cut to another friend, or a full on vent about how so-and-so just drives you crazy, we all do it. We like to pretend that some of us are above it, but it's a lie. We all do it.

Mothers do it to each other: they talk about how other moms raise their kids. They talk about discipline, what another mom feeds her kids or fails to feed her kids, and milestones. They talk about other moms from just about every angle.

Single women do it to each other: they talk about promiscuity or prudishness, fashion faux pas, who drinks too much, smokes too much, talks to too much. They talk about strangers and they talk about friends.

Working women do it to each other: they talk about other women in the workplace and how they do their jobs, how they got that promotion, that raise. They talk about what female colleagues wear and what they do after hours.

Married women do it to each other: they talk about whose marriage is floundering and who is fighting with whom, who is in financial trouble, who is a terrible housekeeper and who is an obsessive neat freak. They talk about who has the nicer home, car, husband, family, anything and everything.

Women talk about each other. It's what we do. And there is not one among us who is not guilty of it. My husband likes to tell me that although women swear we don't like drama, we actually live for it. And I hate to admit it, but in many ways he is right.

Gossip, the latest news, rumours and judgement - it's what we talk about. We have an opinion on just about everything any other woman could possibly do, say, wear or believe.

And here's the kicker: it's not that we dislike these women. It's not that we want to hurt them or we want to tear them down - at least not in most cases. Often, we are talking about our friends, and we have no intention of losing those friends. We just can't seem to help ourselves.

So why do we all do it? Partially because we as women have been set up to be in competition with each other. We know that we are being judged by other women just as we are judging them. We know that other women are checking out our new handbag or shoes, our haircut or lipstick, whether we are too fat for those leggings. We know that they are watching the way we deal with our kids and judging us for it. We feel, on some level either deeply buried or close to the surface, that we have to better in some small way than another woman in order to be worthwhile.

What are we in competition for? In some cases, jobs or promotions. In some cases, men, their attention, their love. In some cases, a completely imaginary, nonexistent title as the Better Mother, Better Wife, Better Housekeeper. Most of it is just pointless competition with no real measurable winner.

So then, back to the question of why. Why on earth do we all feel we need to compete with each other? Because society has taught us that this is how we achieve some sort of status as women, wives and mothers? Maybe. Maybe it's just programmed into our genes. Nature versus nurture? I'm not sure. But I lean towards nurture on this one.

I recalled a moment to my mother a few weeks ago, from many years back. We were at a family gathering at the home of my aunt, my mother's sister. My mother and another of her sisters were standing together, and the other sister reached up and ran her finger over the top of the hostess' entertainment unit. She held up a dusty finger to show my mom and they both snickered. My aunt had failed the housekeeping test. That moment sticks in my mind as the moment that I knew I would one day be judged on how my home looks. Sadly for me, I doubt if many of the judgments are favorable. I'm a terrible housekeeper.

That's just one small example of the ways in which we as women judge each other constantly. And it's not out of spite; certainly my mom and her sisters love each other and don't want to hurt each other. And yet they are in constant competition with each other. Any new gadget one buys, the rest must have. They compete over everything; from who got the best deal at the mall to who has the most grandchildren. It's ludicrous. It should be hilariously funny; and in many ways it is. Generally, the competition is a family joke and no one gets hurt by it.

Still, it illustrates the point that we all do it. We all compete, talk about each other and judge. Even the other women who mean the most to us fall victim to it. We can't seem to stop it, even when we are aware of it. And the trouble is, sometimes people do get hurt.

I'm not saying I have any answers. I am no better than anyone else and have certainly been guilty of judgement and gossip. But at least I don't pretend to be better than all the other women doing the same thing. I doubt if we will ever see an end to the cattiness that is part of womanhood. But the first step is admitting we have a problem.

So say it with me ladies.

Hi, my name is Leslie, and I am a catty bitch.


  1. Oh, I am a catty one. My biggest problem is the moment that I'm told something that makes a woman seem sketchy I immediately become biased against her. I don't talk crap about my actual friends, mostly because I'd hate to think they would talk about me.

    But don't get me started on my sisters.

  2. yes. it exists everywhere, but for some reason seems worse to me now that I'm a mom and am judging/judged on parenting stuff. thanks for posting this.