Girl talk: Why do women hate other women?

Published: December 12, 2013
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“They’re judgmental because they’re so competitive yaar. They enjoy each other’s fatal mistakes.” ILLUSTRATION: MANAHYL KHAN

“They’re judgmental because they’re so competitive yaar. They enjoy each other’s fatal mistakes.” ILLUSTRATION: MANAHYL KHAN It’s complicated but I can’t deny what I have seen. When a friend’s sister gets engaged, it’s all about presents and blessings and happy times, but if a blacklisted girl has the same news to offer- “must have done it for the money”. PHOTO: MANAHYL KHAN

For as far back as I can remember most fights I had were with girls. In high school, I was okay to know I didn’t have many girls by my side, aside from the select one or two I had decided to be loyal to, protect and love till the end of our lives. Quite aptly, I was honoured at our Oscar’s themed farewell dinner in 11th grade; my title read “Bring it on”.

A conversation with four colleagues reminded me of those years. They seemed to be in swift agreement when it came to deciding one thing about women- they hated each other.

Sure, it was a teeny tiny girl who told my friend she should hit the gym, apparently because her body shape was a “muffin-top”. Sure, it was a girl who told me,

“You look so tired. You should get a different job”.

(That was my ‘my-life-is-over-Wednesday face’ and also the exact time when I really, really, didn’t want to hear I looked tired. Mind you, Monday’s aren’t meant to be pretty either.)

And sure, there are some girls who’ll find the most unfortunate looking picture of yours to upload – which is why I believe we now see a fight over whose camera will be used for a picture or we become cordial and use everyone’s phones- having only 30 takes of the same picture.

So maybe we have issues, but do we really hate each other?

I ventured (bore blisters, both physical and mental) to ask this question obsessively. From friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, staff, domestic help and a sea of potentially fake accounts and robots on Twitter- everyone was hounded for their opinion.

The start was more enthusiastic than I had hoped for.

“They’re jealous”, replied a gentleman on Twitter when I asked the million-dollar question. (I would have been happier with a robot’s response with a spam link)

My friend E, a usually reliable head to count on, took nearly a second to answer too,

“Yeah, obviously. We’re the same.”

To certify how ridiculously obvious the answer was, she threw an ‘are-you-seriously-asking-me-this?’ look my way. Obvious or not, it got me thinking and I wondered if similarity made women their biggest enemies.

Being the same should have made things easier- maybe more empathy because I can relate to another girl’s mental warfare when she’s deciding between clothes or say a husband- but it doesn’t. In fact, most women I spoke to attributed their worst moments in life to a girl’s comment. At some point or the other, we’ve been there (equipment: tissues, chocolates and/or whatever she’s been eating for three weeks straight while ignoring her 100th diet plan) for a defeated friend when the snarky comment of one girl neatly knocked down a block of ten compliments given to her by a guy.

KR, a friend I rung in the other part of the world (for varying perspective) recalled a time she consoled a friend.

“But she called me fat!” the friend wailed despite KR’s sincerest efforts to tell her otherwise.

I wondered why we felt the urge to say something mean to another woman (flash reminder: she is you, you are her. You’d be just as angry if you were on the receiving end), when saying nothing would be the kinder, more girl-to-girl thing to do.

Umair, an age-old friend I can always turn to gave his reason quite simply,

“They’re judgmental because they’re so competitive yaar. They enjoy each other’s fatal mistakes.”

It’s complicated but I can’t deny what I have seen. When a friend’s sister gets engaged, it’s all about presents and blessings and happy times, but if a blacklisted girl has the same news to offer,

“Must have done it for the money”

Being a woman myself, I’d hate to equate the fault back to us and Maira Shaikh, a full time employee at an Internet based company, helped me well.

“When there is so much pressure to be a certain way in society, it’s bound to result in negativity. So much is expected off of women, it has to show in some form.”

When I began to question our weakness, Alizeh Valjee, an intelligent working woman in the health sector, used the evolution card.

“It goes back to history; we compete for the best mate, to ensure the reproduction of our own genes. Survival of the fittest”, she wrote back when I gave up to ask, “So is it on our genes or what?”

The most common reply I got when I asked the wretched question time and time again was a buzzed “obviously” (this remains the root of my worry). I don’t blame them entirely either though, this portrayal of a supposed war is all around us. If you’ve seen a couple of “romcoms” (I have been told this is the word for romantic comedies) you can get the picture. Please note, I’m referring to films like Mean GirlsSomething Borrowed, Bride Wars- nothing mighty intelligent.

While most conversations ensued rapid agreement, Sarah, my colleague and a concrete woman, chose her words carefully between sips of her daily caffeine,

“Hate is probably too strong a word but we do dislike other women.”

Let’s be real, hate is too strong a word. But I can’t recall when exactly I started believing we hated each other and neither could my 14-year-old sister. All she knew was that there is a war and we’re part of it.

“Yes! We do hate each other!” she said with flash speed as an answer to the question.

When I asked her to tell me why she thought as such, she thought for five minutes before shrugging her shoulders and taking a neat exit.

So it’s known we hate each other or dislike each other, but every woman has her own tale and her own reason (and some are yet to experience it).

This is from my world, my bubble- have something to share?

Manahyl Khan

Manahyl Khan

A sub-editor on the Magazine desk of The Express Tribune. She tweets @manahylk (twitter.com/manahylk)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nandita.

    I have a lot of really close friends who are women.These are girls who are a very important part of my life,so my experiences have been different from yours I guess.Sure, there are nasty girls around but there are plenty of kind and compassionate women as well. After reading your blog, I spent some time thinking about all the women I’ve come across – in school, class fellows during my graduation and post graduation days, neighbours, colleagues and women I’ve met elsewhere and I can only think of 1 or 2 people who can be classified as nasty. So I have had good experiences with women. Thankgod for that! :)
    But, I know people who’d completely agree with your blog and say that women in general are mean towards each other. Khair, everyone has their own experiences.

    Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Its a scientific fact ,women have more negative energy around them than men. Something to do with yin or yan .. that’s why when widows are not allowed around would-be / new brides ,Recommend

  • Aas

    I agree with you. I have thought about it quite alot. And whenever i see some girl saying she hates another. I can’t find one good reason for that. Hate is a big word, we can dislike someone on the basis of few things, but we should always stay positive about everyone.Recommend

  • knightridrr

    Author’s 13 years old sister’s response was the best and honest one.Recommend

  • knightridrr

    Widows not being allowed to be around would-be/new brides in India and in rural parts of Pakistan is just cruel and insane.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    Dear Manhill, If you really wanna successful in your life, you’ve got to distance yourself from other women. Remember the biggest enemy of a woman is a woman.Recommend

  • Lamia

    Really enjoyed your piece!! Lol Recommend

  • Critical

    Its simple dear…A boy will rather spend his entire time reading books,playing games,building model trains than hanging out with boys he doesnt like ….We dont like to sweet talk in front and talk behind their backs and anyone doing that will be hated forever

    Thats the reason,nerds are more among men than women…..Recommend

  • Parvez

    Although I read the title, I felt brave enough to read on and I tried reading it carefully……..but then men are known to do stupid things. At the end I felt like the two astronauts cut loose in ‘ Gravity ‘ and that to in 3D.Recommend

  • boco

    *gasp* I’m outraged that you would refer to Mean Girls as ‘nothing mighty intelligent’; I think that films significantly illustrates the complicated relationship girls share with other girls being based off a non-fiction plus Tina Fey is a genius! But that just goes to show that sure you will associate with girls like Regina George who would love nothing more than one-up you, you will also meet girls like Janis who will stick by you. I think men are equally competitive if not more, its just that they don’t pretend to be friends with their competitors – we now have a new word for it – frenemies.Recommend

  • TheRealMan

    Evolution. Men are stronger than women because they have much more testosterone and hence, are stronger. During our primal past, the stronger the man the better the chances of him surviving. Women had to align themselves to gain access to the resources the alpha men provided. Competition between women was intense. Nowadays, women may have greater financial independence and not many daily ‘survive or die’ circumstances, but human genetics and hard-wiring of the brain remains the same. You cannot change nature; it is futile to say ‘hey, basic human instincts don’t apply to me.’ Men are similarly hard wired to compete strongly for leadership positions, and to try and get the hottest girls they can mate with to ensure their genes pass on.

    Women hating other women, and slandering them, is simply a way to reduce competition to gain the alpha’s attention and reduce competition for his resources.

    ‘But duh, I’m a woman of the 21st century and I’m liberated and a feminist and all that other crap.’

    Well science doesn’t lie honey. Read ‘The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature’ by Matt Ridley. Btw, may I take the time to say that there has never been a greater idiotic movement than feminism? Thank you for letting me clear up the air about your gender.Recommend

  • Rehan

    That’s borrowed from Hindu culture that has nothing to do with negative female energy Recommend

  • Leila Rage

    Superstition, not scienceRecommend

  • Vikram

    There are 2 ways of making oneself feel superior. One way is to do things that make you shine and the other way is to make others feel inferior.Recommend

  • Qaiser Habib

    In my opinion girls are general materialistic.Recommend

  • Qaiser Habib
  • Sara

    Exactly my response! Mean Girls explores this very issue with far more intelligence than this blog! Do women hate each other? If the writer has seen the movie than she knows the movie is awesome beyond awesome and can NOT be called a romcom. LOVE YOU Tina Fey! You can sit with us :)

    PS: 10 quotes that say the same thing. Rellay?Recommend

  • Karla

    No, women do NOT hate women. You have made such an over-generalization without any logic behind it what so ever. Maybe you need to surround yourself with positive people. I personally, have RARELY come across women who actually ‘hate’ other women. And in my case, contrary to the image depicted, … i think it is 100% the guy’s fault, not the other lady’s. HATE is a huge word to go around generalizing it that way. Thank you.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    well its cruel yes surely but it does have some reason . I am not an old hag btw.Recommend

  • Khatere

    Well lately i have been hearing this from boys. I understand your point and i expereinced it, but see sayings like that doesnt hurt me why boys call each other anythibg they want i have seen it end of the day they are good friends and dont gossip, yet doesnt apply to all. Thats why i have mire guy friends than girls. Anyhow i petsonally am too straight forward and if i feel someones hating regardless of the couse like jealousy i reply back. …. Recommend

  • KZ

    you think mean girls is intelligent, thats why youre a girlRecommend

  • suvi

    yes. girls can be competitive especially in need for attention and appreciation, perhaps because they tend to be more sensitive. I have had a friend who was often competitive in front of others, trying to show herself in a better light but she is also someone who always went out of the way to be there for me, who travelled to be with me in my bad times, and supported me in countless ways, and we have been friends through the years.
    But then there are also my other women friends who have been greatest of friends without an ounce of jealousy. And despite having lots of men friends, my bonding with my women friends was always a lot stronger.
    By the way I have also seen men downplaying other men in front of women. So I think it happens in both sexes except women are generally more vocal and expressive about it.Recommend

  • Isma Karim

    Although I am a female but I totally agree with the author. Women sometimes get pathetic. They are more prone to selfishness than men. Too awkward!Recommend

  • Vikram

    You are insulting Pakistanis by saying they are following Hindu culture.Recommend

  • Vikram

    TheRealMan: ” Men are stronger than women because they have much more testosterone and hence, are stronger. During our primal past, the stronger the man the better the chances of him surviving.
    I have a good news for you. It is 2013 and world has changed a lot, most work is done by brain using technology and machines and does not require much physical strength. A woman can also fly fighter planes and jumbo jets and be a brain surgeon. If women are given equal education, they can beat men in the job market also. Testosterone is mainly a hormone that controls sexual functioning, desire and physical appearance.
    I would like to know where real men use their testosterone (physical strength) now a days.
    Women in western world can do a lot more then their sisters in third world, there is no hard wiring involved.Recommend

  • boco

    The movie is definitely not fluff and does has something to say, it is based off of a non-fiction Queen Bees and Wanna-Bes. I’m glad you share my love of Mean Girls and Tina Fey, that is so fetch!Recommend

  • YK

    They hate each other because I don’t call them backRecommend

  • E.F.Qadri

    i think the theory that society puts so much pressure is kind of a thing which promotes this attitude and its something inherited…a mother who gossips around in kitty parties will raise a girl eho does the same and it goes on…i m the kind of strioght forward person and hate this dual standard of women ,,they d be sweet and then back stab you ..n you dont know who means it when they show they care…basic reason i dont have many friends…and yet when you are talented and intelligent sort…girls hate you…everyone of them…just a few who wouldnt…on the contraray i see the case with boys thet will be buddies for long time,regardless of their status and would be the kind who will support each other and help each other go forward…in short ..even being a girl…i dont get them…i would like to call for cease fireRecommend

  • Vikram

    SUVI: “I have had a friend who was often competitive in front of others,
    trying to show herself in a better light but she is also someone who
    always went out of the way to be there for me”

    I have a feeling all the women/girls who commented here on this blog are perfect and have no jealousy problem. They don’t try to look prettier or act funny/smart to get some attention.Recommend

  • Nobody

    You do realize there is no such thing as “hard wired” when it comes to the human brain right? Neuroplasticity. Google it. Biology is how we got here; evolution is how we keep going. Human behavior has evolved quite a bit in the last many many many centuries.
    As far as feminism playing into any of this; what nonsense. You clearly don’t understand feminism nor do you understand how the brain works.

    And fyi, in the animal kingdom, males of most species compete with one another more ferociously than females for mating access to their female counterparts. Females in heat have their pick of the litter and want to mate with the alpha to pass on the best genes to their babies. (There is no “hot” female in the animal kingdom; they are in heat, or they’re not)

    Well evolved humans are not quite as primitive anymore (although I have my doubts about how fast eastern men evolve as compared to their western counterparts). Women who compete with one another in an unhealthy and unethical manner are insecure. Full stop. Healthy competition is prevalent among both genders; unhealthy, two faced and nasty competition is only prevalent among the insecure lot (of both genders mind you). Women who compete for male attention and take other women down through dirty play are pathetic IMO. Women who compete in a healthy manner for leadership positions of any sort are women I admire. Humans don’t compete for mates; they compete for money, power and status. And women don’t need men for that anymore. At least not in the western world.
    I’ve grown up around loads of women, both in my family and my circle of friends and I’ve never met a catty, two faced or insecure one in the entire bunch. My first boss is a woman and she’s amazing.

    Instead of basing your views on a single book, how about conducting proper research and attempting to grasp what feminism really means (feminism, not feminazi-ism) before exposing your own lack of understanding.
    Cheers. Recommend

  • Nobody

    Women who think women hate one another have not met the right women. If you are not exposed to strong, positive and secure people, be it men or women, you will likely not have a positive outlook on things and will be prone to generalizing, as we see here. I’ve never understood this generalization and I hope I never do. I’ve had the pleasure of being taught by, growing up around, being friends with, working for, and being family to some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met. None of them are two faced; none of them are catty; none of them are insecure. So no, in my experience and opinion, women do not hate each other. Insecure women who are lacking something in their own life hate other people in general, and project this to other women. I believe it was Katie Couric who said there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women (don’t quote me verbatim). I wholeheartedly agree.
    Healthy competition among both genders is a positive thing. Being fake, nasty or unethical is not.Recommend

  • -SHAGY-

    I agree! The things writer has mentioned here…I have only seen in teen movies I am very lucky to have women in my life who don’t sugar coat or criticize for the sake of it,…I always get honesty and that’s how I am in return….some women who don’t know me are even shocked by my honesty….guess it all comes down to treating people the way we want to be treated!Recommend

  • Cyrus

    i dont think its generalizing when she says its from her bubble, so y u not just enjoy rather than do the typical pakistani thingRecommend

  • blue bird

    dear strong mighty feminist, you should check out the youtube channel karen straughen and her views about feminism. you will be surprised how she analyses your feminist ideology.

    and yes, cheers!Recommend

  • Nobody

    dear blue bird who seems to have trouble grasping what I expressed in my comment,
    I have no trouble understanding feminism myself, as I understand it does not have ONE SINGLE definition nor interpretation therefore I do not have to see what someone else’s definition or views of feminism are.
    Cheers.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Amen!Recommend

  • Hala Syed

    this!! mean girls is one of my favorite movies. for clearly pointing out why women should not hate each other. if the author wanted to emphasize her point she should have first done her research.Recommend

  • Hala Syed

    in my opinion people who generalize in general lack the ability to see nuance and subtlety and should grow up.Recommend

  • Qaiser Habib

    All men are the same???Recommend

  • Hala Syed

    No. And how is that at all a response to what i said. I just said i don’t like to generalize. and then you asked me to generalize. Recommend