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.