“Her wedding ring is way too big; it’s probably fake” – Women, their own worst enemy

Published: July 9, 2016
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When men comment on a woman’s appearance and reduce her to an object, it appals us, but when women criticise each other’s appearance, we disregard it completely. PHOTO: PINTEREST

“OMG she’s so fat

“She works full-time, I’m sure she has no time for her kids”

“Did you know she has a boyfriend? She’s so characterless”

I am sure that like me, everyone has heard or even made such comments at one time or another. That is the hard, unfortunate reality. What is harder to accept is that these are mostly being directed at women BY other women!

While it is inexcusable and downright wrong for either gender to be commenting like that, shouldn’t we, of all people, be more empathetic towards fellow women?

Coming from a patriarchal society, most men are infused with a false sense of superiority from the moment they are born. So, one would naturally expect women in such a male dominated environment to back each other up, to encourage and support one another. Ironically, we act in the opposite way.

I am by no means saying that men don’t demean women, they do and in such cases, women are quick to rightly label such men as misogynists or male chauvinists. Yet, we fail to acknowledge incidents where we exert the same negativity towards fellow women.

Does the gender of the instigator of such bigotry, make the behaviour less offensive or even acceptable?

I think not.

Here are a few examples that I have witnessed which demonstrate this very demeaning behaviour.

1. Mothers undermine other mothers’ parenting choices

Motherhood today has become nothing short of a competitive sport. We love to comment on how someone is raising her kid, when it is absolutely none of our business. Whether it is formula feeding or breast feeding, co-sleeping or putting their child in the crib, choosing to be a stay at home mum or work full-time. Countless times I’ve seen women patronising other women, by making them feel guilty about their parenting choices.

When I decided to quit my job after having a baby, I received hurtful comments like,

“You’re going to regret this in a year”

“How do you not go crazy just sitting at home?”

Similarly, I have a friend who chose to be a working mother instead and who, till date, faces criticism for her ‘wrong priorities’.

2. Working women undermine fellow female colleagues

Unfortunate as it is, it has become fairly common for women in the work place to undermine each other, whether as seniors who downgrade the efforts of the younger lot or as women in a team competing for the spotlight.

Take the example of a woman who has worked really hard to climb up the ladder in a male-dominated corporate set-up. You would ideally expect her to be a mentor for the younger crop of female workers. Yet we see that a vast section of these high achieving women view the younger lot as a threat – a threat to their own uniqueness. I have faced this first hand when I approached a senior colleague for assistance on a similar project she had undertaken the year before, only to be misguided and provided with incorrect and inconsistent data.

Furthermore, women somehow feel obligated to specifically compete with other women on the team, and, in doing so, become quite petty. A friend of mine once shared that her female colleague used to ensure that she sent the email of the final presentation to the boss, hoping to get more credit for the work.

3. We undermine each other’s marital choices

Somehow, no matter what we choose pertaining to our marriages, we always find women finding faults in each other’s decision. If a girl chooses love marriage, fellow women judge her character and if she has an arranged marriage, women hypothesise if she was forced against her will.

Someone who decides to marry early and those who decide to marry late or stay single face a similar ordeal. When I got married at 23, all I heard were some ‘concerned’ aunties and acquaintances telling me how I was too young or immature to get married. Now again at 27, my unmarried friends have to hear comments such as “your standards are too high” or “don’t you think it’s time you settled down?” from the same ‘concerned’ women.

4. We undermine other women’s appearance and persona

When men comment on a woman’s appearance and reduce her to an object, it appals us, but when women criticise each other’s appearance, we disregard it completely. From the colour of the skin, the size of the waist to the type of clothes someone chooses to wear, we consciously or unconsciously end up damaging a fellow women’s self-confidence.

Such belittling behaviour is specifically evident at weddings. On numerous occasions I’ve heard random women pass derogatory comments about the bride.

“Her dress is definitely not a designer-make.”

“Her wedding ring is way too big; it’s probably fake.”

“That is definitely not her actual complexion; I hope the poor groom has seen her without makeup.

So instead of being happy for the couple and hoping for a blissful union, all we seek to do is find fault in anything and everything.

Please don’t think I am in any way suggesting that all women engage in such behaviour. And neither do I have anything against our gender in particular. Far from it, in fact, I feel that women have so much potential in bringing out the best in each other, if only we exercise more compassion and empathy towards one another. While you and I might have the highest regard for our close friends and family, we need to make a conscious effort to extend that positivity beyond our ‘inner circle’ of women.

While undue criticism and demeaning attitudes are unacceptable regardless of gender; living in this male dominated society, the last thing we need is women belittling one other.

Mariam Javed

Mariam Javed

The author is a LUMS graduate, with a Bachelors degree in Economics. She is currently living in South Africa with her husband and a very busy two year old, remotely contributing to social projects in Pakistan.

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