Women are their worst enemies. A cliché that seems rather outdated in a time where we stand and march together for various causes. That said, I feel that it is still up to date…unfortunately. While we manage to build this big block of unity when it comes to our presence in social media and the media in general, I feel that too often we’re still lacking this activism when it comes to our every day life, those moments away from the spotlight. Instead of supporting each other, as women too often we tend to pull each other down and become our worst enemies.
But what does this even mean ? Are we enemies to fellow women ? Or are we enemies to ourselves ? I think the answer is that we are both. Yes, it’s a twisted thing and this is what makes this whole cliché even sadder.
But what does this even mean ? Are we enemies to fellow women ? Or are we enemies to ourselves ? I think the answer is that we are both. Yes, it’s a twisted thing and this is what makes this whole cliché even sadder. Growing up as a girl in the 90‘s in a small town in Northern Germany, I had heard more than once that I would have to work more and harder in order to make it in the big wide world. In school and later in the workplace I could see that I hadn’t been the only girl who had been fed this mantra. Work harder, be better in order to be successful – all that while fulfilling the ever changing beauty and intellectual standards that couldn‘t be more paradox. Be pretty but not too beautiful. Be smart but not too loud. Be sexually freed but not too independent. Be ambitious but not too demanding. Be sensual but not too emotional. I could go on like this. Those paradoxes and the thought of having to fight for that piece of cake that is mainly reserved for men translated into an unconscious feeling of insecurity, “of not being good enough”. I could feel this lack of self-love around me, especially in the corporate work environment. Women were competitive and insecure. I was competitive and insecure. And it was draining to work in such a climate. For quite some time I remember thinking that I preferred a male dominated work team to one that consisted mainly of women.
Working with men meant less gossip, less emotional wars, less “cattiness (or Stutenbissgkeit how we say in German), all that stuff that results from we are not given the freedom and safe space to be accepted the way we are.
Working with men meant less gossip, less emotional wars, less “cattiness (or Stutenbissgkeit how we say in German), all that stuff that results from we are not given the freedom and safe space to be accepted the way we are. It’s twisted, I told you! But the twist goes on. For instance, a friend of mine worked for a Berlin based agency that followed the policy to always pay male employees more than female staff. Male staff would not even have to ask for it. They would just get it like that. One may think that this could only be a male-directed work place but the owner of the agency was not a man. No, it was a woman, a woman who made the decision all by herself to pay men more than women. Whatever the reason(s) why she had come to that decision, the result was a derogative behaviour towards fellow women. Twist on a higher level!
But let’s look at this example from a regular moment far away from the work setting. While I was queuing for a vaccination shot here in Panama, (the overall wait had been 7 hours!), a mother had finally obtained one of the very free seats which were only available at the ultimate end of the waiting line. It was hot and her her toddler was jumping and crying in front of her. At some point she took out her breast and nursed her child openly, with her breast uncovered and her child standing up while drinking. The kid immediately calmed down and both mother and child went into a relaxed state. While doing so, a small group of women started to give the mother the most evil looks while shaking their heads and saying loudly that this was not the right way to do it. Not a single man paid attention to this situation. Only women did. And they were openly shaming her. Whatever the mother’s public nursing and exposition of her breast did trigger in these women, it resulted in judgemental and shameful behaviour towards a fellow woman. Yes, it’s twisted!
Being our own enemies is twisted. It is twisted but before all it’s senseless because we are so diverse, we come in so many different shapes, sizes, colors filled with individual personalities, that there is always one who is or does it differently, better, or whatever. And that is ok.
Being our own enemies is twisted. It is twisted but before all it’s senseless because we are so diverse, we come in so many different shapes, sizes, colors filled with individual personalities, that there is always one who is or does it differently, better, or whatever. And that is ok. What is not ok is that there is a common feeling of insecurity among women so we need to break this believe that we are not enough. That our bodies and emotions are “dirty” and inconvenient (poking here towards the accepted believe that women are hysteric beings). That we must fulfil those endless paradox rules set by society, the media and sometimes even our peers. That we must do more and be better…be perfect! If we accepted us the way we are – with our flaws – we could love ourselves. And it would be so much easier to accept those around us and treat them with kindness. May they be different or completely opposed to us. When we are at peace with our own selves, we could begin to see other women’s differences as source for admiration, inspiration and motivation instead of ground for jealousy, judgement and shaming. If we did that, every day a bit more, maybe we could see how amazing we women are, support each other, unite and then truly work on improving what needs to be changed for us. This is not an utopian call for all of us to be friends. We don’t have to be. But we also don’t have to be enemies and certainly not to our our own selves.