Nov 12, 2015

Woman on Woman Crime - Judgement, Bias, and the "F" Word

I had a couple of interesting conversations this week.  They caused me to do 2 things: 1) Spend a lot of time thinking about the whole stereotype of women as catty bitches who can never be truly be friends ("frenemies") because they're always competing and 2) Really question my own actions and the things I might be doing or saying to perpetuate this stereotype.

I gossip.  I've worked on it a lot in the last couple years, but I still do it.  I have a driving need to analyze situations and people and the things that make them tick.  But there's a fine line between trying to understand who someone is vs trying to find labels for them.

I'm not perfect.  I cross the line into woman-on-woman crime sometimes (to use Amy Poehler's apt description).  Ironically enough, I crossed that line when I was talking about someone who believes and perpetuates the stereotype.  This was pointed out to me as proof that the other person was right because I was fulfilling it.

At first the idea made me upset.  I need to do better.  The issue absolutely needs to be talked about.  But I need to present it in a different way.  I need to say "the belief that ___" rather than "the kind of person who believes ___."

But you know what?  The rest was bullshit.  Here's why.  (And, for the record, I'm glad this conversation happened, because it gave me a lot to think about, and the person who caused this thinking to happen was totally not serious, and I hold no grudges, but obviously a blog post had to happen, because important social issues, dude!  This is the risk you take when you converse with a blogger!)

I am only one person.  To take one statement of mine and then use that to justify any stereotype is ridiculous.  Even if I am a supposed supporter of women and I'm still making those mistakes or phrasing things the wrong way, it doesn't make me any more representative of my entire gender than any other one individual.

This is how all prejudices and stereotypes are born.  We see one person, or one group of people, and we assume they represent all people like them.  We're better than this.  We're smarter than this.

I don't think I need to explain the problem with stereotypes to any of you, but I'll do it anyway.  When someone, especially a woman, says they can't get along with women, or that most women are catty, they're doing several things.

1) Perpetuating a stereotype.  I mean, if a woman said it about her own gender, it must be true, right?  2) Creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If that's what you believe, that's what you will see.  3) Completely missing out.  That is half the population that you are discounting and whose company you will never be able to enjoy and appreciate.  And that is countless women who, like you, are unique and interesting individuals, and being blind to that is a damn shame.

Everyone has biases.  Claiming otherwise is naive.  Since it's difficult and maybe even impossible to reach a point where we are truly unbiased by our culture, the opinions of our loved ones, and our own past experiences, the best we can do and the most we can hope for is to always be open to questioning ourselves.  Is that really a pattern or is it a perception problem on our end?  Does your boss really hate you or is she just not as nice as you think a woman should be?  Are the women around you actually catty or are you judging them by one or two occasions instead of general patterns?

Sometimes the answer is yes, your boss really hates you.  Or your workplace really is filled with negative people.  But you know what?  That's just one example and, while it sucks, I hope we can all be open-minded enough to not let that one group speak for everyone else.  And maybe find a new job with people who don't suck.

And, for the record, this is feminism and I wholly consider myself to be a feminist!  For all the people out there who think it means "man-hating," challenge that assumption and don't let some small group of people make you afraid to use a word that means equality.  Feminism means challenging assumptions and stereotypes in an attempt to find equality for everyone.

If you can honestly say you DON'T want equality, especially for women, then sure, you can say you're not a feminist.  But if that's the case, get out of here.  I have no use for you.

What assumptions have you challenged lately?  How aware are you of your own biases?

*No men were harmed in the writing of this post
**Read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg - it is a HUGE eye-opener

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  1. I feel like there are a lot of stereotypes for good reason....but that the stereotypes certainly do not speak for all of a group of people!! All groups of people, whether race, gender, orientation, football fan choices...whatever...all have "those people" that make the whole group look bad!!! I myself keep my gossip to a minimum between me and my best friend. We might bitch to each other about people or incidents but we keep it there. I think we all need that once person to complain to, you know? I have gotten better as I have gotten older about not shaming people or making assumptions. We never know what a person has going on and who am I to judge?

  2. it makes me so cranky when people say they aren't a feminist... because they think it means hating men or being overly 'pc' about things. no, it doesn't. it means you want equality and why the heck wouldn't you want that? i gossip and bitch sometimes, but i am worlds better than i used to be. The more i bitch, the bitchier i become, the unhappier i become, so i made an effort to be better but i'm not perfect, that's for sure.


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