Why do women shame other women?

Free-womanYesterday was a day of crappy stories. Maybe you’ve had a day like that before. It’s the kind of day when everywhere you go, someone tells you about another yucky thing that they’ve experienced. It’s not always experiences of violence, sometimes its experiences of feeling belittled, disregarded, or shamed. The common theme in each of these stories for me was that they were stories of women shaming other women.

The sad truth is that this shaming happens a lot. It happens through eye rolling, gossiping, yelling, and blaming. It happens when a woman discounts the experience or opinion of another woman. It happens when we let things like age, gender identity, sexuality, race, socio economic status, or relationship status influence our determination of another woman’s worth. We even find ways to shame powerful and successful women, like some of the harsh critiques of Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl.

This shaming doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not okay, but the truth is that even I find myself doing it. My feminist framework has taught me that this shaming stems from internalized sexism. My feminist framework has also taught me the value of valuing other women. The world needs women’s stories. We have to make an effort to understand and cherish women’s experiences.

With that, I have two challenges for myself today. I am challenging myself first, and this one will be hard for me, to pause before I get snippy and examine the real reasons why I’m being so critical.  My second challenge is to relate to the women around me in a way that builds them up rather than breaks them down. This probably won’t mean that I’ll wander around smiley and chipper and spouting compliments. It’s just going to mean that I will have mindful contributions and discussions, demonstrating that I appreciate what others are bringing to the table.

Consider taking a few moments to think before you act today. I really don’t believe that too many women out there start their mornings with the goal of making someone else feel bad today. What can you do to avoid becoming the antagonist in another woman’s story?