I think that the Urban Legend that women are harder on each other than men are on each other is true. I don't have a study to back that up. That observation comes from a life time of being female, and being around other women.
One theory is that we want men to like us—a lot. More than anything we want men to validate our beauty, our desirability, and our brilliance. After all, many women have been taught their entire lives that we are not worth anything unless a man tells us so. We cut our teeth on learning how to flirt and gain the attention and approval of men. And if the current masculine culture says that women are not to be trusted, that women are sneaky and snarky; we learn to stay away from women too. So, is the female distrust of females all the result of a misogynistic culture? Perhaps. And does the root cause matter? Or is the central issue truly about what this female to female mistrust does to our own sense of our selves as women? Can women heal their own issues with their body and their sexuality without being able to feel trust with other women?
The healing that women need to do with other women has been the most eye opening part of my work with women's sexuality and body issues both in my private coaching practice and during my retreats.
There is some research that shows that women, during their college years, were less likely to want to be friends with other women who are seen as sexually active. The study showed that these women clearly noticed the "sexually alive" female peer and, as a result, held a negative view of her. Can we ever really heal our own issues with our bodies, our sexuality, and our feelings of self worth if we hold these views of other women? And what about these views? Are they really what they seem to be on the surface?
When we judge another woman on her sexual expression is that a sign that we are living in fear and judgement of our own bodies and sexuality? If we cannot celebrate another woman in her sexual aliveness can we be vulnerable enough to truly celebrate ourselves? If we hold the belief that women are sneaky, snarky nasty bitches who are not trustworthy, aren't we on the deepest of levels talking about ourselves?
My work with women has shown me again and again that this disconnect, judgement and competitiveness with other women comes from a wounded place inside ourselves. When we feel inadequate and defensive about our own femaleness, we have little tolerance for women who seem to own theirs.
In our judgement of other women we are actually often covetous of what they have and how they behave.
So how does the healing begin? As in any healing journey—there isn't one way. I do believe that if we women want to come back to our own bodies and learn to truly love ourselves, we also need to begin to open up to trust with other women.
If women can't trust other women; if we can't form relationships with other women, support other women and see the beauty in their bodies and sexual expression—we are disconnecting from ourselves in an unconscious and destructive way.
Notice other women and try on seeing them with curiosity and compassion. And then bring that curiosity and compassion back to yourself. Offer them compliments and go out of your way to say nice things about them to other people both in front of other women and behind their backs.
Take the time to learn about your body and practice being kind to all of you. Bring that kindness to the women around you. Don't join in when people bash other women around their sexuality, clothing, self- expression, and weight. Whenever we do this, we are in some way not only hurting them, but cutting ourselves.
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Want to read more about women not trust women? Check out this blog by Nekole Shapiro, called Horizontal Violience = Crabs in a Bucket.
Do you want to learn more about Pamela Madsen and her retreats for women?
Check out her websites: PamelaMadsen.org and BacktotheBody.org
Check out her book: Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner (Rodale).