“But aren’t you lucky to have him?” my mother and aunt question, whenever I complain that my husband hasn’t done an urgent chore that I nagged him to do for weeks.
There is a belief within the older generation in my family that women do the running around — keeping the pantry stocked and the children clean — while men just have to occasionally mow the lawn and then can settle down to watch sports on TV all afternoon. That for me to complain about anything my husband fails to do is wrong, for fear of scaring him off. Without question, at the very core of their old-fashioned beliefs lies misogyny that befits their age group.
This is why I found it oddly comforting to read last week that U.K. broadcaster Vivienne Parry admitted that her mother — a successful businesswoman in the late ’60s — was misogynistic towards her: she was appalled that her daughter wanted to attend college to study zoology and never complimented her on her subsequent TV achievements.
Vivienne’s mother took her father’s TV retail firm and built it up so well that she won a Businesswoman of the Year Award, yet she refused to help other women further their careers. Vivienne is certain that her mother — like many other women — can be more misogynistic than men.
Sadly, I agree with her. Hands up if you’ve suffered worse treatment under a female boss than a male one? Back in 1997, I was working as a reporter in my first ever TV job and was assigned to work on a fashion show. The producer, a woman who was 10 years my senior, single, with a permanently sour expression, took against me. Her bullying tactics were subtle at first — she would insist on checking my reports, always looking for errors, when far more inexperienced members of the team needed editing rather than my work.
The only way I could win her over was to shower her with compliments and try to ask her opinion on everything — to give her the sense of power she craved. Eventually, when I moved on to another television program, she screamed at me for daring to attend London Fashion Week without her “permission,” when the designers themselves had invited me. In truth, I think she felt threatened by me and jealous that I was so much younger than her. I wish I could say she was my last evil female boss, but that wasn’t the case.
Later, when I was a TV host I worked with countless women who would flirt, charm, and chat up all the male cameramen, directors, and soundmen and treat me with disdain, barely bothering to acknowledge my presence. In 2006, I was shocked to work with a team of women who were nothing but supportive, and brilliant at their jobs to boot. I remember feeling oddly sad that I was 10 years into my career and it was the first time my female boss hadn’t in some way belittled me, or tried to compete or undermine me.
So why are women so misogynistic towards other women? Is it because they feel threatened by a younger, brighter presence? Is it because they have had to work so damn hard to get up the career ladder that they are determined to stay there at all costs? Is it because at the core, women are more competitive?
Perhaps it is because after they take time off to have children, they feel more insecure in their jobs and feel they have to prove themselves, which means undermining others. Because women are under the horrific pressure to “have it all,” and so they feel they have to achieve this at all costs.
A month ago, Jennifer Aniston felt compelled to write an article for The Huffington Post to address the endless speculation on whether or not she was pregnant, so stunned was she at “how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status.” She resented that “women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children.” I would also argue that women are expected to have great careers alongside this — so perhaps in our quests to achieve all that is socially expected of women in this day and age, it’s turned us against each other.
It only takes a quick glance over at Twitter to see the bile that females can spit at one another. Kanye West didn’t take up his grievances with Taylor Swift over his song “Famous” and whether or not Taylor okayed it — instead his wife Kim Kardashian West took to Snapchat to vent her anger. Couldn’t Kanye fight his own battles?
Leslie Jones, who stars in the latest all-female-led Ghostbusters movie, had to temporarily leave Twitter as she faced such insane abuse. Much of it was shockingly racist, but also she had to endure many comments about her appearance — mainly from women.
Think tank Demos revealed research earlier this year that incredibly 50 percent of tweets using the words “slut” and “whore” came from female users, with some 20 percent of these using the words in a highly aggressive or threatening way. Meanwhile, a 2014 study from cosmetics firm Dove found that over 5 million negative tweets were posted about beauty and body image — and four out of five were sent by women.
What happened to the sisterhood?
I have always considered myself to be very pro-women, and yet I myself once felt threatened by the talents of another woman at work and am ashamed to say I wasn’t as supportive of her as I could have been. My fear was that she’d get all the hosting duties, and I’d be left scavenging for work. Such is the life of a freelancer …
What can we do to change this, apart from being more supportive of one another? I guess we can only start with ourselves. So I’m teaching my own daughter to treat herself as a complete equal to boys and to never think that her gender in any way defines what she can achieve in life. I also put no emphasis on how she looks, and encourage her to be kind to other girls. In my own life, I champion other female writers and always offer my advice and experience to any woman trying to get into writing or the TV industry
Imagine what we could achieve if instead of putting our energies into competing with one another, we put them into supporting one another.More On