11/03/2015

Why Women Compete With Each Other



I HAD a tightly knit group of female friends in elementary school — we called ourselves the Sensational Six. As the dominant girl force in our little universe, we felt important and exclusive; a unit in matching handmade sweatshirts. Time went by and all of my classmates and I watched as puberty reached down to form us, shapeless little lumps of children, into young men and women, into haves and have-nots.

I had an early growth spurt and was a full head taller than the boys in my class, dwarfing the girls. This made me a have-not, and I made it my life’s effort to shrink down and be like my friends, tiny and adorable. One day on the bus as I chatted with a fellow Sixer, I watched her examining our legs, propped up on the seat in front of us. “Look,” she said, innocently enough, “your legs are, like, twice as big as mine.” And she was right.

Women compete, compare, undermine and undercut one another — at least that is the prevailing notion of how we interact. It’s considered exceptional, or at least noteworthy, that famous women like Amy Schumer and BeyoncĂ© and Taylor Swift acknowledge that other women are talented, and frequently work with those other women without, in most cases, being catty about it. This makes them feminist heroes. Feeling on guard around other ladies is normal for a lot of women, and it’s exhausting. I exhausted myself for years trying to understand how other girls could have gone from my closest allies to my scariest foes. I write an advice column and get a fair number of questions from women asking how to handle not trusting other women, so I know I’m not alone...more