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Friday, April 19, 2024

The Patriarchal Arena: The competition between women that destroys the feminist movement from within


We need an environment where women are not pitted against each other

“Mean Girls” was the movie that defined my adolescence. Every girl wanted to grow up and become Regina, Cady or Gretchen — sassy, mean, vicious and supremely self-confident. The vague, cheesy ending that attempted to somewhat reconcile the differences between the various groups of very angry girls didn’t outweigh the toxic message the movie sent about the heartlessness and cruelty of girls. The worst part is that this dynamic seems to frequently appear in our daily lives.

Throughout my life, many of my relationships with my closest female friends have existed in a dichotomy. I would either thrive on the unconditional support and love my friend gave me through every stage of my life, or I would experience the toxicity of another woman dragging me down. From my perspective, most friendships between men seemed to be much simpler with significantly less drama, but I also constantly encounter situations in which they shy away from emotionally relying on each other — their friendships subsist in a balance instead of a dichotomy.

Call me old-fashioned, but I want a man who will protect me like I’m the reputation of a guy he’s never met,” said comedian Kate Willett, referring to the tendency of men to defend each other unconditionally, whereas in many cases, women may not readily defend women they don’t know.

Girls tend to be loving and supportive of their friends, but there are also so many negative interactions and so much hate between groups of women placed in stressful social environments — something that can be attributed to a power struggle.

I see women dragging each other down constantly in response to one other’s success and happiness. I’ve noticed that girls will swoop in to provide short-term encouragement for another girl, perhaps through fawning over her Instagram selfie, and offer emotional support if she’s feeling upset or insecure, but will rarely support her when she’s genuinely happy and content with the substantial achievements in her life.

We live in a society where women are pitted against each other without remorse. We constantly need to prove that we are flawless to receive admiration, recognition and respect from others. There are so few spots for women at the top in STEM, in business and in many other fields, and this encourages competition between women. Women are constantly placed in positions where they are directly compared to the women next to them — in workplaces, in academia and in daily situations.

There is so much pressure for women to be perfect: perfect bodies, perfect leaders, perfect daughters, sisters, mothers — the list goes on. With intense pressure comes various insecurities about not being good enough. In a society that constantly emotionally beats down women who do not fit the image of perfection, it’s awful to see that the systems in place make some women feel lesser than others. We are constantly judged for our actions and decisions in a way that many men aren’t.

Women are told to give complete attention to their appearance to validate their self-worth, but if they care too much, they are seen as vain and narcissistic instead of confident and powerful. Women are seen as prudish and boring for not talking to any men, but labeled as irresponsible — and many other vulgar words — for talking to too many. A woman is expected to fight her way to the top of the chain at work, and if she’s too friendly she’s disregarded, but if she’s too strong-willed, she’s labeled “bossy” or “bitchy.”

Perhaps a woman will feel the need to conform to the patriarchal standards in order to fit in and finally reach a position of respect and power. Perhaps a woman needs to prove herself time and time again to finally be respected, and she spurns the successes of other women because she’s constantly labeled as inferior if she doesn’t meet the same level of success.

In 2016, the YouTuber Superwoman created the #GirlLove challenge to encourage positive interactions between women and diminish girl-on-girl hate. This movement makes it easier to realize that women already struggle with unequal pay, sexual harassment, constantly being put down, meeting the expectations of society and dealing with the various other plights of female citizens around the world, so girls hating on other girls simply destroys the feminist movement from within and takes us a step backward. We can live in a world where women support each other and build each other up instead of gossiping out of jealousy and judging other women for their decisions. We need to create an environment where women are valued just as much as men in order to end this toxic girl-on-girl competition. If we really want to see positive progress for women around the world, we need to start building each other up and seeing every win for a woman as a win for all of us.



Written by: Akshita Gandra — agandra@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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