According to the Dali Lama, “the world will be saved by the Western woman.”
Wait, you mean these girls are our future?
It will be awfully hard to save the world if we can’t get the basics down, that is, working together and accepting each other as women (*note: I am using “woman” and “girl” interchangeably).This is a post I have wanted to write for a long time. What is behind all this girl-on-girl hate?
I thought about writing about the major external causes and theories: socialization, patriarchy, culture/media, biology/hormones, evolutionary, but to be honest, I always feel quite helpless when I hear about these causes. How can one tackle thousands of years of a patriarchal society? Or how can one challenge the push and pull of hormones? Or one’s supposed in-built evolutionary need to compete for resources?
Instead, I want to focus on the major internal causes for disliking other women. For every woman, this is a deeply personal question and it can take a lot of honest self-inquiry. A lot of it can be ugly.
Through self-inquiry, I have noticed that it’s quite common for me to meet a woman and instantly judge her. These judgments are fast and automatic. Why is she wearing this or that? How old is she? etc. etc. There is almost an inexplicable wall that stands between me and that woman. Such walls are subtle and invisible, often subconscious, and can exist in a myriad of relationships with women, from strangers to loved ones.
After much digging within myself (and trust me, I don’t have even a small fraction figured out) here some potential reasons I see behind girl-on-girl hate:
1. Lack of empathy/sense of separation: Let’s say you see a woman in the mall and she’s wearing a ton of make-up, way more than you might wear. Judgments fire off in your mind (Why is she wearing so much make-up? Who does she want to impress? Etc). Surely, as a woman, you may have also put some effort in your outward appearance (if not, the appearance of your house, or something else). But for one reason or another, we get cut off and/or forget that we have also engaged in the similar behaviors or patterns as this woman. It’s this sense of separation or “otherness” that causes us to judge. It’s a forgetfulness of “I am also a woman.”
2.The “harsh lens:” You might argue that lack of empathy and sense of separation can happen with anyone, not just fellow women. True. But I believe we also wear an additional “harsh lens” when perceiving other women. In other words, we are quick to judge women severely, either on their appearance or behavior. This lens is like a grey film on one’s perception; we aren’t seeing each other half as clearly or as favorably as we see others. It’s hard to say where this harsh lens comes from, and I am inclined to point on reasons such as socialization, media, and culture, but also the following internal reason:
3. Self-hate/sense of insecurity: When you dig deep, you realize that jealousy, competition, and overall aversion to other women stem from one’s own insecurities about one thing or another. If you felt complete as a woman – or person for that matter – you would see these sentiments and judgments would lessen or disappear altogether. As women, we are particularly vulnerable to high self-criticism and low self-esteem, making us even more likely to project our fears and sense of inadequacy onto other women.
The whole point of enlisting these internal causes is to stop blaming larger society and start taking personal responsibility about the way we feel towards other women. In the end, the way we feel towards other women boils down to how we feel about ourselves.
What to do? I’d like to share a few small internal steps I’ve started taking to mend my perception and relationship with other women, whether it be strangers, acquaintances, friends, or our closest loved ones:
1. Become aware of judgments and thoughts: This is half the battle. The majority of our judgments set off in rapid fire, and it takes deliberate self-reflection to catch them in action.
2. Self-inquiry: Take time to ask yourself – Where are these thoughts & feelings coming from? What is the biggest/main judgment I am making? What is it about this girl that is setting me off? Giving yourself some time to explore your judgments is good for getting to the root of them.
3. Let go of first impressions: We often get caught up with the first interaction or first few interactions with a person, especially if they are negative. I believe girls especially hold steadfast to first impressions.
The other day, a girl in a restaurant asked me if I minded if she smoked and I said “yes, I did mind” (I have allergies). There was an awkward silence. I then told her, “thank you for asking” and she smiled in what seemed to me an annoyed way. It was not a pleasant exchange. When my appetizers came, I noticed the portions were way too big for me to finish. Despite my awkward exchange with the girl, I offered her some of my appetizers (her food hadn’t arrived yet). I was surprised with how our interaction completely turned around. We spoke about how she was from France, and what she was doing in India etc. etc.
4. Focus on similarities: How are you and this girl similar? I believe focusing on similarities (on all levels, physical, emotional, mental etc.) is a powerful exercise to increasing empathy. You will be surprised to see how much you may have in common. Maybe this friend of yours also has a strenuous relationship with her own parents. Maybe this friend of yours also likes to tell people when they are doing things wrong. Maybe this acquaintance also likes to go to fancy restaurants or fix her hair up in the same way that you do.
5. Send some good wishes: You have come this far, maybe all within a few seconds of standing at a store window or in a grocery line. Last step is to send some good wishes to that girl, to yourself, and to all women everywhere. No need to set up an alter with incense, just a simple thought along the lines of “Hope she lives a healthy and happy life, hope I do too…hope all women everywhere do” (adapt/simplify as you wish).
Recently, while touring a temple, I noticed a group of four girls gossiping about an Indian man they had asked to take a picture. After I identified my judgments, I sent them each a good wish for health and happiness and walked on. It was liberating and totally flipped the energy.
Men look out for each other; they naturally have “guy codes” – unsaid rules of having each other’s backs. Men say “bro” and/or have hand-shakes, a certain relaxed body language when greeting each other. In the same way, change begins with adopting small habits as individuals and women. From there, we can begin to build a new women’s culture of authenticity, empathy, and appreciation.
And then yeah, we could definitely save the world.