Posted in Blog

What Have You Done For Me Lately? (An Insight Into Female Relationships)

My first blog post in a while!

I’ve been busy living: getting better health wise, getting settled into the City life (yes I’ve finally moved to London!) getting better, getting happy…. getting betterer (haha), and getting comfy with the boy Girlie Love Hearts

Life is preeeetty sweet at the moment!

Over the summer, as I got better… then worse…. then better health wise, I was forced to remove myself from the world with very limited contact. Any contact at all was with a small selection of people, while I tried to regain my strength. Spending a lot of time alone in my room reminded me of the many dark days I spent holed up in my room for various reasons – the primary one being fall outs with peers.

As I dive back into life, I’ve reclaimed my crown as ultimate Wallflower – observing the world around me and one thing that has been niggling away at me for a very long time is how unhealthy our relationships can become amongst us as female peers.

As a woman – and I’m sure that there are many women out there who can concur with this statement – women tend to behave in a certain way around each other.

In social situations the women in the group like to stand back and gossip as the lone girl walks into the room. Her makeup, attire and very existence must be discussed and judged.

In work situations, women are threatened by women beneath them, living in a constant paralytic fear that one imminent day they will be overthrown from their position of power by the women under them. The high powered women fight back with painted claws, causing hell for any other female staggering in her path.

Just a few recent examples from a long list of my negative encounters with fellow female peers:

EXAMPLE ONE: Walking into a room and being made to feel uncomfortable as I feel the clique of girls watching me from the other side of the room. I’m sure that you can recall from a previous post where mid-conversation with a group of girls they all walked off and left me to finish my sentence to myself.

EXAMPLE TWO: I once dated someone in university; it was an on again – off again relationship.  I was deeply and foolishly in love, however when he finally decided that he wanted to be single I was dumped and left with the shattered pieces of my broken heart, hating myself for driving my one true love away (I was 19, life was always a Coldplay lyric). Days later he was in a new relationship with a girl who I very quickly discovered he had been seeing as well as me towards the end of our “relationship”. And yet, this girl hated ME and made my life hell. (Bitch stole my man!!! Better recognise!!!)

She then turned all of our friends’ girlfriends against me and spread rumours about me all over campus about me being a home wrecker!

EXAMPLE THREE: I’ve lost count on the amount of times I have shared good news to women, only to be responded to by teeth baring smiles which never quite reach the eyes, swiftly followed by the cold shoulder. Early on in my current relationship, I was talking to a family member about the lovely guy I had been seeing for a couple of months and gushed about how happy he made me; I expected the response to be a positive one considering my disastrous relationship history however instead the response was a negative dagger to my love bubble. The response mirrored my inner voice of doubt:

Isn’t it too soon to be so happy?”

“Don’t you think you should slow down?”

“Why is he with you? “

If I told you who had actually said this to me, you would be shocked, but the person was very close to home.

I was also approached by an acquaintance of mine about a month ago. She’s already unhappy with my offending her (I had to refuse her invitation to join her team at Church as I had already committed myself to another team and was concerned about overdoing it as my health is still not 100% yet. She took this a personal snub to her of course). I had told close friends and family about my relationship, however I had committed the apparent ultimate social faux pas of not announcing it to the world via Facebook. The conversation began negatively, with her demanding to know why I had failed to tell people that I had a boyfriend to which I replied “Well I have.” Her response: “But you only just put it on Facebook”. Me: “Well obviously my close friends and family knew (in the back of my head I’m wildly thinking: You’re just an acquaintance, I barely know you! Why would I tell you? Who walks around introducing themselves as “Hi I’m in a relationship…. Oh and by the way, my name is……!!!” I’d then be accused of being a douchebag instead of being secretive! I can’t win!))

Her response: Well I would’ve thought that you would put it on Facebook, it’s weird. And he’s white……?! Is he a Christian?”

By now I’m seething and desperate to leave without shouting profanities first. Her closing chapter to the conversation was to advise me that my relationship is going to fail because the guy I am seeing is not a Christian and is therefore wrong for me.

EXAMPLE FOUR: I can count the amount of times I’ve received negative comments about my weight from men on one hand; the amount of times these comments have been made to me by women, unfortunately God did not bless me with enough digits to track that amount. About 5 months  ago, I was asked by an overweight woman if I shopped in Evans – for the record I’m a size 12-14 which was my defensive reply to which the response was: eyes scanning my frame from head to toe: “Really? (disbelief) Oh perhaps it’s ‘cause you’re tall then…” #awkward. Just last week I went for a New Patient Health Check with the Practice Nurse at my new GP Surgery. She took my height and weight and told me that I was slightly overweight and with me having a big belly too I need to be careful due to my family history of diabetes. I told her that I don’t have a big belly (I do Pilates most evenings and I’ve lost 2 and a half stone for crying out loud!!!) and she looked at me with her judging sceptic eyes – she’s heard it all before, fatties like this one are always in denial. Can I also stress here that I was wearing clothes and she couldn’t even see my FRICKIN belly!!! So then the next examination was to measure my waist and low and behold it was small. One must pose the question: how can one have a big belly but small waist? Impossible! The shock on her face was all the revenge I needed. She almost choked to death confirming that my waist was small and that I had nothing to worry about. She did however attempt a try at having the last word by making assumptions on my diet and telling me to cut down on my carbohydrates and that I should eat more greens as I’m probably not getting enough. My reply: “I eat greens everyday as part of my diet for my epilepsy (my FAV dish of late is a plate of cabbage with a side of fish…. True story, not sarcasm at all!). Her eyes tiny enough as it is, squint into nonexistence as she responds: “so you already know about healthy eating then”. This remark is heavily dripped in glistening sarcasm. Me: “Yes. So shut up” …. In my head. Obviously I didn’t say the last part (although I wish I had). My male consultant has assured me that my weight is fine for my height and yet it’s a woman who jumps on the judgemental ridge to tell me otherwise.

Unfortunately I could go on and on and on about these kinds of encounters but the point of this piece is not to bore you with dear diary entries but to raise to attention this epidemic of cat fighting.

In University I surrounded myself with male friends purely for the pre-emptive strike of avoiding the dramas which come with being part of a circle of girlfriends. For this I was harshly judged and perceived as being a slut; I was too full of myself. In my last year of University through work I did settle into a group of girlfriends and to say that every encounter was riddled with #DRAMA   would be an understatement;

Drama Alert

fashion wars, constantly comparing ourselves to each other – personality wise, height wise, weight wise, pulling ability wise. I freely admit that I succumbed to the drama myself at times.

Girls tend to dumb themselves down in front of the opposite sex in order (in their opinion) to appear more desirable and furthermore to not show up our peers and make them feel inferior. It makes me sad that amazing women over the years have fought so hard to establish a foothold in society for respect and equality and yet today we don’t even demand the same status amongst ourselves within our own gender.  Fighting each other makes us look weak which is betrayal to ourselves and a confirmation of how most of the world – even in this current so called modern era – perceive us.

Gender role stereotypes convey us negatively and yet we seem to feel obliged to conform and act in this way towards one another because of a misguided conception that this behaviour is expected of us – typical women, bitching about one another, cat fighting and out-trashing each other to anyone who will listen to aggrandize the situation because #DRAMA consumes their lives and nothing can ever move forward because #drama has left us all scarred for life.

When did life for a woman become about self-preservation and abandonment of solidarity to conform to negative stereotypes? Stereotypes of which I hasten to add are forced upon our gender by chauvinistic males and the mass media. Research has demonstrated the negative results of female objectification in the media; depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunctions and eating disorders to name a few. And yet, the same negative female objectification exists within our own gender towards one another.

Mass sexualisation of females proves detrimental to our relationships: we focus so much on impressing the opposite sex that we’ll do whatever it takes to throw the competition under the bus. We seek approval from our own gender within our circle as well as the male gender. As a gender group we tend to internalise our own insecurities and then violently force them out at the women around us in a messed up superiority complex.

Superiority through inferiority.

Women go to great lengths to modify themselves in order to fit into the status quo; we manipulate and change our faces and bodies. We objectify ourselves and perhaps this transpires into our gender relationships; are we objectifying each other by perceiving each other as insignificant objects? Objects that we can pick up and discard whenever we feel like it? The media dismembers us and therefore we dismember each other to punish each other for our internal pain caused by an external source; we feel ashamed of being ashamed and direct this internalised anger upon the rest of the world.

We criticise men for objectifying and damaging women through overt sexualisation, pornography and demeaning behaviour, however consider this: are we not just as bad? In our race to outdo each other, are we not in the exact same category? Instead of uniting and creating movements in honour of the Suffragists and many other inspirational female movements before us, we’ve chosen to inflict pain toward each other, while simultaneously damaging ourselves.

The girl who called me up on my Facebook faux pas, who was she to make assumptions on my relationship which she had only found out about the day before? Why do women feel that it’s their given right to use their judgments and opinions as a burden upon our peers? Offering advice is one thing, but when you drown it in judgement it very quickly becomes poison.

I recently stumbled upon a study by The Gottman Institute. The particularly piece I relate to is a research on couples, and although it focuses on divorce, their concept on relationships I feel corresponds with what I have seen in female relationships. One question the research probes is:  What are the negative behaviour patterns that can predict divorce? (or in this case, a breakdown in communication and forthwith a breakdown of relationship).

Dr. Gottman calls these destructive behaviours, “A Positive-to-Negative Ratio of 0.8 or Less,” and has named the most corrosive negative behaviour patterns, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Specifically, these are:

Criticism: stating one’s complaints as a defect in one’s partner’s personality, i.e., giving the partner negative trait attributions. Example: “She always thinks that she’s better than the rest of us. Who does she think she is?”

Contempt: statements that come from a relative position of superiority. Example: “Oh look how fat she’s gotten!”…. “Did you hear about her husband??? He ran off with his secretary – they’d been at it for MONTHS!! How dumb was she to not notice??”

Defensiveness: self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victim-hood. Defensiveness wards off a perceived attack – this one in particular is very relatable to female relationships which involve a hierarchy. Example: “You can’t say that it’s my fault that you feel like that; it’s your fault for being so sensitive.”

Stonewalling: emotional withdrawal from interaction. Example: The listener does not give the speaker the usual nonverbal signals that the listener is “tracking” the speaker so avoiding eye contact, being dismissive, henceforth making the speaker feel inferior and unimportant.

(You can have a look at this fascinating study in full here:

Dr Gottman – A Positive-to-Negative Ratio of 0.8 or Less http://www.gottman.com/research/research-faqs/ )

Another article I fell upon is by Roberts, S., & Fredrickson, B. (1997) called “Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly” (I’m on an epic wave here with my research; grab a surf board and keep up!) Fredrickson and Roberts coined the term “Objectification Theory” to suggest that women within our culture objectify our own gender through our own internalised insecurities. They call this self-objectification. The study goes on to suggest that appearance monitoring, which is present in self-objectification can increase shame and appearance anxiety within one’s self. This internalised loathing is then projected onto our peers thus spiralling into an endless cycle.

We’ve become a society who lives for self; our basic instinct has become to isolate ourselves and become more withdrawn as we allow ourselves to become consumed by our own egos.

History is rich with examples of pioneers of female solidarity. These women lived fr a cause bigger than themselves and lived lives enriching the women around them and empowering them so that all were in a position to stand alongside them, instead of beneath their feet.

To name a few:

Esther

Esther – a strong, courageous and inspirational woman from the Old Testament of The Bible whose uncle Mordecai convinced her that she may have been brought to the position she was in by God for the purpose of saving her own people. She agreed to go before the king without an invitation even if it meant death. For Christian woman all over the world, Esther is a beacon of courage, wisdom and humble strength.

Elizabeth Cody Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902) – Pioneer of the women’s rights movement, Stanton pathed the way for the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett to follow in her footsteps in the fight for the vote. Stanton was an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early women’s rights movement.

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) – Established the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, and early leader of the women’s suffrage movement.

Pocahontas

Pocahontas (1595 – 1617) – Pocahontas was a Native American princess of the Powhatan tribe. She is believed to have saved the life of the leader of the Jamestown colony, Captain John Smith. This act and her marriage to a Jamestown colonist helped establish peace between the Natives and the colonists, aiding in the survival of the colony

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks(1913 -2005) – Rosa Parks was an American civil rights leader. Known as “The First Lady of Civil Rights” she is best known for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest and bravery sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the first movements towards Black Civil Rights in the Southern states of America.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe(1811 – 1896) – A famous abolitionist and author, Stowe penned “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which brought attention to the harsh truths of the lives of enslaved African Americans.

“I am speaking now of the highest duty we owe our friends, the noblest, the most sacred –that of keeping their own nobleness, goodness, pure and incorrupt. If we let our friend become cold and selfish and exacting without a remonstrance, we are no true lover, no true friend.”

These women are just a few examples of inspirational women who lived for a greater cause. Perhaps if we could recall to mind the many examples of this solidarity exemplified throughout history, we wouldn’t have time to corrupt ourselves and each other with negativity and poisonous actions.

Perhaps we would be happy for and towards each other.

Perhaps we would be happy within ourselves.

Perhaps we would live happier lives.

Just a thought….

Let me know you’re own thoughts and stories. Do you agree that we need to change or do you disagree and think that my opinions are blindsided? I’d love to hear from you!

Author:

My body remains on the sidelines watching, while my mind roams around the room, taking in the world around her. I am a wallflower. There could be two reasons for this: It could be due to me being an introvert or just that I am a Cancerian! I’m Cece Alexandra and I am so honoured that you’ve been led to delve into my thoughts here in this blog! I would describe myself as a Wallflower which is why I use words to express my deepest – and sometimes darkest - thoughts. Words have always been my strongest method of expressing myself. Growing up I always wanted to be a writer, however life and circumstances chipped away at my confidence until there was nothing left. Without words, I could no longer express myself. I am also Epileptic. Since being diagnosed, I have realised that my deepest fear is the day I am finally on my deathbed, haunted by the overwhelming regret that I never achieved my God-given potential. This realisation forced me to take a step of faith and put myself out there. Yes it makes me vulnerable, however within the process I not only want to be an inspiration to myself; I want to be an inspiration to other women – to be whatever you want to be. Embrace the fear and doubt and utilise that as the fuel you need to push through! Life is for living to the fullest. Life is for loving, for living true to yourself and to the people around you. Life however, can also be crippling, dark and overwhelming. But you are not alone. This thought alone is what will help you get up from the ground.

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