Women Shaming Women

I do get curious as to why women so often find it necessary to be-little and mock other women displaying characteristics that are usually applauded in men; but are seen as a negative and undesirable in women, especially in the workplace and media. This brilliant article by Stylist Magazine highlights this perfectly.

The article talks about female talent on TV displaying traits of self-assurance and confidence being vilified for on social media and in the press in stark contrast to their male peers.

“Rak-su [The boyband who won this years X-Factor contest] had wonderful stage presence, and made a point of penning and performing their own ridiculously catchy songs – which marked a change in the show’s approach this year. The quartet also shared finalist Grace [Davies] confidence and unwavering belief in her own abilities. However, while Rak-Su’s self-assurance was deemed acceptable by viewers, the same cannot be said for their fellow finalist.

Adjectives which have seemingly become synonymous with Grace Davies. ‘Cocky’, ‘unlikeable’ and ‘smug’ ” Kayleigh Dray Stylist Magazine


Here are some more examples of common behavioural traits that are often seen as a positive in men and the opposite negative connotation in women:

(M) Assertive v’s  (F) Bitchy

(M) Confident v’s (F) Arrogant / a diva

(M) Leadership v’s  (F) Bossy

(M) Self Assured  v’s (F) Smug /  A bitch

Why is that?

I think this reeks of misogyny. I talk about this a lot in the diversity masterclasses I run – no matter how much laws change, if mindsets don’t also change, we become paralysed in our thinking and in turn our behaviour and we never really evolve.

Historically women have always been seen as less than their male counterparts. In some industries, cultures and societal norms, sadly, we still are. Women were not allowed to vote, not allowed to work, had to be polite and lady-like, well-mannered, seen and not heard, subservient. (It’s a good job I wasn’t born then). Fast forward several decades later in the western world we have equal rights to work and vote (not there yet with pay), but I wonder if some of these engrained traditionalist views about behaviours, stereotypes and roles are seeping in here. And this study by Stanford University paper, backs up some of my thinking.

To be successful, you must be assertive and confident, but if you are aggressive as a woman you are sometimes punished for behaving in ways that are contrary to the feminine stereotype.

The study also compared employees with traits associated with men, such as; “aggressive, assertive, and confident” – alongside female behavioural traits such as “acting like a lady” and discovered that women generally can’t move beyond the “traditional” behavioural role without ruffling a few feathers or experiencing some kind of negative backlash.

Yet on the flip-side, women are slammed for not being assertive enough.  We are consistently encouraged to be more confident, to be more vocal, to be more visible, but when we are, this is a great example that there very real negative implications associated with confidence on women and I wonder if this holds other women back from stepping into their true selves and power through fear of being vilified and disliked or perhaps seeing confidence as a negative trait by default?

You will have seen similar articles discussing the same very issue with singer and current Strictly come Dancing Contestant; Alexandra Burke here and here

Why is this continuously happening?

I think envy is also at play here which is more prevalent in women than in men. But ultimately, two words: Self worth.

If you find yourself feeling negatively triggered by people you haven’t met, feeling envious of other people’s talents or successes, more often than not it is more  about you and the relationship you have with the association of these behavioural traits, then it is about them. Get curious about why.  Why do you perceive that they, or in this instance – someone who is a complete stranger, is triggering such a powerful response in you. Look inwards.

If we are complicit in gender stereotyping in our thinking, by shaming women in roles on TV, those achieving success, those in positions of power, at work or in the boardroom, and parenting. If we find that we are shaming them for displaying traits that we celebrate, or often find attractive in men, we are perpetuating a narrative that is holding us ALL back from thriving.

The only way we improve this, is to look inwards, look at our own self-worth. If our self-worth is rooted we will not feel threatened or irritated by other people’s self-assurance, success or talent, their confidence or talent will not diminish our own and if we become better aware of gender stereotyping, where it is coming from and its firm role in misogyny, perhaps it might change the way we think about women and ultimately ourselves.


Header Image: Rex Features via Stylist

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