It’s no secret that women often earn less than men while continually being subjected to double standards, sexism, harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Oftentimes, they must deal with a work-life balance that men and family members don’t understand or support. While many companies attempt to outwardly support a women’s choice to have a family, pregnancy discrimination claims have increased by 35% over the last ten years; a confirmation that women tend to be punished for their life choices.
Additionally, women must work harder to be taken seriously in a workplace that is dominated by men. While aggressive attitudes in men are viewed positively in the business world, a woman exhibiting the same characteristics would be viewed as bitchy.
With that as a backdrop, you would think there would be an understanding among women; a camaraderie or support system that didn’t include attempts by women to destroy other women. Unfortunately, women are often their own worst enemies.
Kelly Valen is the author of The Twisted Sisterhood. In her book, Valen spoke with over three thousand women. Almost ninety percent of the women who took part in the fifty question survey revealed they felt “currents of meanness and negativity emanating from other females.” Eighty-five percent admitted having suffered serious, life altering knocks at the hands of women and that many of their friendships had an “intense, sinister underbelly.” More than 75% had been hurt by the jealousy and competition of a friend.
Valen said she was shocked by the number of women who told her that they endured female friendships behind, “frozen smiles and a facade of intimacy.”
According to Valen, women “have correctly identified that the primary threat to their emotional security radiates….from fellow females.” She went on to say, “these secret, social battles are waged, in many cases, by the very same women singing the praises of girl power, feminism and female friendship in their lives.”
It’s not surprising that her book was lambasted by some who felt she was “airing the ladies dirty laundry.”
Personally, I’ve always wondered why this issue hasn’t been spoken about more openly. For so many years I witnessed this type of behavior firsthand and it bothered me. There were times I’d ask a female co-worker about this very topic, and in each case, there was never a moment of hesitation or denial that the problem existed. When I asked why, they would just smile or shrug their shoulders. They had no answers, and I have no desire to jump into a pool without knowing the depth of the water.
Like most complex issues, there is never one reason or one answer. But I sure wouldn’t mind an attempt at an explanation I can put my arms around. Because it seems to me, with all the juggling and difficult situations a woman has to deal with in her life, support from someone who’s been there and understands the struggle, would go a long way toward building the kind of sisterhood all women would embrace.