Why Are Women Mean to Each Other?

Within all of life's uncertainties, and although the truth may be subjective, one thing is certain: women are often mean to each other. It remains to be seen why. In this article, you will find some of the main theories on the subject and the possible conclusion reached – the possible truth – on the subject.

Among the male gender, interpersonal relationships are different. Men tend to be more physically violent than women (high testosterone + low serotonin = uncontrolled impulsivity) but, as a general rule, they are not as offended or defamed as they are. So what is behind this small phenomenon? Fernanda Verzenhassi, clinical psychologist, when contacted to give her opinion on this matter, did not hesitate to say the following:

"(…) There are two main theories as to why women are competitive in indirectly aggressive ways. Evolutionary psychology, which uses natural selection to explain our modern behaviors, argues that women need to protect themselves from danger physical, so that indirect aggression protects us by lowering the caste of other women. Feminist psychology attributes this indirect aggression to the internalization of patriarchalism (…) ".

Both theories are likely to be right. However, and for those who are only now faced with these conclusions: what could all this mean? Let's do it by steps. Let's start with what may, eventually, be one of the emotional triggers that help promote the conflict itself: the impact of criticism on women.

Tara Mohr's, author of the book Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead , like other competent professionals, became interested in this topic from an early age. The scholar also agrees that there may be several reasons why women have this conflicting tendency. His opinion is the same as that of the aforementioned Fernanda Verzehassi and the psychologist and writer Meredith Fuller. Mohr's and Fuller state that, obviously, there has never been a good reaction to criticism and judgment and that, often, this is where the disagreement begins. It is similarly observed that women dramatize comments more than men. And the fact that no one likes to hear criticism is not just because of the discomfort it causes, nor the denial it conveys. There are several other reasons for displeasure.

Here are some possible reasons why this happens and why it happens more among women:

  1. We are relationship-oriented and place immense value on it. Therefore, when people don't like what we are doing, for us, it can be a sign of disharmony or a breakdown in our relationships.
  2. We gather more information about what others think. Many studies show that women are more adept at reading facial expressions (and body language) than men. This means that we receive more information than men about how people are reacting to us.
  3. The approval of other people has often been our salvation. For much of human history, women were unable to protect themselves through legal, political or financial means. We didn't have those options. Our survival was only guaranteed if we adapted to what was desired and approved by those who held the most power. The legacy of that story is still alive in us, albeit unconsciously, and can shake our confidence on a general level.
  4. We have years of teaching what it means to “be a good girl”. Society requires us to be “nicer and sweeter”. So, when another woman offends us, it still seems more offensive and more humiliating because it is less approved among us than among men. Therefore, we are (often rightly) afraid of personal attacks. Research shows that when women receive negative feedback , it tends to be taken more personally (emotional) than when men receive the same feedback . And, especially in the digital age, this can be even more psychologically violent because the person attacking feels protected by a screen, offending without any inhibition.
  5. Lastly, our culture's focus on female appearance (beauty, weight, etc.) sends women the message that how others see us is very important. Even in films or television shows, the female character's fate is usually determined not by what she does, but rather by how she is perceived. So, what remains in our unconscious is that what other people think of us is more important than our lived experience or our choices.

These aspects are very important and clearly explain why we feel more easily hurt, and even threatened, when faced with criticism. However, it does not clarify why most women take out their aggression more frequently on their peers than on men. About this, Tara Mohr's states:

"In any society, people from a marginalized or low-power group end up venting this pain and anger on each other through internal conflict. Most women still struggle like this, because in truth they are not yet aware of their true qualities, capabilities and rights — we still deny our own dreams (...) we treat ourselves harshly. Therefore, the most common thing is to criticize, attack and try to sabotage other women, because it shakes us to see in them what we don't have in ourselves We will attack if we see something emerging, or expressed in another woman, that we have crushed in ourselves. We will not at all support another woman's heart following her passion if we convince ourselves otherwise. We will not support her idealism and desire to change the world if we treat our own idealism with judgment or harshness. We cannot celebrate another woman's success, ambition, assertiveness if we are restricting that in ourselves."

In short: although with reasons that reason itself is sometimes unaware of (unconscious patterns and limiting beliefs), the woman who most attacks others and/or defends herself in a less pleasant way, being even more critical and harsh than even an eventual attacker may have been with you, shows that you still experience great insecurity and lack of acceptance. This is why several studies indicate that the woman who is most irritable and confrontational with other women may also be the one who may not have:

  • A loving relationship with your loved one;
  • An active and satisfying sex life;
  • A part time that you love;
  • A job that fulfills you and makes you feel good on a professional level;
  • A positive, physical and psychological image of yourself.

Since studies and statistics have the value they have – each person attributes the value they consider relevant – my advice, if you identify yourself as potentially irritable and easily conflicted, is that you should not give up on yourself. Change your focus, accept yourself and stop seeing other women as possible enemies. Believe that, just like you, the target you want to kill has much more to think about than just planning something against you.

So, women of the world, enough is enough! Accept yourself once and for all, love yourself and allow, like trees in the middle of spring, your beings to blossom and show themselves to the world, just as they are most of the time: beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!



Vanda do Nascimento is a therapist, trainer and Mindfulness instructor at the Escola de Mindfulness Essencial , founded by her in 2016. She began her career as a teacher in 1997, obtaining a degree in Education. On that same date, he also began his studies in Reiki, Meditation and Mindfulness. Later, he embarked on the path of Psychology and delved even deeper into the topic of Mindfulness, in order to continue his fight to control stress and anxiety.

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