Women Beware Women

Women Beware Women - work in origress

Women Beware Women – work in progress

Writing in the Daily Telegraph last year, Hannah Betts, unwittingly helped me with my research into a phenomena I had witnessed firsthand in my social circle, something that is anathema to me as a woman who has outgrown the playground; namely ‘divide and ostracise’ and a subject first visited by me in paint 15 years ago in The Three Muses, now in a private collection in London:

Three Women

The Three Muses

The events leading to and fallout from the spectacle were felt rippling through the entire village, to a lesser or greater extent, for years and things have never, and may never, be the same a gain.

Women Beware Women is a Jacobean Tragedy by Thomas Middleton that deals with several episodes/facets of ‘female transgression’ and has not one likeable girl in it. To be fair the men are all pretty bottom dwelling too, however, the play is notable for its scathing description of female motives and reasoning. Admittedly a period piece, where the concerns of the protagonists bare not a lot of resemblance to first world 21st Century issues, the idea represented here of woman colluding with man to bring down her fellow female is seen to be both laudable and villainous at the same time. However the girl on girl crime is the real crux of the story, the men manipulated by the women to enact retribution upon their sisters.

Hannah Betts wrote under the headline:

Women are being bitchier than ever – where’s the sisterhood gone?

Women have always judged each other – usually in private. But overt bitchiness seems to be on the rise as everything from weight to wardrobes is harshly judged. Are we all Mean Girls now?

……the Daily Mail website’s notorious right-hand column, aka the “sidebar of shame”, a diet of celebrity sex scandals, fashion faux pas, reality television and incredible weight-loss stories, with judgment of women’s bodies and behaviour the underlying theme. One of the kindest people I know, a mother of teenagers and friend to all, describes it as her “dark addiction”.

“I ‘right-hand’ constantly, day and night,” she says. “No matter what is going on in my own life, there is always solace to be had in fashion fails and bikini bodies. It’s a compulsion.” Many who openly despise the body baring of Page 3 are covertly devoted to the bodily critiques of Mail Online.

This compulsion – as with the compulsion then to let rip – originates with childhood, according to Dr Frankish. “Something happens that triggers a relatively infantile response, belonging to the pre-socialisation stage of development. Not all women attack others, so the implication is that those who do are insecure in their attachments and are triggered by what they see as someone being better than them, or getting more attention than them.” We justify ourselves with the delusion that it is a victimless crime, the subject as virtual as the medium.

For my part, I see the escalation of bitchiness as a symptom of the overall rise in and currency of misogyny. Not only do people – women included – get lured into replicating its manifestations, feminism has become a live issue again, and with this liveness comes a backlash and sense that it can be used to foster divisiveness. There have even been reports about a Reddit group that may be striving to seed infighting among feminists, encouraging them into ever more “extreme” stances.

The effects of this girl-on-girl sabotage can be still more concrete, affecting women’s relationships in the workplace and their polarisation into mother and non-mother camps, each virulently opposed. They divide us into ugly versus pretty, fat versus thin, small-breasted versus large, fashionable versus unfashionable – all enforcing the stereotype that a woman must be pretty, slim, buxom and stylish rather than, say, bright, healthy, happy and fulfilled.

One must not be naïve, of course, we are never all going to get along merely by merit of possessing two X chromosomes and a vagina. Equality means equal opportunities to like and dislike rather than exist in some Pollyanna universe. But neither should we turn against each other because of possession of said attributes. Not least because in sisterhood lies strength.’ [source; The Daily Telegraph 21 February 2015]

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