By Colette Fitzpatrick
We can say that equality has come a long way and, yet, the utter pervasiveness and widely accepted truth in certain stereotypes really underlines the continued need for dialogue and progress. Stereotypes are something that can be humourous and true and #relatable but some are simply harmful and reduce people to notions that perpetuate attitudes that hinder understanding and growth. Many gendered stereotypes, in particular, only really help in furthering toxic ideas, pushing people into boxes and stifling people from being themselves. Boys being forced to act tough creates men who haven’t learned the emotional intelligence and skill set to be as happy and in tune with their needs as they could be. “Boys will be boys” utterly separates people from their behaviour and doesn’t teach culpability. Girls being told boys are better at things, even if only through action or lack of attention, rather than the words being said, leaves us with governments, positions of leadership and many fields that are unequally represented and paid.
Of course, many of these things are being questioned and, more and more, children are raised to be themselves and not to adhere to gender stereotypes. Most people I know would label the majority of such ideas as silly. Yet, there are some that have managed to slip through the cracks. There are some of these ideas that people I know and, worst of all, women I admire, will perpetuate gladly. One of the most heinous among them, imho, is that women are just inherently bitchier.
This concept makes my blood boil and is worse still because it is usually said proudly by women who throw the rest of us under the bus, usually wilfully and often with a smile and a shake of their head as if to say, “what can you do?” It is often prefaced by conversation about why some women prefer to be friends with men, or it is used as a segue as to why a certain woman isn’t likeable (and women needing to be likeable is a whole other issue I’ve been bothered by lately), an explanation for why someone is mean and harsh. Meanwhile, I rarely hear men say this out loud, at least in female company.
So, why are so many of us ready to sell each other down the water? Perhaps they are justifying their own behaviour that they know is unwarranted by saying all women are bitchy, maybe they are excusing having no reason for disliking/not getting on with others, perhaps they are separating themselves to highlight how they’re not difficult and “not like other women” (*eyeroll*), maybe they are simplifying why someone is difficult, rather than trying to understand them, or they may simply be acting as though they are “in on the joke” to facilitate moving in male circles.
Really though, all of this is most easily explained by one concept: internalised misogyny. Much as things have progressed and we have all moved on, inside each of us, there are little grains of misogyny, racism, homophobia, classicism and more that we are still struggling to unlearn. No matter how woke any of us are, we are products of societies that aren’t and so, no matter how proudly female someone is, they will still fight against notions long since planted in their minds. The idea that women are ruled by their emotions, that they are unreasonable, that they are sneaky, silly and frivolous and less is still out there, if no longer said in those terms. Accepting that women are “bitchier” is going along with those ideas. Saying women are “bitchier”, is essentially saying they get distracted by unimportant things, that they aren’t logical, and that they are needlessly petty.
If you are a woman or you love women, it must be obvious that this is not true of all women. Yes, there are people who are cruel and petty and spiteful. And there are plenty of men among them. There are people so ruled by their own needs and emotions that they say and do mean things. And many are also men. There are people who are unreasonable and do illogical things. And guess what? Some of those people are men. Women, men and non-binary folks can all be bitches but that has nothing to do with their gender and everything to do with them as people. And we can all have bitchy moments or days or periods of our lives. Are women sometimes socialised to be competitive about relatively fickle things? Yes. Can they be made to feel as though there isn’t enough room for others in certain spaces? Sure. Can emotional or negative reactions or demands be perceived as someone being a bitch? Totally. But would you ever get me saying that all women are bitches or women are bitchier? Hell. No.
I adore myself and the women in my life and, from my impossibly generous mother to my insanely supportive friends who are always genuinely happy for any successes the others have, I have to say that I have only reason to believe that most women are inherently wonderful.
For more womanhood articles, why not read Cara’s piece on why you should prioritise the HPV vaccine and find out if you have Irish Woman Syndrome?