Why Women Hurt Other Women

Welcome back to the  Point-of-View series, in which I chronicle my opinions and ‘points of view’ about various topics.    

POV statement:  Women hurt other women by perpetuating gender norms without critical thought.

The critical thought thing is really important to me.  Whether that’s because I’m a critical person, or annoyingly pedantic, or inciting honest reflection it’s important to consider the consequences and implications of casual customs.

Sometimes, when I come across an interesting article I like to see what about it can be applied or thought about in personal application or institutionally that needs to happen.  Women’s Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women’s Self-Promotion by Jessi L. Smith and Meghan Huntoon is an interesting psychology piece that dissects the gender norm expectation that women should be modest and how violating that norm has negative connotations for women, enforced more strongly by other women.

The authors note that cultural norms of valuing communal goals, helping others, connecting and being selfless

“may be one reason why gender disparities persist in hiring practices, promotions, awards, raises, and other important workplace outcomes” (448).

Of course!  This is an insidious part of institutional sexism.  Women have biases socialized into them that keeps them perpetuating gender bias.

Why should we do the dirty work of keeping our own gender down?

This is why it’s so important to educate ourselves and others about social norms and the way they play out.  Only through critical examination of WHY we choose to follow patterns, thoughts, behaviours, will we be able to change them.

“Women who behave in a norm-consistent manner are liked more than women who behave in a norm-inconsistent manner” (448).

This policing of other women has to stop!  It’s nice to be liked, but what the article notes is that we are told we have to be liked and that if we are not its letting down women, one individuals actions speak for the whole gender.  Women cannot find footing in the system that says we have to fit into a mold, designed by others and then punish those who don’t fit it.

I can’t do justice to the thoughts that better feminist writers have tackled about the pressure of societal norms and how they negatively impact women’s lives.  But it’s so important to just start THINKING about them.  Start the process of change.

Additional Resources


The Biggest Threat to Feminism

Interview with Bell Hooks – Cultural Criticism and Transformation

Everything You Wanted To Know About Feminism But Were Too Afraid to Ask

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