I’ve already written a couple of times about my dismay over “mom bashing” both in the media and as it applies to “regular” moms pitted against one another. I am now realizing, however, that this phenomenon is not limited to just moms. We have – media vs moms; moms vs moms ; and moms vs women without children.
I don’t think any of this is new. I just never really paid attention to any of it in the past. However, once I became both a mom and a blogger the truth became unavoidable. As I first began to realize how rampant woman against women bashing was I was actually pretty shocked. Of course I knew that women were prone to being competitive amongst themselves but I had this misguided idea that moms tended to be more supportive towards one another. It was a surprise to me to discover just how many mom’s brought their competitive nature into the parenting ring. Then I entered the blogging world and my eyes were opened even wider.
The Light Bulb
The thing is, the more I see and hear the less shocking it all becomes. You could speculate that it’s because I am becoming desensitized to it all and there may be some truth to that, but I also am starting to just “get it” now. For a long time I was under the false impression that being women gave us all some common ground but that just isn’t so. Other than having the same parts we are not the same. Being the same gender doesn’t not automatically make us all part of some kind of magical sisterhood. We don’t have the ability to relate to each other simply because we are female. Being a women is not always a “shared experience” because our experiences are so diverse. Even being a mom is not necessarily a shared experience. So many of us have such different values, different parenting styles, cultural differences, socioeconomical differences and other variables in our lives that, even as mothers, we cannot possibly all relate to one another. That’s not to say that we can’t and don’t relate to other women, other mothers, of course we do but that’s not automatic.
Biology and Environment
Although men are known as the more “aggressive” gender the truth is women are genetically programmed to be every bit as competitive, we just display it differently. From an evolutionary standpoint men displayed aggression physically to fight off predators and other males. Females had the same aggressive instincts but displayed their aggression in less physical ways for the simple reason that they are the child bearers and had to protect themselves from physical harm. And thus it began. Because women had a natural instinct to protect themselves from harm, yet they also had the drive to find the most suitable mate and reproduce, they had to learn other ways of being competitive. Socially excluding other women, pointing out physical flaws and spreading stories (whether true or not) are some of the ways women did and still do this. We are programmed to be “mean” to women we view as competition and supportive of those that we think can be a benefit to us. Now I’m not saying that every woman is mean or that most of us do not have the ability to be aware of these inherent traits and work to keep them in check. But, the truth of the matter is evolutionary behaviors evolve and remain for a reason – because they work. We have survived as a species because of them.
Now, take these deep rooted social behaviors and throw in our modern environment. There are a lot of factors at play here. First we have the “beauty” factor. Science tells us that, historically physically attractive people mate more. Why? Because they are more likely to reproduce well and live longer, thus being around to care for their children. Cosmetics and fashion have helped to level that playing field to a certain degree, therefore, making competition even more vital. And with women now not just competing for mates but also in the workplace (with each other and with men) we have even more drive to be competitive. Yet our programming still remains the same. We don’t physically attack our competitors but do so in more subtle but just as damaging (maybe even more) ways.
I certainly don’t take the stance that “it is what it is” and we should just blindly accept that our differences and our biological instincts say it’s ok hurl insults and one another at the drop of a hat. But perhaps by taking factors like this in to consideration we can develop a deeper understanding and take a more reasonable approach to competing with each other. And the wonderful thing about evolution is that, by definition, it evolves – so that might be something to think about…