Women Hating on Women Isn’t the ProblemMay 06, 2013
There’s been a lot of talk lately about women being “catty.” The most recent examples were when a CBS Houston blogger questioned whether an Oklahoma City Thunder cheerleader was “too chunky” or when a Delta Gamma sorority president wrote a shockingly nasty e-mail to her sorority sisters.
But lost in the overwhelming amount of discussion surrounding these incidents is the fact that this is not a women-hating-on-women problem; the problem is that our entire culture hates on women. It is not that women are catty and men are not. It’s that culture teaches us women should be a certain way, and any woman who dares fall outside those guidelines is fair game. AAUW weighed in on this issue recently at the invitation of a Washington, D.C., news station.
“In our society, everybody hates on women and their appearance,” AAUW’s Kate Farrar told Fox 5 News’ Allison Seymour. “We are taught from a very young age to judge women on their appearance and not who they are. And I think if we blame just women for this perception, we’re really missing the boat on the messages that are sent by the media, by our peers, by our family on really judging women on those appearances first.”
The cost of not fitting the stereotype of womanhood (you know the one: pretty, submissive, caring, demure) is a high one. One study found that women who are overweight face a 12 percent salary penalty; the same is not true for overweight men. And women who don’t fit the stereotype face criticism by the public and media. It’s an issue of aesthetics but also of a demand for a “feminine” attitude and approach.
Consider that Hillary Clinton, a woman who has had a successful political career, was criticized by Glenn Beck for having a grating voice and being “the stereotypical bitch.” And it’s not rare for strong female leaders to be labeled bitches. While assertive men are simply considered strong leaders, assertive women are often criticized for the same characteristics. To demand that women be both assertive, strong leaders and stereotypically feminine requires a nearly impossible balancing act and takes a toll on women who try to do both and those who don’t. It also makes supporting and building women up all the more important.
AAUW’s work is all about empowering women, and at the upcoming National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, hundreds of college women will gather in that spirit. It’s the opposite of hating on women. It’s about preparing young women to become the outstanding leaders of tomorrow and encouraging and recognizing great women leaders of today. Register today for NCCWSL and work with AAUW to spread the spirit of empowerment.
This post was written by AAUW Media Relations Intern Kristi Grim.