Sex & Relationships

Why do women hate women?

However feminist we think we are most of us have trouble keeping our inner bitch under control at times, particularly when it comes to other women.
Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall

However feminist we think we are most of us have trouble keeping our inner bitch under control at times, particularly when it comes to other women.

Camilla Parker-Bowles, Sarah Ferguson, Rose Porteous (Lang Hancock’s second wife), Lindy Chamberlain, Linda Kozlowski (Paul Hogan’s second wife), Liz Taylor and Jackie Kennedy Onassis endured savage public criticism from other women.

Porteous was a gold digger, Kozlowski a home-wrecker. Jackie Kennedy was a perfect mother and grieving widow until she turned her back on Camelot and the Kennedys to marry a wealthy old man. She wasn’t redeemed until the sordid truth around Jack Kennedy’s behaviour finally came out and, even then, Aristotle Onassis had to die before we completely forgave her.

Lindy Chamberlain didn’t respond to baby Azaria’s death as we thought she should and we hated her for it. She didn’t cry in public. She must be guilty.

Elizabeth Taylor, whose beauty and sex appeal were legendary, said, astutely, “Other women like me best when I’m fat and miserable”.

So why are we – modern, educated, generally kind-hearted ladies – so hard on each other? Psychologist Amanda Ferguson explains the reasons we have trouble playing nice.

Why are we so hard on other women even when they’re our friends?

Successful, ambitious, attractive people can make us feel insecure and uncertain of our own abilities. There’s a primitive instinct to attack. There’s some evidence that Australians are less generous than we should be in acknowledging other people’s good points.

Why do we look for flaws?

Because we’re human! However, we’re more likely to be critical of others if we’re bored, unfulfilled, unproductive and insecure. It takes a lot of courage to overcome this. Men are competitive too usually about status, wealth and women. On a primitive level we feel elevated when we pull someone down. The feeling is very short lived!

Why do we think thin, beautiful, rich people must be happy?

Because it LOOKS like they should be. Unhappiness is harder to grapple with when there isn’t an obvious reason for it. I have many clients who look back to when they were thin and beautiful and realise they were still unhappy. Looking good is not the answer.

Why do we always blame “the other woman”? What about the man? Isn’t he at fault too?

The man is the object of desire so he’s “protected”. A wife attacks the other woman but not her husband. She wants to keep him. It’s easier to blame the “home wrecker”.

How do we control our “inner bitch” and keep our own friends for life?

The truth is that most friendships end eventually. Maintaining a friendship group as we age is hard. If you really value the group give it space and have other friends beyond it. Feeling sentimental about the ones we have, even when they’re driving us crazy, gets in the way of meeting new people.

Why do women still hope for or expect happy endings?

Women are heavily socialised to have and do it all. A monogamous heterosexual partner who marries us for life is still held up to girls as the ideal. Fortunately, this is slowly giving way to a diverse set of real alternatives. But we still like to keep men close for the protection of the clan!

Amanda Ferguson is a psychologist in private practice in Mosman, Sydney. She is the author of Life Works: Rediscover Yourself and Transform Your Relationships (Harper Collins 2002).

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