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Gini Dietrich

Women Are Our Own Worst Enemies

By: Gini Dietrich | December 7, 2011 | 
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“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker

There is a very interesting debate happening online. It’s being highlighted with the Miss Representation Sundance film about media being derogatory to women.

The trailer shows media talking about Hillary Clinton “looking haggard and 92.” It shows a clip of Sarah Palin being asked by a reporter if she has breast implants. It shows a panel of men on a Sunday morning news program where they’re talking about Nancy Pelosi and whether or not she’s had plastic surgery. And then it shows Marc Rudov saying the only downside to having a woman in the Oval Office is the “PMS and mood swings.”

The most powerful women in America are being shut down, based on their looks and not on their intellectual capabilities.

Imagine if the same conversation happened around men.

President Obama, you have rock hard abs. Are those implants? Surely you don’t have enough time to exercise while running the country.

Marc Rudov, you seem to be concerned only with sex and a woman’s place with it. Can we take this to mean you have a small… glove?

How can we be taken seriously when it’s all about the body and not about the brain?

As a culture, women are brought up to be fundamentally insecure. We worry about our weight and when we can start wearing make-up and getting our ears pierced and the kinds of clothes we wear.

But this is short-changing our intellectual capital, our brains, and the voices that are needed in public forums. As a society, we’re not standing for the right value and principles. And the media is making it pretty clear what people should admire about women.

Don’t get me wrong. I think a woman’s sensuality is one of our best assets. But it’s only one of our best assets.

Here’s the thing, though. We’re our own worst enemies. In more than half of the clips the Miss Representation video uses, the comments are coming from other women.

We’re catty, we’re mean, and we’re judgmental. We treat one another poorly and we rarely support one another.

How can we expect men to treat us with respect when we don’t do it?

If we want things to change, it has to start with us. The next time you are faced with making a snap judgment about another woman, think twice. When you decide not to support a woman-owned business, I hope it’s based on lack of merits and not because it’s run by a woman.

Support one another. Be kind. From there change will happen.

If you’d like to see the trailer, you can find it below (or click here).

This first appeared on Women Grow Business.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

155 comments
Mehhayes
Mehhayes

It's funny but i have never dressed for another woman. I dress for myself Nd for my husband. Not all woman feel the need to compete and some woman are more competitive than other woman. WHERE DOES THIS STEM FROM? I had an older sister that when we were young she tried filling my head with how woman should act and dress because this is how other woman were. Well, good for them. I don't want to be that way. I am an individual! It's as simple as that people! Woman compete when they are put in a position to compete and then their are woman that have a belief system that to get anywhere with others or to get anywhere in this world is to be in competition. What a lousy way to live. Unfortunately the rest of us are the ones who have to take the brunt of these behaviors because we constantly deal with their insecurities that we are trying to take something from them or show them up. If they feel that way it is important to know that others are not the threat but the threat itself is in their own self doubt and I suppose they should straighten up because our own ill mannered behaviors is what tear us down. It depletes our self respect/ESTEEM How can a people be secure in themselves or happy with themselves when they criticize others or are untrustworthy? Giving respect not only builds others esteem but it gives us self-respect and esteem. To respect others is to really love yourself. I know a lot of people think nice people are weak but It really is just the opposite. Being kind/nice is to be strong because we have to endure ugliness but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt our feelings. However, if the unkindness is constant and someone really crosses the line than I have been known to turn ugly on that person. I'm standing up for myself and trust me I get ugly at that point. I don't like it but sometimes it is warranted. I leave it at that. That never has a good outcome either because losing control on someone makes a person look bad. It is usually over at that point. I have had only three people in my life come back and apologize for their behavior after I blew up but they were able to recognize their bad behavior. All of the others still felt justified for being jerks.

doesn't hurt.

that they doubt themselves.

TammyL
TammyL

I would LOVE to see the same physical emphasis be placed on both sexes. I loved your description of what it would look like.

You are right that as a society we encourage this behavior, and boy does it start young!

Parents support the "princess culture" among little girls with their pocketbooks (if nothing else) and wonder why these girls are looking for someone to rescue them!

Girls are strongly reprimanded follow the rules while "boys will be boys".

All of these rules are strongly enforced by the girls as well, meaning if you want to not be an outcast, you have to conform.

It seems like this would be the level to start making substantial changes, coupled with trying to undo the social messages the rest of us have been indoctrinated with.

And yes, I know, this is sooooooooooooo easy for the non-parent to say. Why can't there be an easy solution?!?!?!?!?

susebb
susebb

Damn straight! And I'm really pleased you noted the 'sensuality' point. Often discussions of body image etc. can get mired in debates about pornography.

We are strong, amazing women and yet we can put each other down in a way that the opposite sex wouldn't dare touch. Be kind to one another is such a simple phrase but much underused. Thank you for this post.

jeanniecw
jeanniecw

Just catching up on reading this week and caught this. I think it's a crime when women don't stand up for one another out of spite, jealousy, or the like. I also think it's ridiculous when women don't believe they have enough. I choose to surround myself with amazing, inspiring people and make it a point to be there for those who have invested their time and energy in me. It is a choice. But it boils my blood when I hear the stats about low-wage workers - the majority are women and they are truly struggling. There is still a whole world which many of us are mostly isolated from in which men hold a lot of the cards, take advantage of women and women are left with lives which are difficult to escape. Domestic abuse, worker exploitation, and lack of childcare choices become women's issues because they impact women more than men. I think it's high time we support each other in every way. (Stepping off my soapbox now.)

pattyz
pattyz

The only person who controls what goes on in your own mind is you. Yes, the images in the media are horrible. Yes, this situation is terribly unfair. And yes, you need to speak up every time the media make some obnoxious remark.

What you believe you are is what you are. What do you choose to have happen in your own head? Are you worried about how you will do at tomorrow's meeting, if your hair looks bad, if you are not the perfect mom? Why are you wasting time with this? Do not let them win. Make your plans and then live in the present. Focus only on what you are doing right now, at this moment. This is important not just for you, but as an example to show your kids. I hear women lamenting about diets, etc., and think, "what are you doing to your children?"

And that said, we do need to fight. Every time someone says something obnoxious, flood the ADVERTISERS with calls and emails. We are not just 51% of the population, but more like 85% of the people making consumer decisions. Use it.

I have written a blog on how to live independently of the consumer culture that treats women like dirt. Please visit the Green Living site at www.pbzproductions.com.

Patty Zevallos

web and video producer

writing, directing, animation, design, illustration, web-based management

www.pbzproductions.com

manamica
manamica

I tend to agree... and that makes me sad. When I was a kid I asked my mom, "why do I have to dress up, there won't be any boys there!" And my mom answered, "women don't dress up for men, they dress up in competition with other women." I didn't understand then. I do now.

Tinu
Tinu

Haven't seen the movie yet. But I've had the "we're our own worst enemy" conversation in so many different contexts, so many times. And it's a bit of a paradox. When the sexism/racism/classism that brought a group to its state internalizes the ideals of whoever is thought to be the ruling class, yes, the oppressed are worse than the oppressors. It's like a kind of widespread Stockholm Syndrome where you side with the mentality of your captors in some type of desire to survive.But how would it have gotten that way if the original abuse and distortion of reality hadn't taken place. I believe we need to take responsibility as women, as grown people period, for our actions. what about young girls who think that this is just, well, normal?

And let's say we are successful in getting it right, 20 years from now? It's all for naught if we keep other types of bigotry alive. Because it'll come right back with the generation to follow. We'll have to clean the whole window, not this one ugly smudge.

You've written a great article on an issue that's more complex than it looks.

JodiEchakowitz
JodiEchakowitz

When I saw this movie a few weeks back (I actually watched it with my), it made my blood boil. But the one thing I didn't think about was the issue you raise in your post about us being our own worst enemies. And sadly, you're 100% correct.

In addition to supporting other women, I wish we were all more open and honest with another. We need to stop talking about or bad-mouthing other women behind their backs. We need to "man up" and say what we have to say to their face or not say it at all. And when we think someone looks great or does something deserving of praise, we need to share a compliment. On the flip-side, we also need to learn how to say "thank you" when someone pays us a compliment instead of putting ourselves down or lessening the value of what we've done. It's these small and simple steps that will help us build respectful relationships with one another.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

I just had this conversation tonight with kidlet. I said, "Do not judge people for how they look because no one is perfect in any way." A nearly 10-year-old is extremely body conscious, and I'm needing to try harder not to make snide comments myself because she picks up on it.

It so sucks that women can't cut a break in business without being judged for appearance. Ever wonder how much global travel takes a toll on a person? And then you have to look decent for all the cameras as soon as you land?

girlygrizzly
girlygrizzly

(GASP!)

Gini, seriously! You are THE woman!!

This time in my life, right now and for these last, say 2-3 years, is the first time since my very young years that I have had GOOD women friends...because you are right! Maybe it's about growing up, but I don't think so. There is something really special to be had from girl-friends and women mentors.

We already had the rest of the conversation earlier this year which resulted in my "Don't call me a bitch" post!! LOL.

Happy (and safe) Holidays my friend!

~Amber-Lee

terence.stephens
terence.stephens

Being raised by a single mom and watching how men treated here and my sister, I actually became a bit of a feminist (and hopefully learned a thing or two that helps me to treat the women in my life well).

I'd never thought of it from the mean girls perspective. Did you see the report today that women are actually more misogynistic on MTV than men?

Keena Lykins
Keena Lykins

Excellent topic, and I agree 100 percent with almost everything said below. In my experience, women can be incredibly supportive of each other, but I've also noticed that more times than not, we view each other as competition, regardless of whether we're in a professional or personal situation. What I find most disturbing is the unrealistic ideas of beauty coupled with the pornification of our culture. Even beauty becomes irrelevant if you're not a "slut." My niece is 14 and sees this play out among her peers on a daily basis. it's frightening.

MSchechter
MSchechter

Out of curiosity, do you think it is important that you focus in on being a strong woman or in making gender irrelevant?

Ameena Gorton
Ameena Gorton

The trailer is cool - I shared it when I first saw it HOWEVER, I feel that telling young girls that they are at a disadvantage at a young age is the only way these teens would come up with such an idea.

The gender discrimination thing is only there is you choose to accept it. I live by the rules that if I want something badly enough I'll go get it - If the prerequiste is a penis then I'll figure a way to get to where I want to go by sidestepping that route and finding another.

Yes, I get really angry if I am objectified as a woman, really angry. I yell, scream and then move on - there will always be idiots out there looking to drag you down to their level - penis possession is optional appendage in defining an idiot.

Be kind to everyone ... penis, vagina or both ... really.

KamaTimbrell
KamaTimbrell

I don't think it's fair to say women as a group rarely support one another. That's the exact kind of thinking we should avoid. I see examples of women supporting one another every day. It's far from rare.

Mehhayes
Mehhayes

Disregard the last line. If you've ever typed on an iPad you'll understand.

Keena Lykins
Keena Lykins

@TammyL It is easy for a non-parent to say--I know because I say it all the time. LOL. When my niece was younger, whenever anyone would say, "oh, isn't she pretty." I'd respond, "Yes, she is. She's also really smart and good at figuring out puzzles." Most people would give me a "say what" look, and her mom's side of the family would just roll their eyes (she's my brother's kid) but I stuck to it. When she finally asked my why I always said it, I told her, "Grace, pretty goes away. Smart is forever."

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Tinu You know the conversation we had about how to talk to little girls? I just read a really interesting article that talks about having the "what book are you reading" conversation vs. the "you're so beautiful" conversation. I know I'm guilty of the latter. My five year old niece LOVES to get into my dressing room and put on heels and scarves and use my make-up. And I let her. And then I tell her how beautiful she is. I think we have to make a very concerted effort to not do that anymore.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JodiEchakowitz The first time I saw it, people asked me what I thought about it and my first reaction was exactly what I wrote here. But I was afraid to say it. I've had other women say things to me such as, "Yeah, well you're pretty so of course you feel that way. Imagine if you were ugly." Which is ridiculous ... and why I decided to write it.

I TOTALLY AGREE with you about saying what we think to other women. It's not an easy conversation, but I would MUCH rather have some real friends who told me something I needed to hear than to keep behaving in a way I think is appropriate. Heck, I'd much rather than tell me something looks terrible on me than to let me keep wearing it. But we won't even tell one another if something is in our teeth. Oy.

JodiEchakowitz
JodiEchakowitz

I see I left out "kids" when mentioning that "I watched it with my..." :)

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

I so hear you on the 'body conversations'! I've had to really temper my comments on body image and healthy eating. Of course it doesn't help when we're so hard on ourselves!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Ali Mac My mom always says Walt Disney ruined all of us. We have this image in our heads of how our Prince Charming should look and act and treat us. When, in fact, sometimes we're our own Prince Charming.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@girlygrizzly Did you say (and safe) because you think I'm going to kill myself on the ski slopes this year?! :)

You know, I think social media has brought some of us together in a way that never would have happened in the offline world. I mean, I never would have known about your Alaska adventures and being in the field. And I certainly wouldn't have been able to support you. Now I happily do!

KamaTimbrell
KamaTimbrell

Being a feminist only requires one to believe that men and women should have the same social, political, and economic rights. Who isn't a feminist? @terence.stephens

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Keena Lykins No. Way. Hi!! I feel self-conscious now. There is a published author commenting here, people!

It's funny you say that about your niece because just last night a friend of mine from high school texted me and said, "The girls in high school must not have parents." He was at his son's band concert and I guess they were scantily clad.

hackmanj
hackmanj

@Ameena Falchetto I think what you're saying about having a choice in this is really important. It's pretty amazing how some of the recent comments have added a layer to this discussion. We always have a choice to stop, fight, scream, etc, but sometimes the best thing to do is to not allow it to derail us. After all wasn't that sort of their intention to begin with? I think the gender aspect of this is important and it needs the attention but the wisdom of the discussion seems to go quite a bit further.

pattyz
pattyz

I think so to. I don't see this heavy competitive thing going on. I am part of an online women's group in my profession, and it is absolutely great. I might just be lucky. I also am a freelancer, so if I see obnoxious behavior on anyone's part, I just move on.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KamaTimbrell Perhaps you're right and maybe my view is skewed because I work in an industry full of women. But my experience has been that we do not support one another. It goes from making fun of another woman because of what she's wearing to saying Hillary Clinton looks haggard after two years of traveling internationally.

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

@ginidietrich@Tinu I have an idea--do both! There is nothing more powerful and compelling than a confident, accomplished, self-aware woman who not only feels and acts beautiful (defined by whatever she wants to define it by), but is working towards achieving whatever it is she wants to achieve in her life, without apology, without compromise, and without restrictions. That is the path I try and walk with my daughter every day. I want her to be HER, all the way--the wicked smart, irreverent, talented, confident, statuesque and yes, beautiful woman she is rapidly becoming.

Keena Lykins
Keena Lykins

@ginidietrich@JodiEchakowitz I tend to point out to people (discreetly) that someone has broccoli in their teeth or their pants are on backward. For the most part people appreciate it. So don't be afraid to do it...just be nice about it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ElissaFreeman Totally hard on ourselves. I do the same thing. I always joke I'm going to be the first one to die because I take such good care of myself. And I don't do it for a longer life. I do it to look good to other people.

Ameena Gorton
Ameena Gorton

@hackmanj I sometimes think it's all to easy to point the finger rather than actually address the problem. I was a young, half egyptian woman working on construction sites in Dubai a while ago - I could have cried about the discrimination but I didn't - similarly, when I was told I was a bit too beige to be considered for a job I moved on WITHOUT letting it knock me.

Ameena Gorton
Ameena Gorton

@ginidietrich Sorry but it's comments like that that hold women back - the gender debate is only issue if we make it one. Play the game, move the goal posts - smacking your head against the same tree over and over will only achieve the same results.

Let your work speak for itself. I'm not going to go out of my way to be nice to someone because they happen to share the same anatomy as me - we have to have more in common - I have to see them trying.

Respect people for being people - don't bias it on biology. Personally I find this topic actually discriminating to men - what would you say if men grouped together and said they needed "boy power"?

KamaTimbrell
KamaTimbrell

The problem I have with these types of posts, expecting the entirety of womanhood - down to every single member - to rise above the cultural misogyny, is that it ignores that women are also a product of the culture they are raised in. Rather than tsk tsking the Michelle Malkins of the world (is anyone really surprised she'd voice such an opinion about a liberal woman) and applying her behavior to "women," let's talk about how the culture creates women who are misogynists, and don't even recognize it. @ginidietrich

Tinu
Tinu

Absolutely do both, I agree. We're not going to stop telling men an boys they're handsome just because we want them to also understand that they're smart. Especially with the societal perception of beauty becoming more exclusionary, I think it's important to reinforce both.

Maybe incorporate a brain activity into your fun - like you said, read to her, afterwards. I'd do it while she was still dressed up.@rustyspeidel @ginidietrich

JodiEchakowitz
JodiEchakowitz

@Keena Lykins I do exactly the same thing, and I agree, most people appreciate it. I just hope people do the same for me!

Mehhayes
Mehhayes

@Ameena Falchetto @ginidietrich.
Ameena, it is the hatred of woman towards other woman that hold us back. I have seen the most kind, empathetic, hard working woman treated unkind and disrepectfully from mean woman wether it be from a group of them in their herd mantality or by a single
person. Isn't just your assumption/opinion wether they are trying or not that doesn't warrant a person to not treat another nice or with respect. The fact is YOU don't know what all makes up that person. Being nice means being nice TO a person and AWAY from a person. otherwise it is ungenuine and false. Woman especially judge and criticize other woman when they don't do things the way they would do them. New employees on the job have an especially hard time with those that look for targets. If you ask me woman that treat ANYONE like this has a bit of an abusive personality. Men do see how woman treat one another and they do have opinions of that. While woman are beating each other up men or other woman are taking advantage of paying attention to the lack of attention where it needs to be spent by the "nasties and the targets" and moving forward. Oh and only weak woman join other woman in their which hunts because they don't want to be a target and to me that makes them cowards which is worse. To know better is to do better. Shame on the people who behave in these Ill-mannered ways.

hackmanj
hackmanj

@Ameena Falchetto @ginidietrich that's a bold overview Ameena. Sometimes it's really hard to try to look beyond the obvious. Even with the best intentions it is possible to inadvertently acknowledge or pay homage to the very thing we're speaking out against. Strangely enough I felt that very thing was occurring in that video, but in general I appreciate what they are trying to accomplish.

I have had similar discussions about ethnicity along these lines. I take your perspective in those discussions but I have to confess I didn't consider it here.

Trackbacks

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