Women who hate women

Iris blooming
I don’t have a photo to illustrate this post, obviously. So look at this pretty iris in our yard!

Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.  — Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (1970)

After this week, however, I’d posit that women have at least a subtle, perhaps subconscious idea of how much men hate them. Over the past few days, I’ve been surrounded by these astonishing examples of self-directed misogyny, or, women who hate women.

Exhibit 1: Editing an article at work about the effect of hormones on traders’ decisions, on how research indicates that testosterone spikes influence traders to make riskier decisions about their portfolios. The article suggests, without the slightest hint of sarcasm, that it would be a good idea if firms chose to hire “unattractive women” or put “pretty women behind screens” on the trading floor, to prevent men from experiencing testosterone spikes. (Behind screens! That was the actual advice.) The piece went on to say that “married men and men over the age of 30” probably wouldn’t be affected by having women on the floor, though. What bold sexism! What idiocy on so many levels! The article was written by a woman.

Exhibit 2: Editing another article at work, a summary of an Economist blog post, which argues that women don’t get promotions at work because women are too nice and care too much about their families (not showing themselves to be as devoted to their work), unlike men (who are apparently heartless robots). Summary was written by a woman.

Source: Keep-Calm-O-Matic.uk

Exhibit 3: Let’s call this person an acquaintance. I recently stumbled on her Twitter tagline, which read: “Look like a Girl, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man, and Work like a Boss!” Just, wow. Make yourself appear like a girl, like an infantilized version of yourself; heaven forbid you present yourself as a woman, what you actually are. And think like a man! Because EVERYONE knows that women can’t think! Twitter account of a woman.

Sadly, I see this phenomenon all the time; this week it just seems to be more apparent than normal. You probably do, too. Women love to denigrate their entire sex, particularly if they are in the company of men. We all know women who like to brag that they “just don’t like other women,” that all of their best friends are guys.

Why Does This Happen?

So, where is this coming from? Why would women deliberately present themselves as misogynistic? I think it goes back to the oft-quoted line from Greer. Women sense how much men hate them.

We want men to like us. We have this blinding desire to be validated by men, because we’ve been taught all our lives that we aren’t worth anything unless a man tells us we are.

And so we pander to them. We tell them that we’re not good at anything, really. We tell them that we can think and act like they do. We tell them that we too, like them, mistrust women; women are sneaky bitches; we stay away from them, too.

If you think this isn’t really a phenomenon, I’d encourage you to look around a little bit. You’ll find it; it’s not hard. Misogyny is very alive and well, and women, in many ways, are helping feed that destructive fire. Sexism, primarily hatred against women, runs virtually unchecked in our culture. (Just spend a few minutes reading the mountain of posts on the Twitter feed Everyday Sexism. Or flipping through a magazine. Or watching TV. Or trying to cross the Belmont bridge.)

Women, let’s quit abusing ourselves to appeal to men. We’re only fueling their hatred.


There is the pervasive assumption that “men are just animals” and they can’t change, so women need to hide themselves behind screens and never walk alone anywhere, ever. Men are ruled by testosterone and rage and virility! Men cannot control themselves!

But here’s the thing. The men I know and love CAN control themselves. They don’t run around on their lunch breaks verbally harassing women on the streets. They don’t make lewd comments to their female coworkers. They have never (and will never) beat or raped women. It’s equally offensive to men to assume that they are purely lustful beasts, devoid of human reason. Stop shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Well, that’s just the way men are.” It’s not.

Let’s raise our expectations for men in this culture. Let’s believe that they have the potential, the reason, and the souls to be more than just testosterone-crazed fiends who see all women as sex objects to dominate. Let’s educate our sons to view and treat girls and women with full and deserved respect. And women, let’s stop abusing ourselves to pander to our misogynistic culture. I am SICK of it. Just sick.

12 thoughts on “Women who hate women

  1. Oh Abby, I love this post. I think that more sexism is perpetuated by women than it is by men. (Maybe not. But sometimes I wonder). Another frequent example are things that I hear mothers say to their daughters, i.e. especially about body image, etc.

    Growing up in a male-dominated family (literally…I was the only grand-daughter out of 9), it took me several years to realize how much my own perception of women was rooted in sexism and feminism, and changing sexism and misogyny in our society had to start with me and my own sexism!

  2. I haven’t read much of your blog, so forgive me if this is addressed in a different post. But also to play devils advocate here: This post, written by a woman, is a little bit one-sided, not to mention a little bit scolding, towards her fellow women. The anger and the disappointment and the frustration are all justified, a thousand times yes. But there was also room for it to be loving, and it just sort of… side-stepped that. Instead of presenting the other side of the argument–why it’s important for women to uphold one another, or any examples of women who are publically and sincerely proud of their fellow woman–it went on to esteem men instead. Men who break the mold, sure, but men nonetheless. Isn’t part of the misogeny, or part of what perpetuates it, that women continue to blame other women? (Or to blame “the other” at all, instead of to delve more deeply inwards.) Is it not somewhat misogynistic in nature, or at least influenced by a culture of misogyny, to seek what is wrong in another woman’s behavior rather than what is right? (While often simultaneously seeking what is right in a man’s behavior, rather than what is wrong?) Honestly, it seems like almost all I have ever read about this subject involves sensitive men who break the mold (and they are becoming more common every day, thankfully), while what I haven’t encountered very much at all is reading material on women who break the mold AND are not then subject to judgement, ridicule, slut-shaming, or overall mistrust by other woman. It seems to make women fairly uncomfortable to see other women dominate, or take charge, or be in a position of power (over men esp.), even if what they are taking charge of is their own family, or their own sexuality, that is to say–their own business. Where then is the arena for woman, singular and personal, to be proud of women, plural and across the board? How do we go about creating that arena? How do we get it–get women–to flourish? You can tell women to stop abusing themselves, or you can tell them to start loving themselves, and those are two messages that will deliver fairly different results–even if they are spoken with the same heart. If women should stop anything, maybe it’s waiting for men to tell them to love themselves… Too many that I know are waiting, and could spend their whole lives waiting, for just that.

  3. Yes. I’ve actually heard women trying to make themselves popular with men by claiming to have a better sense of humour that is not typically female. Aside from this I think we do sometimes project ourselves as having masculine and even aggressive qualities in order to fit in with the mainstream (i.e. male) culture. I sometimes feel pressure not to appear too girly in case I’m not taken seriously.

  4. Agreed about the pressure to change oneself “fit in” to male culture rather than embrace gender differences!

    A browsing of summer reading books reminded me that so many female protagonists are given “male names” (Charlie, Kevin, Riley, etc) – because apparently names like Jessica, Amanda, and Sarah mean the main character is weak?

  5. Women who hate other women actually hate themselves. Men don’t hate us. They love us. Just look at the Dove commercial. So many women related to that video because they do not accept themselves. It’s sad. Being a woman is such a blessing. Great post 🙂

  6. Thanks for writing that. I used to be a woman who hated women and I think what Lina says makes a lot of sense. Thankfully I’m not like that at all anymore and I’m interested in trying to figure out why women feel this way about their own gender. I just watched a great documentary called The Battle of the Sexes and in it you see women siding against other women by aligning themselves with an incredibly sexist man. If it is something other than self-hatred, then I just don’t get why women behave like that.

  7. You are much, much too idealistic. I have read many articles in a similar vein, and we all know this just isn’t true.Women are mainly devils, and good relationships with them a figment of the imagination. The same goes for a lot of men, of course. I tend to just go through life doing the things I enjoy, and meet people from there, although I am more likely to have a chat about life, the universe and everything, with a man. I was unable to connect with women from the year dot, and find it laughable, the way women at work kiss each other and hold hands one minute, and then backstab and whisper the next.  I can’t be bothered to have even a smidgen of conversation with any of them as it would mean getting caught up in office politics; they are no better than schoolchildren, and I don’t need it.

  8. Thank you for these thoughts. Though I have pondered these issues throughout my personal and professional life, this post crystalized some of my internal dialogue, and I appreciate it. It took me a very long time to realize that some women are destructive (sometimes so very destructive) towards other women. After working in HR for several years, I accumulated a sobering education. The staggering disparities in salary, the administrative work that women were required to perform to “prove themselves” (while their male counterparts were not), the fact that all of us who were hired passed the “attracive” test…. All the while I was so pround that both my president and boss were women. It took me a long time to get a clue. Honestly, I know it’s simply reality, but it does make me heartsick. I found this topic/blog, because I was looking for books and articles on women-to-women mysogyny. My brother just fell in love with a very toxic, misogynistic (and I assume self-hating) young woman. I have been practicing the kindness and understanding approach (which she responded to by mowing down everyone). If anyone knows of and good books, sites, or any resources for effective communication or problem-solving/protective strategies for women dealing with women who hate women, I would greatly appreciate your advice. Thanks so very much.

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