Why do we never talk about sisterhood, about women defending one another and supporting each other?

A Guest Post by A.

Hey IHM,

I was having an interesting conversation with a friend today. Both of us are first generation immigrant daughters brought up largely in Canada. She was born here, but I was born in India, but there is not much difference between our experiences. We were talking about our commute today when my friend brought up an interesting incident, wherein another girl (of the same cultural background as us) had been glaring at her the entire train ride. When I asked why, my friend replied, “I guess it was because of the skirt I was wearing. It wasn’t particularly racy, but the glaring was very very hateful.”

Both of us are well aware of how life works. We know that even though we dress largely for our own pleasure, and not for the eyes and acceptance of others, this won’t stop other people (usually men) from staring at us. However, neither of us had ever really given much thought to what to do when it’s not a male who is staring at us lewdly, but another woman who is passing judgement on us from her own pedestal.

Me being me, I immediately became irritated. It irks me when other women do this. I could understand if it had been an older woman giving her a look, because cultural norms change across generations and that’s understandable, even if I personally do not condone it. But another girl, who from the looks of it, was close to our age?

Women are taught, across many platforms, that we are each others competitors for some unknown race for respect. That we should hate and judge one another, because doing so means that one of us is in the “right” and “respectable” and the other is not. Women are taught that there are lines of respectability drawn that differentiate who is worthy of respect and who is not, and that the women who violate these lines (most often by doing and dressing as they please) are open targets for derision and hate. This type of attitude, obviously, is extremely divisive and is an extension of patriarchy. It alienates women from each other, women who otherwise should share a common bond, because aren’t we all in this together? Why do we never talk about sisterhood, about women protecting one another, about women defending one another and supporting each other in our different struggles, even as we sometimes do not agree or would never do the things that they do, because we are all people and all our individual choices deserve respect. The world already teaches us that we should not assert our choices and be subject to the desires of what others (usually men) want for us. Let’s not have women enforcing this attitude as well for the strange mythical prize that is “respectability”.

Thoughts?

PS: Also, it should be important to stress that even as patriarchy has largely ingrained in women that we are each other’s competitors and should be “bitchy” to one another, this doesn’t absolve men from the responsibility they have in fostering this type of attitude in women as well. I’m saying this because many men seem to think it’s okay for them to be awful to women because “you do it to each other anyway so focus on that first”. No. Just no. I don’t know where to start with taking apart that argument quite frankly. Have you ever had moments where someone has said something, and you simply can’t form an argument in response, not because there isn’t one, but because of how much of an education it would be for them?

Related Posts:

How can women-folk want to abort girl children, they are female too!

A woman is not a woman’s worst enemy. Patriarchy is.

Men do not compete with men the way women do?

When married Indian women strive to look unmarried.

72 thoughts on “Why do we never talk about sisterhood, about women defending one another and supporting each other?

  1. I better not say anything here .. but I would like people who were happily doing the thumbs down to what i have been saying for a long long time .. need to think over .. what they comment here now ..

    LOOKING FORWARD to all the comments here now🙂

    Book marking this page for sure …

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        • Oh so you’ve been saying that patriarchy turns women into competitors. Still don’t get why you’ve been down-voted on it or why you are waiting for the comments. I detect a “aha am gonna catch you now” tone, but I could be wrong? If I’m right however, why the mocking? When women compete in this negative fashion, it’s because for generations, we’ve been foot soldiers of patriarchy, and we unconsciously continue to play out our oppressed roles. There is nothing funny or amusing about this. It’s rather sad. I’ve known a lot of rational, thinking men and not one of them laughs at women and says, “Oh look, here they go at it again! Women are women’s worst enemies. Haha!” What we need is awareness about this, both among women and men. We need an understanding of the root cause of this insecurity among women. THAT’s the issue this post raises in an EARNEST way, not in a MOCKING way, and I hope you did the same. And if you did, then I agree with you.

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        • I am not bothered what you think of me or not think of me .. I am what I am and who I am.. so it hardly matters , I am not going to change myself over what people think about me.

          Right Since you asked I shall reply to you..

          If you go back a few articles , rather a lot of articles and almost more than year back 2012, then I have commented on the articles in COMMON SENSE (which I know is not common anymore and maybe mine is also gone for a six).. According to me , I have commented looking at what goes in my family or How I would treat other human being IRRESPECTIVE of male-female.. ..

          maybe it was my face hence i change my profile pic to a bird🙂

          I am sure there are hundreds of people out there who i have not met , but who will vouch for me what i said or do..

          I don’t want to take any names but if a Lady writes that a woman many a times acts against a woman .. IT is like oh yes they do, and everyone nods their head in agreement.. I said on one of the articles something like that and the amount of emails I got.. oh boy as if HOW DARE a male say something ..

          HENCE my comment .. because I do know a few who comment say one thing at one post and completely another at a different post ..

          I even wrote and you can see them here

          http://mannbikram.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/thumbs-up-and-thumbs-down-people/

          and heres another one

          http://mannbikram.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/and-we-expect-a-change-in-our-society-not-a-wordless-wednesday/

          Please have a READ and then come back ..
          I am not mocking the article or what it says , I AM MOCKING the people who have different things to say at different places .. and REACT to a comment just because it has been made my a MALE.

          and the same people EXPECT things to change.. when they themselves cry hoarse of how things are not right , how they are discriminated , how they have been oppressed.. WHEN they are DOING THE SAME THING.

          Thank you, I hope I have replied

          here’s another one http://mannbikram.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/walk/

          Thank you .. have a good day..

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  2. Yes, and this unhealthy competition takes two forms –
    1) judging other women for not playing by patriarchy’s rules (“Oh you don’t do Karva Chauth???!!!” or “Oh, but we can’t eat before the men are served!!!”)
    2) there is so much reluctance among women to acknowledge each other’s accomplishments (a woman who has accomplished something notable got there “because she’s lucky” or “her husband helps in the kitchen” or “she must have charmed her way through”. Why not acknowledge that she’s competent? Why is it so hard to imagine another woman being competent?

    And yes, fully agree with you A, with what you say about men using this against women. I think IHM has an article about this – “Women are not women’s worst enemies, Patriarchy is”. Maybe patriarchy has made women into each other’s enemies. And we must rise above it. Let’s celebrate every woman’s success, every woman’s accomplishments and happiness. That’s the best way to beat patriarchy.

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  3. “But another girl, who from the looks of it, was close to our age?” India is split on these issues not just across generations, but within the same age groups as well. There is no cultural norm that is universal. Plus, moral judgment plays a greater role culturally. Still true even for younger generations.

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  4. More men kill other men in armed violence and still they have the gall to say women are women’s worst enemy because we have been buying this argument. Time to set the record straight greater number of men are enemies of humanity🙂 .
    Desi Women’s Friendships: Explore the Dynamics
    http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/633/

    Sisterhood is a new and complex concept in desi context bloggers are creating a community in the virtual world in the actual world we are still bound by our social class and status.

    Your friend could have given the ogler a big smile and asked are you admiring my skirt of style or it’s length? Always start a dialogue where you can challenge the person’s line of thought.
    Peace,
    Desi Girl

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    • “Your friend could have given the ogler a big smile and are you admiring my skirt of style or it’s length?”

      The smile is quite effective, I think. Often people develop this image of the person they are judging to also have bad and awful personalities. It’s really subversive to that image they have built up to smile at them, because it debunks this idea that a person being “bad” in one count (not dressing appropriately) is also bad in all counts, which is a reasoning used often to justify their rather silly judgement for something like clothes.

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      • This. I always make it a point to smile when I catch someone looking at me (male or female) and it almost always results in a smile in response. Some do look away quickly, but oh well, you win some, you lose some.

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  5. My thesis:
    One day eons ago a group of cavemen sat down together to figure out how to oppress and suppress 50% of their tribe…One of them came up with an idea – “The best way to do this is to make women hate each other, but first we men need to create an environment which will make each woman in our tribe hate herself first…Then we will get the media to constantly bombard them with the messages portraying them as less equal than men… ” Thus, countless unrealistic roles and expectations were set for the female sex guaranteeing failure for those trying to balance all of them at once…This failure coupled with the constant media campaign portraying her gender as subordinate to men started making women hate themselves…Once a woman hates herself, it is easy for her to hate another woman who doesn’t seem to hate herself by projecting her own negativity onto her…

    Now, I am assuming the woman who was glaring at the LW and her friend had failed in living the life she was expected to or wanted to…She saw these two women from her own culture enjoying themselves and wearing what they wanted to…She was jealous and jealousy breeds hate…

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    • Let me speculate (wildly) for a moment.

      You see, they didn’t set out to oppress 50% of the tribe. They weren’t like that.

      They were, however, insecure.

      They wanted to know for sure that the baby born in their family was their own baby and not someone else’s. The only way to ensure that was to ensure women didn’t get laid by anyone else before they paired up.

      Thus began the importance of female virginity.

      As the importance given to virginity increased, it became honorable to hold on to virginity.

      The chances of a girl being virgin improved much if she stayed pretty much indoors. Thus began the control.

      Women slowly realized that unfair though it was, they had to play along with the system if they wanted to survive. Gradually they bought in. Some of them began to police each other. These policing type women are everywhere. They’re the ones who proudly proclaim that they’re not feminists. They’re the ones that say guys are better at some things than girls and admire guys for that.

      We guys are awesome, but not so much.😛

      Anyway, if someone had stood up at the beginning and said, “She’s your wife, why don’t you trust her if she says the kid’s yours”, patriarchy would not have developed. Patriarchy, in my opinion, seems to have its roots in this insecurity.

      Of course, there is more to it, but hey, I did say I was speculating wildly.

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  6. They blame the British for dividing and ruling India. It is the same policy when it comes to women, ‘Divide and keep under control’ as been the motto with women none the wiser! Women should wake up to this fact. Look at all the literature and movies. Jealousy and cattiness and all the rest reserved for women. The idea is reinforced by repetition. How many books have two women protagonists helping each other like in Khaled Hosseini’s ‘A thousand Splendid Suns’? Very very few.
    By the way about the young woman glaring at your friend, age has nothing to do with open-mindedness. Young people are as much influenced by culture and tradition as any from older generation. One only has to look around to spot them.

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    • How many books have two women protagonists helping each other like in Khaled Hosseini’s ‘A thousand Splendid Suns’?

      I remember a similar dialogue in a Marathi movie called “Bindhaast” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bindhaast where one of the girls says the same thing. She says to her best friend “Have you ever heard of a story of two girls friends who stick through thick and thin? Have you ever heard of story of friendship that was about girls? Its always about boys. Girls are always competitors to each other. They marry and move away. So lets today promise that we will be friends even when we marry, move away and no matter what comes along”

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      • Does the protagonist explain why two girls do not stick to each other through thick and thin? The problem with this question it has been asked since time immemorial not just in this movie but many more like it and not much has been done to subvert it or explore how ere reached where we are.
        Desi Women’s Friendships: Explore the Dynamics
        http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/633/

        Yes, DG promised herself no matter she’ll not give upon her friendships because her marriage if lasts good if fails then at least she’ll have strong women in her life than a dysfunctional man. And that was a wise choice she made.
        Peace,
        DG

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      • Good point. Social systems are set up to discourage women from seeking and maintaining healthy friendships with other women. A married woman hanging out with her friends is seen as frivolous. I’m still friends with my 2 best friends from my teen years – we are all in our 40s now and in different parts of the world but we stay in touch through long phone calls. I also make it a point to go out for a walk/coffee/book club with my local friends.
        Again, I’ve seen Indian women divided on this. Some of them make time for their friends even after marriage and kids. Two women I knew said they couldn’t come because “we can’t take time off from our families”. If they do step out, they have to cook a lot of meals, make sure everything is perfect at home, then leave (still) feeling guilty. Their hubbies feel very helpless, put the kids in front of TV, or let the kids make a huge mess or forget to take them potty, keep texting them (when r u coming back? little one is crying!) then the wives come home and feel terrible about going out.

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  7. Sharing two amazing posts addressing these two points – on sisterhood and on misogynist women:

    1) On how feminism works: http://www.shakesville.com/2008/05/how-feminism-works.html
    // Individual women don’t have to earn a feminist’s defense from sexist attacks; it is offered because a feminist recognizes how sexism works—against the collective. As Echidne says, it “hurts all women, all little girls, all old ladies, women everywhere.” If you grok how sexism works, and you fail to defend a woman because you don’t like this or that about her, or her politics, you don’t grok how feminism works. //

    2) On women supposedly being their own worst enemy: http://www.shakesville.com/2008/08/worst-enemy.html
    // 1. Men not being sexist shouldn’t be contingent upon women not being misogynist. They should stop being misogynist just because it’s the right thing to do. 2. Men and women are misogynistic for different reasons: men to marginalize women, and women to ingratiate themselves with the men trying to marginalize them. Neither one is justifiable, but one is oppressive and the other is a (bad) strategy to deal with that oppression. 3. One thus sees that if the men who are misogynists weren’t, the women who are misogynists wouldn’t have any reason to be. Ergo, exhorting women to stop being misogynists so that men will stop gets it precisely backwards. //

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    • Thanks for sharing. Although I am yet to read the entire article ,I couldn’t have agreed more to the explanation given as to why women are their worst enemies.
      I always felt that when men lose the argument on being unfair to women they use it to tell that women are more unfair than they are while in reality they happily have nexus with one woman to marginalize other woman .

      //One thus sees that if the men who are misogynists weren’t, the women who are misogynists wouldn’t have any reason to be. Ergo, exhorting women to stop being misogynists so that men will stop gets it precisely backwards. //

      Very logical indeed.

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  8. So the person who wrote this is lecturing other women how not to pass judgements and all, and yet she herself is giving here her version of plenty of heavy doses. There was a girl who was staring at her, and she “guessed” (her own words), she guessed it was because of her skirt and that irritated her so much that she herself passed so many judgements in a public blog about that girl!!! And ofcourse in the end blamed patriarchy and men out of nowhere. Sigh.

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    • A smile and polite hello would have diffused all this judgement business. Too much assuming and presuming and no constructive action has kept us all in our boxes.
      DG has been wearing all white for last 4yrs on every Sunday when she goes to her church recently a student came to her and told her other students in the back of the bus were gossiping she pretends to be too poise. DG asked this student why do you think it was so important that you had to share it with her and what purpose this sharing served? She does understand you love her and are being protective but trust her it is not her business what others think about her.
      Challenging an uncomfortable silence can initiate a positive dialogue instead of antagonism.
      Peace,
      DG

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    • I’m sorry, I don’t see the point of your response…yes, this particular incident may have been only in the LW’s mind (or it may not have)…but, either way, it is a common fact that women are constantly and unfairly judged in different ways for the way they dress by other men and women. I have myself seen it happen like a million times (just a phrase…don’t get hung up on the number)…This means that the LW’s post is still very much relevant and valid. Furthermore, the LW is not passing judgment on the girl…she is talking about the mindset that causes women to pass judgment on each other and the root cause (patriarchy) for that mindset. You may disagree with the root cause…but it is not ‘out of nowhere’, as you have so cheerfully mentioned.

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    • At first I was going to write a post outlining the exact circumstances under which my friend (not I) made that “guess” about the girl who was staring at her. I didn’t because I’ve realized that people who seek to derail valuable discussions, who miss the focus of the post entirely (which actually was not about the girl or the skirt) don’t need such explanations because they would probably find something else to nitpick about that anyway.

      But yes. Wow. You’ve caught me. Congratulations, you’ve successfully proven your thesis that feminism is useless and that men are completely blame-free in constructing a toxic society. Pat yourself on the back and help yourself to a cookie, you are a champion. /sarcasm.

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  9. At the outset, I agree there are women and girls out there who create a pedestal of their own to judge other women, but I think the need to judge other comes from their own insecurity and feeling of inferiority. To set that straight, this becomes the norm. She is bad because she wears skirts and I am good because I don’t. There are women like her who support the thought and they stand together to degrade other women who do and think and act as they please.

    I strongly believe that all that is jealousy and they secretly wish they could carry that skirt so well or had the kind of liberty to wear a skirt. They just have a bad response. Instead of appreciating the ones who do things they can only dream about, they start hating them. Instead of fighting against the misogynist behavior of others, they take the convenient route of pleasing those around them and joining them in casting liberal women in a bad light.

    I think I also passed some judgment for the girl staring at OP, but this is out of experiencing the same and a friend accepting she hated liberal girls because they could party and she couldn’t and that was the reason she always passed comments on them, their dressing, etc.

    I usually just steer clear of such people, royally ignore the stares and pray that some day, they make the switch to this side.🙂

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  10. Agree with you. We rarely foster sisterhood.

    Disclaimer: These are loose generalizations. The issue is far too complicated to simplify but i had to make some observations. I am not saying that in all the cases, women are subjugated and men are subjugating.

    If you notice, women
    – are taught they all are fighting each other for a valuable resource – a man. How will you foster sisterhood, if you are taught that the person opposite is going to snatch away a valuable resource you need for survival in this society?
    – are taught to put the word/instructions/advice from male authoritative figure above everything else. I have experienced this so many times. So many girls will brush away my suggestions but will start following it completely if a man in thier life – brother/husband/bf/father gave it to them. We are taught to respect a male authority. We are taught the ideas/opinions of women do not hold much value.
    – do not have much value anyway. A woman has to bend according to her man – his lifestyle/his food/ his religion after marriage. In such cases, would you rather cooperate with the person who controls or the subordinate (in this case woman)?
    – are stereotyped as being bitchy and jealous. If your wife fights with your MIL, then, people make sweeping statements like “ah women can’t get along. I am stuck in between.” Well, would the guy like to be controlled 24/7 and told to cook, work and wear traditional clothes and sacrifice? Why can they never agree that their parent is wrong?
    – feel that being traditional is rewarded and anybody being “modern” is punished. Then, why would these 2 camps of women hang out together.
    – Our society does not foster female friendships or allow it to survive. The woman leaves the family/ city after marriage. She cannot keep in touch or talk to her friends in many cases. If we know the end result of such friendships [ i.e ending abruptly after marriage], why bother? I personally have seen several cases where people disappear and become distant the moment they get married – mainly girls to girls. Aunties and old ladies do not let women have their friends over. Just because you have your friends over, you cannot not cook/do household chores. Then, people in some villages,will stop going to other people’s houses the moment they start getting their periods. I remember my aunt telling me many times that we should not go to other people’s houses. They can come to visit us (only for a specific time, cannot stay too late) but we should avoid going to other people’s houses.
    – cannot go out. cannot meet them in your house or theirs. how do we keep in touch?
    – are taught to compare constantly and compared constantly [applies to both men and women] – whose husband earns more?who gave more jewellery? Whose family is well off?how grand was their wedding? Then, how will we cooperate.

    To me, it is like this – the feeling of powerlessness over oneself is so pervasive, you will do anything for your own survival. Then, you are not looking at deep bonds of friendship or anything. When you feel secure in your life, you will stop viewing others as a competition and be willing to help them.

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    • About the fighting. The problems seem to occur with DIL and MIL because they are doing the same jobs in the family. Both are used to doing it a certain way which has advantages/disadvantages, so it would be expected to have friction over that. Also there might be some other underlying issues playing out. Comparable when a new person at work is assigned to your job place, doing your job. Friction, issues and drama sometimes. But you can go home after a job but not at home.

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  11. I think the issue is quite deep-rooted.

    As a kid, my family never was very encouraging of deep friendships, for both me and my brother. Dad had a transferable job and we would move every 2-3 years. So, it was quite a task anyway to form lasting friendships that would last across state borders and years of separation.

    Now, with a general lack of friends, my brother’s male-friends were more likely to travel to meet my brother, use their parents’ mobiles (or their own; mobiles weren’t very popular in middle class households in the 90s), chat online, e-mail (here again, my brother was more likely to go out and use internet in cafes than I was) and do other stuff to keep in touch and thus create lasting friendships. Although I wasn’t actually denied any of this stuff, I was largely a very obedient kid and did not even try to defy my parents until much later; in college and onwards. My brother wasn’t afraid of retribution, which again, was equal for both kids, so he dared and got his rewards.

    There, he found more lasting friendships than I did. Also, because of all this anti-friendship propaganda that began quite early in childhood, I being a very sensitive child was greatly influenced by it. So, I did not deepen friendships where I could have.

    While this was a largely non-sexist reason, there is another.

    My female friends never used to come out of the house to play, or picnic or go somewhere. Not everyone came out of the house even on school excursions and even fewer were daring enough not to sit in a corner and gossip instead of moving about and exploring places/activities/things to do etc. Some would make an excuse of their periods; I admit even I did not dare taking trips during periods until recently.

    I grew up listening to my female friends saying how their parents wouldn’t “allow” them to do something. These cases were extremely rare if never for my brother’s male friends.

    Friendships deepen only if you do lots of things together; good, bad, ugly and when there aren’t any memories to go by, friendships die off.

    Even when I joined college, the girls weren’t as outgoing, bold, social and ‘normally’ outspoken as I would have wished for in my friends. They were all too shy, reserved and scared of being in the limelight. Most of them were regular obedient daughters and conservative girls who went straight home after college and married after graduation, many of them becoming housewives or making babies. The others, who were bold and social were the ‘bitchy’ types; they gossiped to no end about others and you’d have no iota of doubt they would not gossip about you the moment you left them. They did not know how to strike a balance between a healthy reserve and socializing. Most of their efforts were at attention seeking by pretending ‘kewl’, when they were really not.

    Almost all the girls I knew from college and school did not know enough general knowledge, science, philosophy, history or any serious inclination or opinion towards any mentally stimulating intelligent topic. They were all about the latest hero, the latest movie, the latest Rajini stunt, clothes (I seldom saw them in anything interesting, save salwar kameezes or the odd jeans), earrings or any other stupid banter.

    These girls; both extremes, did not pique my interest at all. I had no fun or intelligent conversation to be had with them. For me, they were embodying the very practices I was striving to thwart.

    The few intelligent ones I found soon moved to other places and it was difficult to keep these friendships kicking, though they are still in touch.

    Now, I got married in 2012. Though I did not really isolate anyone from me, I soon saw all my friends withdraw from me. No one wanted to invite me anywhere, lest they have to invite my spouse too. It was suddenly un-cool to have me in the company of fun-loving singles. My female friends preferred unmarried female friends. Some of my male friends distanced themselves citing ‘appropriate behaviour’. It hurt, but in a way I am glad that I am rid of people who were little more than hypocrites.

    Now, when I have distanced myself from Facebook, (because I work and I don’t have a real interest in FB anymore, I am more into Quora), I have found female friends whom I can trust, cry with, have fun with, get drunk with, party with and share my innermost feelings with. A major chunk of my closest friends however, are my male friends, who also happen to be my husband’s close friends. Yes, I do not have as wide a friend-circle as my husband, but today, I can easily attribute it to the fact that I never stayed long enough in one place to make friends. The old factors aren’t there anymore.

    I have started looking with more open eyes and I have found women I can bond with. Why, one is double my age, but a friend, mentor and guide I never had all my life.

    All I did was stay myself. All my friends like my cheerful, fun-loving and independent spirit. Our male-friends, including my husband’s always say that I should have been their roommate. They tell me that whenever they are with me, they feel like they are with a guy-friend. When I ask them why they brand women as unworthy of close friendships, they tell me that women are quite judgmental and would rather create a big fuss about topics that men may otherwise discuss freely without fearing gossip – smoke, drink, one-night-stands or the number of girlfriends.

    Though I do not want to generalize, my own experience has been rather similar to what these guys experienced, so I have nothing to say; just feel bad about our society. I haven’t met many Indian women who think more openly. I know one too many who has made a fuss out of my boyfriend count or my drunk-out incidents. I know many who tell me to obey my in-laws and have kids. I know many who believe that women must put their ‘family’ before ‘career’ (I hope you get the connotation). Almost none of them will come out for a movie or shopping or the beach or any damn place. They just sit home unless accompanied by their husbands/brothers.

    And I hate it. I hate it because this leaves me with no option but to stay home myself, unless it’s one of my male friends. I’m not the type who can go out alone and have fun.

    There are a thousand social issues in this one story. I wonder how many women languish like this.

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    • “I’m not the type who can go out alone and have fun.” – I hope you try it one day.
      Going in a group makes you miss out on a few things. But going alone has its perks too and viz.
      I have wasted lot of time calling people to go out, have picnic, movies, travel ec etc. They all agree in the beginning, then back out citing stupid (yes, stupid not genuine reasons like no money) reasons. Now I do what I want alone. I do call people of course. If they join me well and good. If not, thats fine as well. But I have STOPPED cancelling or postponing my plans for other people.
      I have some fab female friends whose life dont revolve only around ‘latest collections’, ‘boys’, ‘relationships’ etc. And it would have been awesome if we were all been in the same city. Cant have everything in life na😀

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    • “Almost all the girls I knew from college and school did not know enough general knowledge, science, philosophy, history or any serious inclination or opinion towards any mentally stimulating intelligent topic. They were all about the latest hero, the latest movie, the latest Rajini stunt, clothes (I seldom saw them in anything interesting, save salwar kameezes or the odd jeans), earrings or any other stupid banter.”

      I’m sorry, I truly hate to nitpick here–but I wonder why you consider talking about these things to be stupid? Where do you think it gets us when we dismiss the interests that other women have, whatever it is they may be? You speak of women who have not supported you, who judged too much, who failed to consider your opinions even as they might have disagreed with them. But why do you think it’s okay to dismiss women who do not think as openly as you do, in the same manner they have dismissed you previously? Especially when women talk about clothes and fashion and movies?

      At the end of the day, supporting other women means supporting them even when they do not support us, doesn’t it? And a part of that includes not tearing each other down by calling it “stupid banter” when they talk about things that they enjoy (especially given that things which are female-centric tend to be devalued across all boards, even by other women). And a large, large part of it includes not deriding “conservative” women. They are women too, who have been subjected to the same treatment as every other woman, and they tend to want to cling to the little respect that patriarchal society offers them through complying with the norm. It doesn’t help when they are put down by feminists, when they should be attempting to understand the reasons for why they would believe as they do.

      “they tell me that women are quite judgmental and would rather create a big fuss about topics that men may otherwise discuss freely without fearing gossip”

      Women are judgmental about such things, yes. But what of the society that judges them for talking about such things freely? What of the society that holds them to an impossible standard and tells them that they are not worthy of respect if they even think about such things? Women often have no choice, and they comply largely out of fear of losing what little respect patriarchal society offers them.

      And I would advise you to listen closely to how your male friends talk about women as well. It seems they pass judgement quite easily about women without fully realizing that they too have a part in upholding the same patriarchal society that forces women to keep quiet about such things for fear of losing respect (often from the same men who complain about the fact that women never talk about such things). And it feels to me that they are pitting women against each other as well by creating further divisions about who is “cool to talk to and be friends with” and who is not.

      Someone in one of the previous comments asked how can we move past these types of attitudes. We move past them by not emulating them. We move past them by refusing to judge these women on an arbitrary scale of our own choosing, no matter how egalitarian we think our scales are in comparison to theirs. We move past them by refusing to pit women against each other for any sort of competition aside from those that rely on our skills. We move past this by not putting women down for the things they like to do and like to talk about, whether that’s clothes or philosophy, cooking or rocket science, raising children or becoming a CEO. We move past this by respecting those who are conservative and those who are liberal, because we recognize that we all deserve to make our own choices in life and not be judged for them (this includes not judging women for being traditional, on the part of liberal feminists). We move past this by ending the competition, on both the extremely conservative and extremely liberal ends. We end it by realizing that we’re all women and we’re all winners anyway.

      Like

      • So if I were to group boys in my year into boys who I would like to be friends with because they talk about things that interest me and boys I would not like to be friends with, is that discrimination? I really don’t see why I should “respect”a bunch of random people just because they belong to the same gender that I do. I agree with most of your comment but I disagree with the notion that I must defend other women’s choices, even when the choices are those I disagree with, simply because they are women.

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      • Hi A,

        Thanks for your comment.

        Contrary to what you think, I am not deriding these women. Just that I don’t find them worth being friends with. It’s a purely personal opinion and I am not reinforced by patriarchy to feel this way.

        They are perfectly within their rights to be this way. And I am perfectly within my rights to find them stupid.

        Patriarchy, in fact, encourages women to stay frivolous, mediocre, lackadaisical and basically aimless in life so that they can be easier slaves to control. And it hurts me when women simply comply to these expectations without even putting up a fight. Or even having thoughts of putting up a fight. Or having any worthwhile thoughts at all.

        Being a victim of patriarchy myself, my only way to survive is to simply let them be and seek greener pastures i.e. people with a spirit of fighting fair to get what is rightfully theirs. I cannot associate with these women, who are normalizing patriarchal biases and encouraging me to do the same. These women are an overwhelming majority. I cannot bond with them. But of course, it doesn’t mean I will insult/deride them.

        Also, I was a professional writer once and I wrote about decorations, home decor and even about a movie or two. See, I don’t mean to say fashion and other feminine topics are stupid. My emphasis is that any human being should have some passion towards any topic, even fashion. I mentioned that they used to discuss fashion, but seldom were fashionable themselves. And their discussions on fashion were sorely limited to what the next door girl wore, or what some random actress/actor wore on screen.

        I don’t see any fire/passion/seriousness in them for any single damn thing in life, even for movies. They have only ogled over good-looking people in movies. Period. No discussion of filming techniques, no discussions on plots, basically no discussion that requires real knowledge. This is what I find extremely stupid. And ALL THE TIME. What is it then that you are? These girls never had any knowledge on anything and nor did they care to obtain it.

        I have a fashionista friend who doesn’t like science and philosophy either. But she knows her fashion and she really knows what she is talking about. She has a serious opinion on something in life, so I can safely say that she has some strength of personality/character.

        I have found more female friends of mine to be lackadaisical in life than male friends. Personal experience and by no means a global phenomenon.

        This casualness towards life is also reflected in friendships as a general lack of passion in anything. They may gossip with you for hours in college where they can come and go easily. But they won’t watch your back if you are in trouble. They won’t bail you out if you are short of money in a strange place. They won’t come to your aid when a lecturer/teacher catches you all bunking class. Hell, they don’t bunk class not because they want to study, but simply because they want to impress the teacher with their full attendance.

        In short, these women are perfectly comfortable living in their tiny patriarchal globe where they do not have any obligation to think on their own, or be their own person, because they know that they have an arranged marriage waiting for them (actual comment by one of these girls) DISCLAIMER: Not applicable for ALL ARRANGED MARRIAGES.

        Yes, I make it a point to tell my male friends not to make scathing sexist comments or generalize because these girls are still a victim of patriarchy. I can put up with these guys because in the least, they are passionate towards friendships.

        Yes, you are right in that we shouldn’t be judgmental of such women. And despite the obvious, I can assure you I am not condemning these women, when viewing the situation objectively. But, when it comes to choosing friends and making deep friendships, I cannot pick a woman who will readily ditch me for “gaining a little respect from patriarchy”. That would be suicide.

        You can be conservative and still be a god friend, like Charlotte in SATC. Charlotte’s views, for instance, are a total contrast to and largely dismissive of her friends’ lifestyles and opinions and yet, she still is a good friend. She doesn’t pull them down.

        Patriarchy divides women, no doubt, but victimhood only extends so far. You can choose to be jealous of other women, or you can choose not to be jealous. It’s just like Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris brutally raping, torturing and murdering women just because they had an abusive childhood.

        Being a victim of patriarchy is not an excuse for pulling other women down.

        Regards,
        Vamp

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    • @Vamp,
      “Although I wasn’t actually denied any of this stuff, I was largely a very obedient kid and did not even try to defy my parents until much later; in college and onwards. My brother wasn’t afraid of retribution, which again, was equal for both kids, so he dared and got his rewards.”

      You were trained to be confused to self doubt. Welcome to the club…
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/desi-parenting-raising-confused-daughters/

      We erect fences out of our own volition we think but it is social conditioning
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/527/

      “I know many who believe that women must put their ‘family’ before ‘career’ (I hope you get the connotation). Almost none of them will come out for a movie or shopping or the beach or any damn place. They just sit home unless accompanied by their husbands/brothers.”
      These all are learned behaviors that can be unlearned only if one knows why they are doing what they are doing.
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/633/

      Peace,
      Desi Girl

      Like

      • Hi DG,

        I have read your blog and liked your articles. Good going.

        //You were trained to be confused to self doubt. Welcome to the club…//

        Precisely. In fact, I wonder where it all went wrong. I and my brother always got equal rewards and punishments. He was the elder kid and somewhat naughtier so yeah, sometimes he was punished worse than I was, as I had a way of getting around as a kid, using cuteness and a glib tongue to my advantage.

        I wonder then, how is it that I turned out like this and he differently. Possibly, it is because he spent a lot of time outside home (from 2005 onwards, when he left for a hostel after 12th grade) and I stayed with parents for my undergraduation. An additional proof is that my views in equality and feminism were shaped only after I left home in 2010 for a hostel and started working. Before leaving home, both I and my brother were somewhat sexist.

        //We erect fences out of our own volition we think but it is social conditioning//

        Very apt. Till 2010, I maintained that I do not drink out of choice. When I came to my hostel and actually GOT THE CHOICE to drink or not to drink, I actually started enjoying a drink or two at parties and found it quite a nice thing to do once in a while.

        Now I drink socially and in full knowledge of what I am doing.

        //These all are learned behaviors that can be unlearned only if one knows why they are doing what they are doing.//

        You are right. My life changed only after I started introspecting. Till then, I would randomly wonder why despite actually being considered “good” by the society, I was extremely unhappy and depressed.

        Regards,
        Vamp

        Like

    • I agree. Yet when I meet men who disparage women for being judgemental and close-minded about sex, booze, girlfriends and one-night stands, I am always amused.

      Most men would immediately categorize a woman who’s open-minded about sex, booze, one-night stands and girlfriends as a, as a…? We know the answer to that, don’t we?

      Men and their endless double standards🙂

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  12. When men and women, or two men, are in competition with each other, the feeling is not too different. From sexual harassment, slut-shaming, spreading false stories about (perceived or real) rivals, men and women seem to try everything to put rivals down.

    Like

    • This is the very Ad that came to my mind too. But very often people consider this situation as “two boys playfully vying for a girls attention” but if the gender was reversed it would have been “two girls pulling each other down and being each other’s enemy”

      In movies it is taken one step forward. Two friends are pulled apart because of a pretty girl’s presence. Women are inherently evil. Poor men.

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  13. I might get some thumbs down here, but it’s OK, because unfortunately this is my experience. Whenever I was mediocre or not ambitious, I did not have problems with the women around me. But whenever I was doing relatively well in the educational/professional front, they got so jealous and competitive, and did everything to pull me down. I don’t mean all women, but it was those who were more or less my equals who couldn’t stomach the fact that I might fare better. Suddenly they are more interested in your work than their own. You ask them to leave you alone, but they will not stop bothering. Usually the men were far kinder, or at least they had the grace to leave you alone.

    I am not talking of older women or those lacking in education. These were my colleagues, they were well qualified, articulate, modern for all appearances, and some even called themselves feminists. I get a little bewildered when I see these same women waxing about the beauty in the world, tolerance, the importance of kindness etc, etc.

    I don’t know if patriarchy made them this way, or this is who they are, or whether I should have downplayed it, or kept a distance from day 1. I do know that being friendly and nice did not help-encouraged them to interfere more. Do men do this to each other or to other women? Do women do this to men too, or is it reserved only for other women?

    I still believe there are a lot of wonderful women, and it was my misfortune to be stuck with the ones who were not. Now that this problem is mentioned, what can we do about it? How do we deal with it, or how can we avoid it altogether?

    Like

    • So competition between woman is not OK. Why should a woman feel sympathy for a person simply because of her gender ? The workplace is a battle field not a tea room.

      Like

      • “Why should a woman feel sympathy for a person simply because of her gender ? ”

        I don’t think any woman is asking for sympathy from another woman, just because they are both of the same gender. The issue here is that competition between women, especially in very male dominated fields, so often gets very unhealthy and petty. The definition of “competition” that women have in such fields needs to be drastically examined and reworked.

        At the end of the day, even as men compete against one another, there is support for each other. The competition is good natured and does not function solely on sabotage. Competition between women, on the other hand, is often not good natured but is much more focused on tearing down success. A part of this reason is because competition that is encouraged between women, for centuries, has been built on this very premise–that if someone is is on “top” then you are at the “bottom”, and hence must tear them down to get to the “top”. And in a male dominated workplace, competition between women is not about personal success at all, but about gaining the approval and respect of the men around you. Which, really, is not much different at all from what patriarchy has dictated for centuries–that the respect a woman has is contingent solely on men.

        No woman is asking for sympathy. What is being asked for is a respect for one’s success as it stands on its own. I don’t want my fellow female competitors in the field to go “easy” on me. But at the same time, when I am successful, I want that success to be respected because I have worked hard for it, for my own self. And I want there to be an understanding that my own success does not diminish or reduce someone else’s respect, but rather that it gives fellow women an incentive and an opening to succeed in their own rights as well. That is healthy competition. This culture of tearing down each other’s success in order to bolster ourselves is not competition, but self-sabotage.

        Like

      • Competition is fine. Sabotage, bitching, tearing someone else down, and spreading malicious gossip are not. No one wants ANY sympathy here, but it would be nice if some women didn’t exhibit the crabs in a bucket mentality when another woman seems to be doing better than her. The max I’d expect from female colleagues who are not friends- to be left alone.

        Like

    • not only colleagues do this to you but also female bosses! Guys compete openly, women don’t. Its not womanly you know to be career focused! If they do make it to higher position, they believe its just luck. They like to stand out in the all male environ as the only girl, not as stand out if you get promoted too is it! If you are focused, driven and god forbid have support at home, you are a BIG threat to the female boss who got there on her “experience” alone!

      Having said this, there is this guy in DH’s company, 3 levels above DH. They occasionally hang out as a part of a team. Once he ask DH how much he made and how much I made. Together we made X, this senior made Y, X > Y

      Next appraisal he actually said to DH, dude why do you need hike, you already make X. DH was like I make A, wife makes B, A+B is X! I dont make X. This guy says well ” wife must be handing over her salary to you only, so its your money!!”

      So simply put, success has no friends, even if you succeed in wearing a short skirt😉

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      • You should never ever share compensation related details with anyone, especially someone at work. If he/she is your boss, then, he/she will definitely know how much you make. It is none of their business to ask how much your spouse makes. I once had a supervisor who tried asking me how much my husband made, I said, enough to feed me and take care of my whims and fancies. He started pressurizing me to give him the exact number, I never did.

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    • I have also encountered what you have described, in fact very recently. I don’t really have solutions.
      Some women never outgrow school-age psychological dynamics. They “freeze” out other women based on a very specific set of conditions.
      I am divorced. I have frequently had female colleagues judging my professional abilities based on my being a divorcee.
      Their disapproval of divorced women is extended to negatively judging my professional competence.
      I don’t really have any solutions. I just use my gut instinct and avoid women at work who I sense may be the “judging, politicking” sort.
      Sooner or later, water finds it’s own level; as the saying goes🙂

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  14. I think this happens all over the world (as even the most liberal of countries still contain certain patriarchal systems that cannot be dismantled so easily as they’ve been around for centuries)–at the same time, I feel that the more ‘sexist’ a society, the worse this problem gets. I think everyone else has done a good job explaining this phenomenon.

    Alternately, I grew up in the US as a child of relatively liberal South Asian origin parents. I find that the girls who shoot dirty looks and judge other girls harshly are the ones with the most ridiculously absurd (aka right wing) parents. Sometimes, it helps being sympathetic towards them because the kind of BS rules they have to follow are horrendous. It’s like they’re misdirecting their anger towards their parents for making them follow said rules towards other women/girls from their community who do not have to follow such restrictions.

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  15. Maybe she was admiring your skirt!!.
    My SIl ( co-sis) once told me it was a paap to let husbands do work in the kitchen. didnt offend me, I’m a major paapi anyways, so i told her it didnt matter, i was going to hell anyway🙂 it wa sjust a question of oil temperature. and continued to share tasks.
    Nowadays she has wisened up, and we laught about the paap joke. sure she’s more traditional than me, her husband thnks she’s a bit below him, and she stays home since she is not qualified for any kind of work her husband thinks is acceptable!!! but that works for them. I guess. i dont know their relationship so i cant judge,but i do know i’d have dumped him in a month had i married him. likewise my husband seems ot think he would have broken up long ago had he got a wife like her, he needs a very independent person an doesnt really care about how ht the temp of food is or how tasty.
    Everyone has diff needs, some need ot be traditional some dont. nobody is worng, there is absolutely nothing wrong is wearing a short skirt or a saree, nothing wrong if one chooses to serve her husband or ignore him. it’s what works and what makes one happy. I dont think that should cause any angst between the women. atleast it doesnt in our life, me and my co-sis are good buddies an dget along fine though we are v different.

    Like

    • “Maybe she was admiring your skirt!!.”

      Not my skirt–the incident happened to a friend of mine. And there was a lot more context to this situation that I left out because I didn’t want people reading to get caught up in the details of the situation and miss the focus of the post. But I can safely say that this was not an incident of admiration (there is a marked difference).

      “Everyone has diff needs, some need ot be traditional some dont. nobody is worng, ”

      Agreed. Personally speaking, I do have friends who fall in a more traditional spectrum than I do. But the key difference between them and the girl on the train is that nobody is judged for it. My friends do not take it upon themselves to pass judgement on a complete stranger who does not dress as they ordinarily would. Instead, there is a mutual respect for everyone’s choices. In the same way, I don’t judge my traditional friends. Heck, I don’t even judge the girl on the train, because if she has made her own personal choice to be traditional, then I am glad for that.

      My issue is when people are unhappy with the actions of others simply because they do not conform to what they personally think is “right”. The attitude of some people, that dressing a certain way is the only “right” way to go about things, and that girls who don’t dress that way are “wrong” and “immoral”, is what I disagree with. You are welcome to do as you please, but so is everyone else, without having to be angrily stared at or judged.🙂

      Like

      • Yes i agree 100% that is how it should be, But then we don’t live in a perfect world and people who judge are also mostly conditioned by their surroundings i feel .

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  16. I don’t have an easy explanation for this…I have girlfriends who have lasted my lifetime and they are supportive and I feel blessed to have them in my life. But, I know other girls and women don’t live the life I do or think the thoughts my friends and I do. Before I go any further, I would like to make it clear that the context of the next few lines do not encompass EVERY woman in the Indian or vaguely Indian Population but as a general majority observation. The idea of moving away from the place of birth after marriage and living according to the rules of the In-laws family makes the idea of friendship among women a sort of fantasy. The Most Men tend to have the same set of people all through their lives but for most women, it feels like they have to “start over” after marriage, especially if the In-laws are weird people with double standards with respect to behavior for DIL’s. And there are other factors – 1. the personality of an individual, I feel irrespective of gender, Competition is a given. Sometimes it is blatant and in your face while at others it is very subtle.; 2. the needs of an individual, I feel like some how the women are more needy of approval, permission, being in the good books of others than the men. In situations where someone needs to have their own way, most men will walk away if they cant get others to do what they need and find their own way, while women will work harder at getting consensus or negotiate an agreement or manipulate people around them to get their way depending on how badly they want that thing. So there is an innate fear of doing things by themselves, alone, in women that is not so apparent in men. Women will give reasons like “its not fun to do it alone.” but the thing is, that thinking doesn’t stop the man from doing it by himself anyway. 3. The cultural ethos in the environment, depending on how strict or lax the rules around a woman is, she will bend and flex to it but never rebel. Somehow the idea of confronting, getting in another’s face about something they don’t agree upon doesn’t usually occur in a woman, but it will be the first option for a man in the same situation. Is it because of the idea that women are physically weak and therefore can be subdued? or Is it because of the idea that women are mentally stronger so they are able to tolerate a lot more nonsense? I don’t know but something is amiss there. 4. The idea of superiority while they follow the norms and rules and begin to believe that “I am Right therefore of superior class cause I do this and this and…according to some tom, dick and harry I never met but my elders say they were there, so, others are not good enough cause they don’t do like I do.”

    Somehow I feel like people like staying stuck in a groove with definitions. Culture isn’t static, it changes as life goes on. All Ideas have limitations, so being loyal, being protective, sisterhood, brotherhood all have limitations. The foremost limitation is Trust, followed by understanding and empathy(not to be confused with sympathy, sympathy is mostly lip service). In a society where dishonesty is rampant, trust isn’t easy to forge.

    To the LW I would like to say, Its not personal, that person staring at you. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with that person. I am glad you are asking questions, though I don’t have all the answers but a question is a start of finding answers and making new ways of life. And to your “Have you ever had moments where someone has said something, and you simply can’t form an argument in response, not because there isn’t one, but because of how much of an education it would be for them?” Yes I have and I have learned over time to let it go. That it isn’t my responsibility to teach someone who DOESNT want to learn. Cause if they wanted to learn, they would have done so by now. You really cant push a person up the Ladder(although it makes me sad), they have to climb by themselves in their own time.

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  17. I think the main issue here is that people judge other people. Always. Entire fields of study are devoted to this phenomenon and we can’t have one right answer.

    Men judge other men as much as women judge other women. Perhaps they don’t judge either along the same dimensions we judge each other but men do judge other men. If people think men don’t pull down other men they clearly haven’t been watching oh, what was it? The whole of world history is about men pulling down other men you say? Business empires and corporate careers are built on political maneuvering you say? Hmmm!

    I don’t think it’s possible to generalize why women stare. If you do, you’re being as judgmental as the person doing the judging, right? “Oh, she wishes she could wear a short skirt confidently! That’s why she’s staring”. No. She might be staring because you’re talking too loudly and disturbing the peace. She might be staring absently. She might be staring because the outfit is inappropriate for the occasion. She might be staring because the skirt is indeed too short and tight for her taste and this happens to be her one pet peeve. She might be staring for a million reasons that have nothing to do with your skirt. She could be staring because she thinks you shouldn’t be in a skirt not that she should be in one. So what? People judge according to their value systems and just because one set of values is more current than another it doesn’t automatically make those who choose unpopular value systems wrong. It’s only wrong when they try to thrust those values down your throat or they decide to oppress you for your values.

    The point is, people stare. People judge. People have a right to stare and judge just as they have a right to do things that would make other people stare and judge. People pull down other people just as they also help pull up other people. It’s about self-interest. It’s about human nature.

    I don’t think women are particularly less or more shallow than men. Stereotypical girls might gossip about film stars and guys might discuss sports figures. Does that make one right and the other wrong? It’s hard to find people of any gender who match our frequency. That’s what makes friends special. Just because we happen to share a majority of our interests with the opposite gender does that mean people of our gender are inherently less cool or are flawed?

    I think it’s time we got out of this mindset that women should be nice to other women just because we’re all women and we’re all in this together. Women have a right to be misogynist. Women have a right to be anti-feminist. Women have a right to pull down and criticize other women. We just need to live with that and not apologize for it if someone thinks it’s a valid excuse to be misogynistic.

    I’m not saying that patriarchy is inherently unfair to women. I’m just saying we cannot judge. We cannot become purists and fundamentalists.

    Like

    • “She might be staring because the skirt is indeed too short and tight for her taste and this happens to be her one pet peeve.”

      That’s a personal issue, isn’t it? I have plenty of pet peeves. But I realize that my dislike for coconut doesn’t give me leave to judge someone else who likes German chocolate cake. Nor does it mean that I am allowed to think that someone who enjoys the things that are my pet peeves are wrong or immoral for doing so, which is the actual problem that is being addressed here.

      “It’s only wrong when they try to thrust those values down your throat or they decide to oppress you for your values.”

      Which is exactly what women and men do to each other when they judge some women as “good” for falling in line with their personal values, and some women as “bad” for not falling in line with their personal values. One does not have to be physically locked up in their homes and be disenfranchised in order to have values they don’t agree with thrust down their throats. The act of judging another woman along arbitrary lines reinforces a deeper problem which oppresses all women. Oppression is not negated because it is indirect rather than direct.

      “Women have a right to be misogynist. Women have a right to be anti-feminist. Women have a right to pull down and criticize other women.”

      Why do you think that people should just “live with” things that cause them harm, day in and day out? Why do you think that people, women especially, should just let it slide and not fight the things that make the world less safe for them and continues to deny them opportunities? Why do you think that women should be okay with people who believe that their worth in society is dependent on something as arbitrary as clothing and not their character? Do you think that it is a “right” that violent and toxic beliefs that have proven to be harmful to society should go unchallenged and that we should just “live with that”? Because THIS is what causes harm. I refuse to just live with a system that thinks that I am worth any less than any other human beings, and when I see it, I will challenge it. You have a right to believe as you please, but don’t delude yourself that your beliefs are, in any way, not harmful and not toxic to other people. And such views need to be challenged and need to be changed.

      Like

      • Judgement is a form of expression. To stop judgement is to stop free speech. Freedom of speech doesn’t depend on political correctness. It does not depend on who is more liberal. The most right wing activist is as free to believe and judge as any of us. Yet we all agree that you can’t go about destroying public property or hurting – worse murdering – people.

        My value system might be toxic to you as yours might be to me. Values and morals are relative. This is why we have laws to prevent one person’s rights from infringing on another’s. A hijab is horribly offensive to Western feminists. Yet the devout Muslim is offended by the feminist’s assumption that she needs to be “saved” from wearing one. Is the judgement wrong? Is the belief wrong? Is anyone wrong? Yet each seems toxic to the other. Right?

        Laws need to be fair to ensure that all citizens can live without fear ofnpersonal harm. We can pass laws against theft, hate speech, vandalism, assault and violence. We can make laws against discrimination. But we cannot and should not expect a society without judgement.

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    • “I think it’s time we got out of this mindset that women should be nice to other women just because we’re all women and we’re all in this together. ”

      So so so agree. This is the exact reason why I think of myself as a feminist but hesitate to identify as one- because the collectivist nature of such a label- which puts movement before individuals (like any other movement)- turns me off.

      I think this is one of the inherent features of feminism as it exists today. This idea of ‘sisterhood’ based on- what exactly? Women are divided by the exact same things that divide men- class, race, caste, alternative sexualities etc. To try to unite women based *only* on gender seems.. misplaced.

      Women deserve to be seen first and foremost as individuals , even by feminists.

      @A
      “And in a male dominated workplace, competition between women is not about personal success at all, but about gaining the approval and respect of the men around you. ”
      Really? This is how you would generalise competition between two women in a professional setting? Everything is not always about ‘the patriarchy’, you know.

      Like

  18. It’s said that compared to most of the other animal species, humans exhibit very weak female to female bonding but a strong male to male bonding.
    “As the hunter-gatherer society evolved, incest taboo that prevents sexual act between close relatives resulted in females going out to join other groups among humans in most of the tribes. Many of the non human primates shows same behavior, though in some others it is the males who go out of the parental group.
    In most of the primates where females go out of their parental group (humans, chimpanzees, hamadrayas baboons), patriarchy is very strong. One reason for this is it is difficult for the new-comer female to make any sort of bonding with females of her adopted group.

    In contrast in some species, females remain in their birth communities their whole lives. Here females form alliances against aggressive males. Vervet monkeys macaques, olive baboons, patas and rhesus monkeys are examples for this ‘female bonding’ . Thus in these species the males behave with much more respect towards females.
    Why females of our species went out of their birth community and not males? Probably by that time patriarchy was strong and it forced the females to go out.

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  19. Females tend to be very possessive of the powerful patriarchal male of the household, whether it’s son, brother or husband. Close proximity to such a male gives them power over other females. Female to female bonding may become a disadvantage for survival in patriarchal society.
    In many families I have seen a distinct aloofness between females ( mother, daughter, daughter in laws ) while the males sensing no competition are at ease with each other.

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    • Why mention ‘Blind date’?

      “Last week, two Jharkhand girls were drugged and gang-raped in northeast Delhi by three men who befriended them on the pretext of getting them a confirmed train ticket.”

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  20. I have to share a particular situation I personally face. This is very similar to what this girl faced only that it is the exact opposite. I am a quiet person and usually have a small quiet circle of friends. I don’t judge larger, more bombastic groups of friends at all. If I like their jokes I laugh and If I don’t, I don’t laugh. But I am not judging people their fun even if it involves naughty jokes. I have noticed that a set of girls/guys who flirt a lot with each other have started judging me under the presumtion that I am judging them. They become quieter when I am around and avoid being around me. And also there is the look. Very hateful. As with the LW’s case it is not easy to explain how I know that I am being judged. But I am.

    It is not just that the long duppatta girls are judging the short skirt ones. It is vice versa too. And there are other criteria that are judged too. I have noticed girls with stage-fright suggest that girls without stage-fright are shameless and attention-seeking.

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  21. @Rahini : Judging anyone is not a good habit. If you are comfortable in yourself, you shouldn’t care. Same way if those girls see you with hateful looks, they should not and mind their own business. Once you start showing that you dont care a damn, they would start to ignore you. Do what makes you feel right and happy.

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  22. Free: thank you. But I am not talking about being accepted by them or something like that. I don.t belong with them. I know that and they know that. And yes, I really don.t care.

    But I am talking about this “being judged” thing. They feel they are poor sweethearts who are being judged by self-righteous Rahini. They probably feel slightly guilty about each other’s jokes too and don.t want to be the one to bell the cat and stop the raunchiness a bit. If giving me hateful looks is their idea of group bonding then so be it. It is just looks after all.

    I only thought I.d comment here to tell the other half of the story. Cheers.😀

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  23. This post is one of the reasons why I like IHM’S blog so much. Women here disagree with each other all the time, yet there’s usually none of the snideness, vicious bitchiness I experience from women in real life.

    It’s one of the safest blogs on the Internet. IHM is a great moderator.

    I don’t get a lot of “love” from the ladies in real life. For some time now, I’ve realised that I’m just not very popular with members of my own gender. I’ve never understood why this is so.

    Until recently, I treated everyone with the same respect or consideration, regardless of gender, religion or race.

    Yet, I always get the “I dislike you for no reason” vibe from women. It’s been a very wounding experience.

    I don’t mind so much when men treat me badly or unjustly. Yet, when the unfairness or meanness comes from other women, it hurts to an immeasurable degree.

    Now, I’ve just begun keeping a certain wary distance from other women. I’ve had very nasty experiences with female colleagues and friends. I’ve just had enough of the typically feminine “I’ll be mean to you because you’re a woman like me” types.

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  24. We are also living in Canada. The treatment that we have received here by the Indian community is 500% worse than anything we experienced in India.

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  25. Pingback: Because we can still be honest WITHOUT saying, “Gosh woman what is wrong with you?” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  26. Pingback: ‘She believes that her husband has got into job troubles since marrying her (he tells her this) and that she has been unlucky for their entire family.’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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