Verity Johnson: Why are women so bitchy to each other?

woman cellphone abuse

The worst catcalling I’ve ever had has been from other women.

It’s counter intuitive right? We have a social script for this; Guys do the catcalling, women respond with either an embarrassed titter or a distant, irritable stare that says, “Go impale yourself on a fork.” That’s how it’s supposed to go. And yes, that is how roughly 60 percent of everyday street harassment goes.

But the other 40 percent is from women to women. And this variety far outstrips male cat calling in terms of viciousness.

Men whistle, shout “check out Kim Kardashian!” or once, in Turkey, make the kind of kissing noise I make when I’m petting a cat. Women don’t have any such delicacy: “Go home slut it’s past your bedtime”, “your skirt is so short I can see what you had for breakfast,” or, most subtly, “f***ing whore!”

And it’s always women of a certain age, around 40, who dole out this positivity. It is solely an older women on younger woman phenomenon.

I have never, ever had a woman my age say something like that to me. The setting can change, out drinking or out shopping, and it can come from a group or from an individual. But it’s always from an older woman.

This is the type of cat calling that confuses me. I get why men cat call. You’re either butchering an attempt to flirt or you’re trying to get a giggly reaction that confirms that a) you’re a man, man or b) you’ve still got it, man. But I don’t understand why women do it, man.

Well, let me be specific. I understand the motivation why women do it – it’s part of this stupid, ‘We’re all competing against each other’ mentality that women still have.

What I don’t understand is why for Christ’s sake we still have this?

When women cat call you on the street it’s an attempt to cut you down. They want to make you feel like shit. And they do.

They want you to know that you’re a silly, slutty little girl who doesn’t understand how to do things properly. Why? Why does anyone make nasty comments to another person who’s done nothing to them?

They’re jealous, insecure and need a way of destroying this person’s power. The other person is a threat. They’re getting too much attention or power or compliments or biscuits or paper clips….

Now this situation happens when an older woman is passing a dressed up younger woman. Maybe the older woman is jealous of the younger woman’s desirability. And I get it, society pushes the idea that youth is sexy.

You don’t see middle-aged mums getting hired as Victoria’s Secret angels. So if you see a younger woman, you’re worried they’re more attractive than you. They’re threatening your share of attention or desirability. So you say something nasty to cut her down.  

But why are we still seeing everything, and everyone, as a threat? Why are we still, still competing with each other?

After all of the protests, and the feminist icons, and the “be yourself!” memes… we’re still seeing every other woman as a threat to our own success. Instead of seeing them as just a person who’s just trying to get shit done? And someone who really doesn’t impact at all on your own self-worth.

And it’s not even right anyway. Younger women are not the sole recipients of male attention.

Yeah, younger women get leery, drunken attention from men. But it’s not like older women don’t get attention.

I’ve had many, many conversations with older men who are only attracted to older women. Largely because as these guys got older they value different things. And these are things younger women don’t have – like confidence, having their shit together and a fully-stocked fridge. Older women are infinitely more confident at life. And that’s sexy.   

But we’re still doing this. Young women are still seen as threats, giggling, squawking, walking reminders of older women’s supposed impending irrelevancy. And because they’re still threats, we’re still tearing them down.

Man, if we took all this time and energy that we’re putting into being bitchy, and put it into something constructive, we’d be totally unstoppable.