Stand by your (Wo)man

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This week is all about being a woman in today's world. The good bits and the bad bits of being a woman. The bits we can be proud of, and the bits that maybe we should be a little bit ashamed of. Whatever the posts are about they are there to open up a discussion so that we can all talk openly and honestly about how it is for us.

This post by Fiona was actually the catalyst that led to us creating the 'Being a Woman Week'. We read it and we knew that we needed to post it, and that it was something that we don't cover enough of on AOW. We tend to talk about relationships with our partners here, but not so much about our relationships with other women. Fiona has picked up on a really valid point here...shouldn't we be supporting each other rather than judging one another?
Scene: A sunny beer garden in South West London, August 2011. (Yes, there was one sunny day –you’ll have to take my word for it). Four girls sit at a table, a jug of Pimms on the go. At the next table a girl sits alone, pretending not to eavesdropwhilst her friend is at the bar. One of the four gets up and goes inside.
‘Can you believe how much weight she has put on?’
‘I know! She looks awful – and what is with that dress?’
‘It looks like she got dressed in the dark!’
Much high pitched cackling ensues.
In case you hadn’t guessed, eavesdropping nosey girl was yours truly. Now, I find overheard pub conversations can be a genuinelyfascinating insight into the world we live in. It’s the same principle as reading trashy magazines – I often have no idea who the featured characters arebut none the less, glimpsing a snapshot of their lives is enthralling (erm, just to be clear, I don’t spend my nights sitting in pubs ear-wigging. Well,not every night anyway).
And sadly, conversations like the one above are heard too often. The boy assures me that on many an occasion, when there is a table fullof girls and one walks away, the rest of them will start tearing her to shreds.
When he first presented this idea to me, I loudly and fervently objected. Whilst I am by no means an angel, I love love LOVE all ofmy girlfriends and wouldn’t dream of criticising their appearance/behaviour/life choices as soon as they were out of earshot. However,once I started listening out for it, I noticed it. A lot. Not amongst my band of buddies and by no means with every girl gang I came across, but morefrequently than I would have expected.
This made me irrationally angry. And unbelievably sad. Partially because I detest gender stereotypes as they tend to lead to all sorts of trouble and partially because I can’t believe that so many adult women areregressing to playground tactics in order to make themselves feel better about their own lives.
And I truly believe that is the root of such bitchiness – the idea that pointing out someone else’s (perceived) flaws will make youappear superior in comparison. In life, we all have the right to have an opinion, dislike others and be critical when necessary. But why does this sooften happen under the guise of friendship? How could it ever be ok to be so, for want of a better word, mean?
And it doesn’t stop at social situations. There are still huge chasms of inequality in the workplace that need addressing – and I believethat by standing together, women will one day close the gender pay gap. I believe that being a female of child bearing age will no longer mean beingpassed over for promotion in favour of a male colleague as it sadly still does at some organisations. I also live in hope that being judged for being a stayat home/full-time working/a bit of both mum will become a thing of the past (but that’s a whole other piece!).
Unfortunately, whilst the male of the species do their own share of judging, the females are also doing their own damage. I have beenparty to many a conversation about so-and-so’s decision to stop working or take a certain job or even wear a certain outfit to work. Seriously, why is thishappening? When the challenges of life are already looming pretty large, surely it’s our friends/mothers/aunties/colleagues that we should be able to depend onto celebrate our differences and support our choices – even if they don’t agree with them.
 Which brings me neatly onto the subject of weddings - or more specifically, wedding blogs/forums. I have to admit, I am byno means a forum expert, mainly because I spent a few minutes on one after a friend told me about them and the sheer number of quite offensive comments sentme scuttling away back to the safe world of blogs like AOW where you can have a whole host of opinions and no-one will become what can only be described asaggressive towards you.
There was one particular thread that sealed the forum fate for me – some poor soul was asking people’s opinions on having karaoke at herwedding and was engulfed by a veritable tsunami of comments telling her that her wedding would be inappropriate, tacky and ‘chav-tastic’.  Erm, what? Firstly, I heart karaoke andsecondly, who in the name of all that is good and holy judges someone based on the entertainment at their wedding reception? Surely the new Mr and Mrs couldhave a band of street dancing pensioners accompanied by Bruce Forsyth on the steel drums and you should still throw yourself into the celebrations (hmmm, Iquite like the sound of that...!).
My conclusion from all of this is that I’m going to try my hardest to not bitch, to not criticise and to not judge as much as possible.I’m going to try to support my friends/colleagues/family, male and female alike, remembering that I have made some bad choices in life and having peopleon my side at the time made all the difference.
To end on a light note and as a reminder of the dividends that listening to your fellow humans can pay, I present my favourite overheadsnippet of all time....
Man one: ‘...and the thing is that it just keeps getting worse.’
Man two: ‘I know you’re worried mate but it’s not that bad.’
Man one: ‘Really? I feel like everyone’s staring at it.’
Man two: ‘When I feel like that, I just put on some make-up. Honestly, it’s brilliant, the wife bought me some of that Touchy Clat stuff by that French bloke, he does a men’sversion now.’
Just two men, discussing YSL Touche Éclat over a beer.
Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Politics and Feminism
9 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted November 15, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    I think we should all take Fiona's post as a call to action! Beautifully written, with a he'll of a point. I am guilty of saying I am nonjudgmental but acting differently- recently with one of my best friends on a sensitive man topic, and luckily I realised what I was doing before she did. The role of a friend is to be honest, yes, but honesty has to be tempered with understanding. If we want meangingful friendships we have to use Fiona's fab post as inspiration- thank you!!!

    PS I once used an awful lot of concealer on one of our soon to be groomsmen- can't say it wasn't the most fun ever!!

  2. Posted November 15, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Fee, this is so true. When I first read this, I was well up on the moral highground; "I never do that. Where's the solidarity?" But I DO. Arrgh, I do. I can remember specific indicdents when I have done it, and worse, some took place this year!

    I am really not proud of admitting that.

    I think it stems from jealousy, inadequacy, all those lovely feelings. But that doesn't justify it. Let's stamp it out, starting now…when we do it OR when we hear it. We are better than this, non?

  3. Posted November 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Great post!

    Perhaps this goes more to the difference between men and women – I've heard male chums poke each other in the beer gut and tell them that they're getting a little podgy rather than the more underhand female approach that is seen so often.

    I think a lot of conversations like this stem from insecurity and that's not nice, whether you're the one suffering from the need to belittle someone to make yourself feel better or bearing the brunt of those comments.

    Nevertheless, and whatever the reasons for it, this is a lovely reminder of the importance of being a good egg. We should all be nice to, and about, our chums. After all, we'd be pretty rubbish without them.

  4. Posted November 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Being a nurse and thus mostly working in a very much female dominated workplace..its gets nasty!

    Luckily my team are super girls and are there for each other and help each other out all the time.

    But girls on other areas at work…they can be sat in a group and stare at you while you walk towards them and totally blank you as if you don't exist! And this is in a professional workplace! It has more to do with them not wanting to do any work rather than bitching about me personally but still…we are all together in this people!!

    I also resent that because I wear make up and do my hair to work that I am less deserving of respect than the girl who comes in straight out of bed. I work hard…I just get up a bit earlier because it makes ME feel better to look good whilst doing my job! Does that make me a bad person? I don't really care…I am awesome at my job so there!

    I love this post, women can womens worst enemies at times…and throw women getting married who work together into the mix…competition galore (this is from one of my friends, my workplace I repeat is actually fab)! For the same happy day everyone wants…it becomes a battlefield of whose band is dearest or whose ring is sparkliest (maybe not but along those pathetic lines). I keep my head down about our wedding because I don't really want to embark on that one.

    I am going to also from today start a pact, not to be less bitchy cos I am not really a bitchy person, but to not tolerate people around me being bitchy and negative about our fellow women! We gots to stick together! Amen!

  5. Posted November 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Alex, you're so right on the 'women in the workplace' front…I work in a very female environment too and the out-and-out aggressive bitching ASTOUNDS me sometimes.

    On the rare (and sometimes overwhelming) occasions that a *man* wanders into our department, it's never long before they are in possession of a thoroughly bemused expression at the ridiculous lengths us lot will go to avoid having to be (shock horror) honest with one another, to each other's faces.

    For the most part I stay well out of it. Nothing to do with me, thanking you kindly. Except, I'm as big a part of the problem by doing nothing as the actual witches…so I vow, from now on, to step in. To try to bring back some sort of unity whenever I see or hear a ridiculous lack of feminism going on.

    Fee-I salute you. This is the perfect start to Being a Woman week, thank you so much.


  6. Posted November 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Great post. I know I have been guilty of this. As Anna says, it's not nice to admit but to change it we have to acknowledge that we need to change!

    I've had a lot of issues with my weight and I know I look at women sometimes and feel happier if I think I'm slimmer than them. I wouldn't ever vocalise this, but even thinking it diminishes me, my self esteem and the esteem in which I hold other women, because it implies that my worth and theirs are bound up in weight and appearance, which is nonsense.

    So I too resolve to stop. Women should support one another through their insecurities, not push each other down to get up.

    K x

    PS: TOTALLY want Brucey on the steel drums at my wedding now!

  7. Posted November 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    How timely! Just yesterday, I found myself being judgmental about a female acquaintance and there really wasn't any need for it since the way she lives he life has almost zero impact on my own!

    My feelings are that the issues behind female 'bitchiness' are so complex, it's hard not fall foul of it even with the best of intentions. The media showers us both with images of perfect women and gleeful bitchiness when those same celebs put on a pound or two.

    As a little bit of an an experiment (sorry, I'm a geek), I've avoided watching any X Factor or reading anything about it in the mainstream media (not too hard since I'm in the US right now). Instead I concentrated on what my friends were saying about it on facebook and twitter.

    So much of it concerned the appearance of Kitty that I was appalled. I hadn't really stopped to consider that being a better woman means being a better friend to all women but it probably does, and is something I'm going to try and work harder at!

  8. Posted November 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Catherine – similar thing with Fatima on IACGMOOH (honest guv, I don't watch all of this shite). People slagging her off because of her appearance – nothing said about the fact she's an incredible athlete, very strong emotionally and an absolute trooper.

    Poor attitudes from so many.

    Right, I'm going to be much nicer from now on. In fact, I'm going to start right now by flirting with the old ladies on the checkout when I hit the supermarket.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted November 16, 2011 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    I hate to say this but my MiL is one of these women. She is 100% OBSESSED with the way women look/are dressed etc. She does it to me a lot which was very weird for me when my husband and I first met because I was not used to someone constantly making comments assessing my weight, my looks or my mode of dress.
    It fascinates and disgusts me all at the same time, and my husband (sensing how uncomfortable it made me) very kindly asked her to stop, she hasn't, but it was nice to know he knows me so well!

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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