This will be a story for all women. Don’t feel offended by any of my opinions which I’m going to present in here, but some of the information provided will also be scientific facts or stories told by different women. I believe than there are 3 harmful things for a woman in this world: man, another woman, and the woman herself. Today I will focus on the problem of other women. We all know that some men are misogynistic, chauvinistic etc., but have you ever thought about how women are treating each other?
I’ll tell you a few things about myself so you can better understand why I’m writing about this subject. I was born in an eastern European family where father always had the last word. My mother never made any decisions, which made me think that we always need to be soft and nice to everyone, and in this sense, I’m similar to my mother – I never start arguments, I don’t like confrontations, I prefer to solve problems rather than making them. I remember exactly every friendship with other girls starting from kindergarten until university. Some of them were longer some were shorter and two lasts till today. Every time one of my friendships finished, I was blaming myself – that I’m not funny enough, that I’m not interesting enough – a typical feature of a people pleaser – finally now I know it was not always my fault. My first kindergarten friendship finished after my ‘friend’ stole my barbie doll because she thought I can’t see how she took it out my bag. My long primary – high school friendship finished after I’ve been severely bullied for a few years, but because our mothers were friends I thought I need to make it work. Rest of friendships died less dramatically – I left to study in another country and nobody thought it’s worth to actually keep in touch with me. I have found a pattern in the relations with 2 women who are still with me until this day – my mother and high school friend – they are least jealous people I know, they are genuinely happy when I’m doing good, rest of women were not.
Even though I’m not 30 years old yet, I had over 10 jobs. I had to leave some of them because of moving or it just wasn’t a match, but I remember exactly when women-to-women conflict made me leave some of them. So, the story begins… Before I left for university, I was looking for holiday work so I can get some money to cover the costs of moving abroad. I got an interview at the local, quite fancy restaurant for a cook’s assistant position, and I mentioned that I need this work just for 2 months. The restaurant was owned by 2 women – mother and daughter. I got hired. Work was tough, it was summer, so I had to work 10h long shifts in almost 40◦C. But I enjoyed the cooking bit. The problem started when I was working with a ‘senior’ cook. It was a girl who was maybe 4 years older than me. She was working and studying at the same time. In the beginning, she was just ignoring me, but with time when I told her that leaving the country soon and that I’m going to study there, something changed. On every occasion, she tried to tell me off, and when there were other people around, she was gossiping about me (knowing I’m listing) the most awful things; that I’m lazy, I can’t cook, I can’t wash dishes (!) etc. It was mentally tiring. Every time I was going to work I was crying and praying that she’s not on the shift, which happened rather rarely. Every time I had a shift with somebody else it was a quite nice time, I learnt a lot about cooking and even made good friends with waitresses in the same restaurant. But enough was enough, I decided I need to do something, so I talked to the owners. I said that I’m being bullied, and I can’t work like this. I expected so positive feedback, I expected them to do something, but first of all, they told me that I lied to them – they wanted somebody to work for them permanently, not only for 2 months – and second of all – a woman who bullied me was ‘keeping up the standard of the kitchen’. It was just word against a word, I couldn’t do anything. I said that I’m leaving – the owner told me that if I leave now she won’t pay me for a month of my work (we didn’t sign the contract and back then, I didn’t know I have more rights then her in this matter, because she was hiring me illegally). She said to stay one more day and she’ll pay me half of this what she owes me. I was stupid enough to agree to that. Now, I would leave the second she said I lied. So that’s how it finished for me, but it’s not the end of a story for women working in this restaurant. While I was working in there she was also hiring women who had kids and no education, so they couldn’t say no to anything she asked them to do. They were earning below the living wage working 50 to 60 hours a week. I wouldn’t talk about it if not something I found out about the owner after I left this place. Can you remember that it was a mother and daughter’s business? They were equals in it, this means they were both deciding who gets hired and how much do they get paid; the daughter got a doctorate from social sciences and now she’s an active member of academia in feminist subjects, she works for feminist organisations and she publishes scientific papers on the role of feminism in the society. The same women who let underpaying and overworking of the staff, the same women who crush young women (I know I wasn’t the only one), the same woman who uses people just because they can be used.
That was my story and my perspective of things. There were few other jobs which I decided to leave because of terrible gossiping, not necessarily aimed at me; I hate this kind of environment and I try to avoid this kind of people at all cost. I can’t say that all female bosses are bad, but some of them are bad. While I was experiencing this kind of treatment, deep down I was always blaming myself; I thought I just can’t fit in. Now, I know I’m not the only one who was badly mistreated by other women. This kind of behaviour may be seen in almost every work environment, and everywhere is equally bad. Horizontal hostility is the term used by feminists since the 1970s to describe infighting, or factionalism within the women’s movement (White and Langer, 1999). But it’s not only limited to movements like suffragettes, but it can also be observed in all fields of our lives. We can read about it in Kathleen Bartholomew’s book “Ending Nurse-to-Nurse Hostility Why Nurses Eat Their Young and Each Other?” While working as a nurse it is almost certain that you’ll work in the only-women team, and this can bring up horizontal hostility issue to a light. In her book she says:
“On an international level, one in three nurses plans to leave her position because of horizontal hostility (McMillan 1995). In 1996, a survey was conducted of more than 1,100 employees of a National Health Service Community Trust in England, which included 396 nurses. The bullied staff reported lower job satisfaction, higher job stress, greater depression and anxiety, and greater intent to leave their job. The bully was superior in 54% of cases, a peer in 34%, and a subordinate 12% of the time.”
When I read that I was shocked, for my whole life I believed that I was the only one who was the victim of others’ women abuse. Well, clearly not.
In my opinion, there’s no solution to this kind of situation. The whole society would have to change its habits so women don’t go against each other. Since early childhood, we should implement in our daughters that the other girls and women are their allies, not enemies. Everything starts from the upbringing, if it’s not fixed then, the circle will go on and on, and on…