Why women see other women as rivals?
deccan chronicle| Apsara Reddy
We are taught to compete and compare, eventually cataloguing friends as competitors. How do men and women treat the rat race?
Girls are taught, both directly and indirectly, that other women are competition.'
Often, those who start off as besties at school or college level, catalogue each other as competitors as their relationship progresses. As we are raised, families and even institutions teach us to compare and compete. Parents tell us,"Your friend got a higher grade than you," in the hope that you will study hard, just so you can beat that best friend.
And these comparisons don’t end with academics. Conversations around everything from skin colour to lavish birthday take-home presents, push children to play the one-upmanship game. And this pertains more to girls than boys.
As a result, it’s hardly surprising that women look at each other as rivals in the spaces they occupy in adult life. Girls are taught, both directly and indirectly, that other women are ‘competition.’ The system is designed in such a way too, that men run a different race, and women turn into each other’s competition — be it for promotions in the corporate world, reservations at important committees, political seat allocation or even school admissions. Women are constantly competing against one another to find their place at the table.
Men do compete too but there’s a sense of brotherhood that seaps in when the odds are about gender. They’d much rather prefer a man ascend than a woman whose posing to be a threat. Dr. Surakshit Battina, of Indigo Women’s Centre, says, "Men are used to other men study more or get senior jobs. When women come in with higher qualifications or aspire for a man’s seat, there’s a tendency for men to unite."
Marketing professional Abirami Dusshyanth, says, "As women, when we enter a workspace or any competitive environment, we look for others who are similar to us. And quickly see them as competition. We don’t seem to look at the men as competition because, often, the roles kept aside for women have an unsaid quota system that ticks the HR requirements. We see one, maybe two women break that norm in the rat race."
Agreeing with Abirami, Sowmya Shankar, a counsellor, says, "The same is true in our romantic lives. Girls learn that being attractive to men is the epitome of achievement and identity by the time they reach marriageable age, thereby making other women their competitors in this game of love." She adds, "When a man strays, it’s always the woman involved who gets the blame, the men are often taken back and forgiven while the other woman’s name remains tarnished."
Meena Chabbria, Assistant VP, PVR Cinemas, says, "For decades women have been socially programmed to compare their grades, their clothes, their handbags, their homes, their hair and their bodies. We have set in motion a deep-rooted system of women finding their self-esteem by putting another down. Instead of drawing inspiration from others, we have been taught to cover up our own flaws by pointing fingers."
But on the brighter side, Abirami says, "An increasing number of women are realising that patriarchal set-ups are far more dangerous than a fair-skinned colleague or an ambitious best friend."
By pitting women against one another, men have always walked away with the lion’s share. It is time that women shed their fear of each other and stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Romantic love is not the pinnacle of glory or being ‘settled’. Sisterhoods are the foundation of who we are as women. There is a force in women who stand together.