A House Divided: Are Women Really Their Own Worst Enemy?

I just read an article by Erica Ehm, who was the very first V-Jay for Much Music – for my American readers Much Music is the Canadian version of MTV.

In writing about her early years with the music channel, she talked about receiving hate mail. While I found it difficult to understand why a host on a music video channel would elicit such a reaction from the public in the first place, it was the fact that these letters came from other young women that surprised me the most.

The letters, which usually suggested that the only reason she got the job was because her Daddy owned the station or that she had slept with the boss – neither of which was true, also included barbs telling her how “stupid, ugly and useless she was.”

While the “ugly behavior” as Ehm put it, “forced her to come to terms with her own imperfections”, one might reasonably dismiss the poison pen letters as being little more than the jealous rantings of immature girls. At least one would think.

Recently returning from of photo session for a Dove commercial on age and beauty, Ehm decided to check the link to an online forum in an e-mail she had received. The 30 years since her V-Jay days melted away as she put it, when she began reading the following comments:

Commenter 1: I never liked Erica Ehm…she got the job because daddy was theboss…she knew 0 about music…I once applied to be one of their bloggers. Guess what? They hired one of her friends. colour me surprise.

Commenter 2: Yup, rumour is she’s related to (or slept with) Moses Znaimer who owned Much Music.

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These were not young women or girls writing, but mature older women – many who now likely have teen-aged daughters that watch Much Music. It seems that time does little to dull the blade of jealousy and resentment.

As a result, I could not help but wonder if this was an exception or if women are generally this mean to one another?

The point of my raising this question is not to suggest that men treat other men better than women treat other women – or make this into a debate suggesting that men are somehow more supportive towards one another. Let’s face it, regardless of gender this kind of behavior is unacceptable.

However, I have frequently been told by women in the business world, that they find it harder to deal with other women in the workplace than they do men? Erica Ehm’s experiences would seem to support this. As would a July 7th, 2014 Psychology Today article titled “Women Helping Women in the Workplace – or Not?“.

According to the article – which references Germaine Greer’s worry about the potential damage caused by “women’s own misogyny” against each other – there are many reasons for this self-inflicted gender intolerance that extend well beyond the petty jealousy experienced by Ehm.

To start, one of the reasons offered as to why women do not support one another is to avoid a “marginalized status in the workplace.” In other words, women will distance themselves from other women because they view them as being part of a marginalized group.

It was also suggested that in situations where women are outnumbered by men, they are less likely to support one another. My recent post on Joey’s unanimous eviction on Big Brother for attempting to align the women of the house against the men, would also seem to support this assertion.

The Psychology Today article’s authors – all women by the way – also talked about the “queen bee” effect, in which women “achieve career success by distancing themselves from other women.”

Based on the above, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that at least in the business world women, and not men, are their own worst enemy.

This means that if women hope to finally attain a level of success that is commensurate with their true capabilities, they will have to find a way to work with, rather than against, each other.

Otherwise, you know what they say about a house divided . . .

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