A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be present at the annual Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards (one of the many perks of my job). Despite the title of the event, it hadn’t really struck me beforehand that this was a real celebration of women (perhaps because my involvement in the event beforehand was concentrated on a largely male client guest list). So when Nicole Kidman, Sienna Miller, Ruth Wilson et al all accepted their awards with speeches centred on inspiring women and female empowerment, it made me sit up, stop ogling Dominic West, and listen a bit harder. And there was a point in Kate Winslet’s speech that really struck a chord with me:
‘As women, let’s all be kinder to one another’
Kindness. As a concept it’s not so hard to grasp, but reality makes it a far more fleeting thing. I will admit that I’m occasionally prone to bitching about other girls behind their backs, and I know I’m far from being the only one who does it. Do I feel better at the time? Sometimes. Do I feel like a shitty person afterwards? Always. Working in a predominantly female environment is an incredibly inspiring thing (we even have a woman as a CEO, which shouldn’t be a rare thing but it is), however it can also be tense and toxic. When senior female figures are throwing their weight around, there is a tendency to avoid facing the problem head-on, but moan and whinge and bitch in quiet corners with similarly belittled colleagues. Someone on a different team from me has the right attitude: ‘kill with kindness’. After all, lashing out and snappy comebacks will only result in more problems further down the line.
And what of our behaviour to girls we don’t even know? Surely we should have every reason to be kind to strangers. After all, if you don’t know them, why should there be any reason to act against them? But recent events have shown that this isn’t the case. About a month ago, I was on a second date with a guy, and we were at a bar in Soho. Two girls walked past us on their way out, and one of them pushed a receipt with a note written on it into my date’s hand, saying ‘sorry I think you dropped this’, before exiting the bar. Fortunately the guy in question had the good grace to show me the note, which read:
‘It looks like your [sic] on a really boring first date. My friend thinks your [sic] really hot and you’d have way more fun with her. Here’s her number 0776……’
Yeah, what a bitch. I know that the dating game is a brutal one, but trying to poach another girl’s date while it’s actually happening? Well, that’s a new low as far as I’m concerned.
The more I look, the more I see examples of women being unkind to other women. Twitter feuds between female celebrities, girls sleeping with other girls’ boyfriends, slut shaming, body shaming, calculated attacks on another woman’s reputation… Whatever happened to Girl Code and female solidarity??
The term ‘feminism’ has had a revival in recent years, helped along by films such as Suffragette and publications like ELLE and Stylist. As a result, gender equality (or more accurately, inequality) has had more devoted column inches in the last few months. There is still a gender pay gap, women are still losing their jobs because they decide to take maternity leave, and there is still a shocking amount of workplace sexual harassment cases being filed every year. All of this makes me think: as women, we should be fighting together, not against one another. In our daily lives, we have to contend with enough everyday sexism and general patriarchy awfulness that we really shouldn’t feel the need to turn against our fellow females as well.
Now I know that very few of us are saints, and being consistently kind and nice and forgiving is hard for even the most good-natured women out there. But if you think about the amount of time and energy we’ve all given to bitching and negativity, imagine what we could all achieve if that was converted into something productive, creative and positive.
I’ve always prided myself on being honest and forthright, but it occurs to me that this isn’t always a good thing., especially when it comes to expressing negative opinions about other women. I’m not one for false niceties, so the phrase ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all’ seems incredibly relevant at the moment. I will not be false, but neither will I be unkind.
Will 2016 be the year of the non-bitch? Only time will tell.