Are Women Bitches?

For every book published about the importance of female friendship, there are about 10 on how horribly women treat each other. Cliquey. Mean Girls. Judgmental. Tormentors.

A lot of these books are very good and raise important truths about relationships. Kelly Valen’s The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of  Female Friendships is especially noteworthy. Valen writes, “a staggering 88% of the more than 3000 women I’ve heard from think a distinct undercurrent of negativity, competition, and meanness plagues our gender, in many cases the very same women singing the praises of Girl Power, feminism, and female friendship in their lives.”

Once upon a time, I talked a lot about how girls can be obnoxious and catty. I was the first to announce how I couldn’t stand doing things in packs of women. It always seemed impossible to make even the smallest collective decision, and there were always people snapping at each other or being defensive. There was always, always, drama.

I’m not sure what changed. Age, maybe. Or perhaps the lack of close local friendships opened my eyes to how much I valued those relationships, difficult or not. Probably both. But whatever once bothered me doesn’t anymore.

That said, when you’re on the outside, a group of women can be intimidating.  Early in my search, I went out with two girls who were already BFFs, and I definitely felt like a sad sack trying to get in with the cool girls. I’m quite sure they hopped in the car on the ride home and talked about how strange the whole evening was. Or, even, how strange I was. The whole night felt like two against one. I shudder at the memory.

Overall, though, I found that if a woman seems unapproachable it’s usually because she doesn’t want to come off like she’s lonely. We’re supposed to already have friends, so we walk around like we need no one. When I was willing to be the one to say it out loud–”I’m looking for new friends”–suddenly the walls came down.

Also, when a group of women get together, they can be intimidating. It’s tough to be an outsider approaching a gaggle of ladies asking for friendship. The “women are bitchy” mantra probably comes largely from cliques of women who seem closed off to outsiders, whether or not they actually are.

My advice to those who are on the friend search but are scared of mean girls: Start with one person at a time, don’t try to infiltrate a clique. Once you’ve made some friends, they’ll bring you into the fold, and you’ll feel much more welcome than if you try and barge in solo.

What do you think? Are women bitchy? Intimidating? Is that why it’s hard to make friends? Or have we all just gotten a bad rap?

Chicago friends! I’ll be reading and signing books this Sunday, 2/26, at Haymarket Pub & Brewery at 6 PM. I’d love to see you there!

 

 

11 Comments

Filed under The Search

11 responses to “Are Women Bitches?

  1. Ann

    I went to my first condo association annual meeting in Chicago last month. You may recall from your Facebook page, that I posted that we are moving from Richmond, VA to Chicago, and I loved your book.) My husband and I are 54 years young, but I was amazed at the snarkiness and bitchiness of MEN in their thirties at the meeting. The young wives and female partners were angelic compared to the guys! I told my husband that we are far more patient, accommodating, and discretionary with our words in our “old” age.

  2. Kate

    My perception of women being bitchy and/or intimidating has changed with age. I’m 31 now, and I’ve realized that what I crave when I hang out with a group of females (whether they are acquaintances or close friends) is the feeling of being comfortable and accepted within the group. I don’t intentionally exclude outsiders, but when a certain dynamic has been established and I feel at ease with it, it can be jarring to disrupt it. If I view other groups of women and their cliques in the same way—as a bunch of girls just trying to have fun or relax together—I become more understanding of why they might not be so accepting of a newcomer. A new friend changes the group dynamic. Maybe that change is positive, but it’s probably also a little unsettling (at first, anyway) for some people. That being said, there are some groups of women who seem to be intentionally mean or cool. In your book, I’m reminded of Sloane from your yoga class. I’ve been Sloaned before, and it’s such a strange feeling when that happens. I tend to put those women in the “bitchy” category because it seems like they’re intentionally ignoring me/blocking me out. Maybe they aren’t, but their behavior sends the message that they are. I think your advice to develop friendships one-on-one instead of going for the whole group makes a lot of sense. If the group sees that one person in their clique is comfortable with you, they’ll most likely be more accepting of your presence instead of threatened by it.

  3. Tiki

    I’m sure everyone is familiar with the “Queen Bee” idea, which I think is the culprit in these situations. There’s always the one woman who sort of runs the group – if you come in with a strong personality (which I have), it makes her uncomfortable. And when she thinks she’s in jeopardy of losing control of her group, planning the outings, organizing the parties, etc. it can get ugly. Also, we’re all so programmed to be “strong” and “independent” women, that showing any sign of hurt feelings is interpreted as weakness. Showing vulnerable emotions, especially to a friend who hurts us, doesn’t feel like an option as an adult.

  4. I think your tip to try and make friends with one woman at a time instead of trying to infiltrate a clique is invaluable. Groups of women already have their own way of relating to each other that often is very dependant on having just that mix of personalities. We’ve all been there, where you go out and have one person along who’s not usually there and the whole night just feels…off. Not bad, just not the fun you usually have. I find that if you make friends with one person who has other groups of girlfriends, if they think you’ll fit in they’ll start to include you in those kinds of get-togethers. I sure do. I have lots of one-on-one friends, friends I met and hang out with often, usually one-on-one. If we’re having a casual get together, girls or mixed genders, I’ll often include them once I’ve gotten to know them and see what sort of people they mesh with. It not to be exclusive or keep some people out, it’s to make sure everyone has the best time, new friends included. After all, not one likes being THAT girl in a group.

  5. Groups are absolutely TERRIFYING!!! Groups of ladies are even worse. Esp. if you are not one of them, and even more so if they don’t want you to be part of them. I am one of those people like you that wants to make BFFs and I am always on the search for them. I have been quite discouraged when it doesn’t work out. And it is even more discouraging when you live in a small community and there aren’t really that many options for friendships. I won’t give up, don’t get me wrong, but haven’t figured the lady friend thing out yet. Ladies don’t want you to be too ugly, too pretty, too accomplished, too forward, too shy, too anything…or you won’t fit in. Now I know behind all of that there are people who are afraid just like me but I just wonder when someone will be willing to step out and change that. I have tried SO hard all of my life, but sometimes I think maybe it’s too hard!!

    • dorkista

      I agree. I missed the clique-forming at the beginning of grad school. And now, the couple times that I do hang out with a group (and not in a social setting, a school one), I end up just sitting there because I have no idea what/who they’re talking about.

      • Minjujube

        I’m really glad to have found this site and this specific comment. Being a little older and experienced in many things than some of my straight out of college grad school colleagues, I find that I have to struggle to understand those same folks who are in one huge female-dominated clique. Now, I can objectively see those other colleagues who don’t hang in this clique and realize that they’re in the same boat as I am. I am also coming to accept my own introverted nature and that I can live happily without having a bff in my grad program.

        • Minjujube

          Oh and dorkista, I’m in the same boat with school events. Thankfully, I can do things like make sketches which is a great conversation starter for others. I also put a lot of effort into helping out with events and making observations.

  6. I remember way back in junior high, feeling lonely and like I needed to make friends. I was terrified almost to the point of heart attack of the idea of approaching a group, but when I timidly approached one girl who introduce me to the rest, she was warm and kind amd obliging. I think “pack mentality” does affect how women act together, and age may soften this a bit. I’m not sure. It’s definitely not as intense as I remember it in high school or junior high.

  7. Christina

    My experience with groups of women is that there is usually always a Queen Bee or a woman with poor social skills who likes to hog the conversation by interupting others, laughing/talking loudly, cracking inappropriate jokes at inappropriate times, bragging, etc.

    The only groups that have ever interested me have been ones associated with a hobby or a topic that interests me… and with those I find mixed groups (containing both males and females) to be the most welcoming to newcomers.

    Also, I am a big time introvert, so one-on- one friendship is really the only way I like to roll.

  8. I agree that age makes this behavior less common.. also I read an interview of Beyonce once who said she didn’t trust women who said they don’t like being friends with women, and I read that and totally agreed. My boss has a 16 year old daughter who started only hanging out with guys and telling her mom that girls are too much drama and she would rather hang out with guys… We thought that one day – her wedding for instance when she is looking for bridesmaids, or when she is much older – she’ll look back and be happy she kept up relationships with her girlfriends.

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