Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When women harm women

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 17 March 2012)

“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” So said Madeleine Albright, and I agree wholeheartedly. A friend sent this quote to me recently at the suggestion of another friend. These are both women who value their sisters and care deeply about the plight of women in Guyana.

On the other hand, I have seen some horrid behaviour from women toward other women. To say such behaviour is disconcerting is an understatement. I have even had many men bring this type of conduct to my attention – some thinking it funny or ironic and others finding it worrisome.

If there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women, what kind of karmic reckoning awaits those women who wilfully harm other women?

It is bad enough that women are forced to live under the constant weight of male dominance, which is comprised of physical, mental and verbal abuse as well as an overarching financial jurisdiction, incessant sexual harassment, rape and an encompassing control over the lives of women (just to name a few).

Yet to have women resort to the very same behaviour – whether in deference or acceptance of the same patriarchal rule that oppresses them or because of some inner maliciousness – is the epitome of immorality. There are very few things I find as revolting as a woman who intentionally harms another woman.

For one woman to harm another woman, there is a depth of female empathy that must be completely disavowed. In other words, to some degree or another, a woman always knows the suffering of other women and must mock that suffering (and thus her own suffering as well) in order to inflict intentional harm on her sister.

The victimisation of women by someone of their own gender too often exhibits the same contempt and brutality seen by men towards women. For example, here is a statement made by a woman about other women that could have easily come from a man, “Sluts should be called, Humpty Dumpty. First they get humped & then they get dumped. Lolzzz.”

There is no identification with other women in this statement. There is no sympathy for the other women. In this statement, one woman used the word “slut” to denigrate other women. This is just so sad that it hurts my heart.

The word “slut” is a term men use against women to control their sexual habits by making them feel guilty for performing a biologically natural function. Yet we all know that it is socially acceptable for men to have sex with as many women as they want and not subsequently receive any such denigrating label.

Therefore, when this particular woman used that term against her own gender, she openly curtsied to the patriarchal system that has oppressed her, her mother and her mother’s mothers for hundreds of generations. And that same system, left unchallenged, will oppress this woman’s daughter and her daughter’s daughters for generations to come. It is masochistic and self-flagellating for women to treat other women the way some men treat women.

Allow me to expound on this notion of feminine masochism for a bit. Here is how Webster defines the word masochism – “1 a : a tendency to direct aggressive or destructive impulses against one’s own ego in order to reduce the anxiety attendant on anticipated inevitable punishment or to gain positive gratification through identification with a loved one who was formerly a source of pain b : a tendency to assume a role of submissiveness and apparently to enjoy humiliation as the outcome of feelings of worthlessness c : a tendency to gain or to increase sexual gratification through the acceptance of physical abuse or humiliation d : a tendency to take pleasure in physical or mental suffering inflicted on one by oneself or by another or in the practice of extreme self-denial or self-punishment : a taste for suffering.

The definition for self-flagellation is very simple: “extreme criticism of oneself.” There is no doubt about it; women who harm women are inflicting that harm upon themselves. Every time a woman’s actions against another woman conform to the patriarchal system of oppression against women, she is giving that system even more control over her own life.

Likewise, every time a woman beds a man who is in a relationship with another woman, great harm is done to the Sisterhood on so many levels and both women in the situation are yet again crushed under the system that says that it is acceptable for the man to behave as such, yet one woman in this situation will be labelled a slut and it will be said the other must not be doing everything right to please her man or he would not be looking outside of the relationship.

My feelings on this matter are not about sexual morality as I believe single women should be able to have as much safe sex as they desire. My objection is about both women in a “sweet woman” situation being lowered to such desperate positions – one to that of a sex object and the other to that of a fool. Why would one woman ever want to put another woman in a position to look like a fool? Haven’t we been played for fools for far too long already?

For that matter, why would any woman want to be reduced to the position of a sex object? If you are a woman and you find it flattering to be considered as nothing more than a sex object, then you have succumbed to the expectations of the oppressive patriarchal system.

Women are far, far more than just a vessel for sex and to limit yourself to this lowly position robs you and the world of all of the feminine potential you have inside.

Wake up, sisters! Wake up and realise that if we are ever to see the full potential of the world’s females, we must stop treating other women the way men treat them. We must see each other with the knowledge that other women around us carry within them the same feminine power as we do – a power can change the world for the better – and we must do whatever it takes to nurture and cultivate that power.

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