I could teach a course on how to survive being hated. Especially being hated by other women. Believe me when I say that I’ve been known to walk into a room and make otherwise nice, gentle, sainted Christian women foam at the mouth and rave like maniacs at the thought of my sucking up the same air as them. You step out the box as a woman, and you step on a lot of toes.
Surviving being hated by women is a topic I know lots about, but it’s one I rarely talk about – in public. I refuse to do so. I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to play into the stereotype about women. I don’t whine about not being liked. It’s the price you pay for being you instead of who folks want you to be. Nor do I tattle about what folks are saying about me. Don’t let ‘em see you cry.
From time to time when I have to differ publicly with another woman, I catch myself doing a lot of soul searching beforehand. What’s my motivation? Do I really disagree with her position that much, or is there something else behind my wish to annihilate her from the earth? Am I operating out of some self-hatred and prejudices I secretly harbor toward my own sex? How often have I overlooked or kept quiet when a man said or did the very same thing? Do I hold women to a higher standard of accountability? Of course, no one has the time to go around asking themselves these questions once the battle lines get drawn. Shoot first, and then ask questions. But I ask the questions. Well, at least I try to before shooting.
Despite some pretty hair raising yelling matches I’ve been in with other women, here are some shibboleths, nevertheless, you’ll never hear come out of my mouth.
Women are catty.
Women are their own worst enemies.
Women make the worst bosses.
I’d cut out my tongue before I’d say any such nonsense. Based on the fights I’ve been in over the years, I haven’t seen much difference between the way men fight and the way women fight. It’s dirty, nasty, unpleasant business, anyway you cut it.
But that’s fighting. Being hated is different. That takes some getting used to. Especially when the folks who hate you look like you. You’ve got to be real comfortable in your own skin to survive the animosity your strength evokes in people you’d hope would like you.
Of course, just because a woman disagrees with you doesn’t mean she hates you. In fact, most women recoil at the suggestion that they are capable of hate. But don’t be deceived. An irrational attack is an irrational attack.
My advice to younger women who step outside the box is to be prepared to be vilified. Better yet, brace yourself for the stupid, irrational, and, yes, even hurtful things people will say to and about you. It helps to believe so fervently, religiously, insanely in what you’re doing that you forget you’re supposed to be intimidated.
It also helps to read lots of biographies. I read every biography I can get my hands onto. I especially love biographies about women. Women who take the script life hands them, twist and contort themselves for a while trying to conform to the script, but wind up in the end tearing up the script and rewriting their own. Rahab. The Queen of Sheba. Huldah. Mary Magdalene. Rebecca Jackson Cox. Ida Wells Barnett. Eleanor Roosevelt. Ella Baker. Nina Simone. Carolyn Heilbrun. Audre Lorde. “Women who run with wolves,” is how Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes them. She who listens to her own inner voice will get bitten. But you’ll have to catch her first. Running in Pradas.