Wednesday 29 January 2020

Lorraine Courtney: Obsessive competition is killing the sisterhood

Lorraine Courtney

Lorraine Courtney

Two women meet up. Cue air kisses, hugs and flowing conversation – but what are they thinking? Believe it or not, most women will have, in a matter of seconds, sized up the other woman, also known as their "competition", and compared themselves to that woman.

Half of the 2,000 women polled by online retailer Swimwear 365 said they "enjoy" comparing themselves to female colleagues, friends or women they pass in the street.

One-third said that they would be more impressed by a female with a toned physique than a man and 42pc said every woman was something to compare themselves to and that they dress to impress other women.

The poll found 80pc of the women surveyed spend their time on the beach checking out the competition.

Swimwear is first to catch a woman's eye, followed by hairstyle and specifically whether roots are showing. Weight, tans and cleavage are also high up on the scrutiny list.

From checking out their clothes to whether or not they're wearing a wedding ring, women are serial offenders when it comes to sussing out our peers. Rather than sneaking a look at the opposite sex, women are far more likely to be weighing up their competition from 40 paces.

This happens every day between women in workplaces, at the gym, on the school run and at the supermarket. You can sense it when you walk into a room. You can feel other women comparing themselves to you, measuring themselves up. You can feel women targeting other women as threats.

Scientists say there is what they call an evolutionary mechanism going on: how women are biologically programmed to measure themselves against other females and then to act on what they observe so as to bag themselves the best mate.

This demands that we measure our skin, our hair, our weight, our wardrobes, our careers, our talents, our intellects, our qualities and our whole lives with those of other women.

We are perfectly capable of empathy and support but for all our attempts to try and play nicely with each other, we'll step over another woman in a second for the chance to snare a man. It is just how it is.

There is nothing worse than feeling the sting of a jealous glance from a total stranger or indeed detecting a lukewarm compliment from a jealous friend. It's as if one woman's success, or beauty, becomes a direct threat to the potential of another.

Can any of us claim to be immune to this uncomfortable phenomenon? I don't think so. If we aren't the one doing the comparing, then we are the one against whom other women measure themselves.

Earlier this year Samantha Brick wrote a now notorious article in the 'Daily Mail' about how women hate beautiful women. Her proof of this is her own firsthand experience.

"There are downsides to being pretty – the main one being that other women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks," she wrote. The article went viral with people desperate to put her back in her box via the Twitter machine and the postings weren't all polite either.

One particularly vicious commentator wrote, "No, love, (women) don't hate you because you are beautiful (which you aren't, really). They hate you because you are a smug, self-satisfied, deluded, vacuous idiot."

So a woman liked what she saw in the mirror and dared to say so. How outrageous.

Clearly it's a no-win situation for women. Resist societal pressures to look your best and other women will view you as a frumpy, fat mess. Give in to the pressure and it's viewed as an act of betrayal or weakness. Have we become so vigilant about how we look in that we've lost sight of the fact that us women are all in this together? It's high time to stop comparing, competing and then devaluing other women in order to boost our own shaky sense of self.

Irish Independent

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