One Woman Is Bad, But Women Are Awful

My head is being done in at the moment by the juxtaposition of these two posts at Jezebel: Are All Female Friends Really Frenemies? and Woman Confronts Husband's Mistresses: Modern Closure, or Old-School Drama?

The first is a book review of novelist Lucinda Rosenfeld's I'm So Happy for You, which is about a woman whose best friendship, such as it is, is centered around her obsessive jealousy of the friend. Anna, who reviews the book, says it "makes female friendships seem like a supremely unpleasant, never-ending status game" and notes: "Rosenfeld paints the relationship between Wendy and Daphne—and indeed, between Wendy and all of her girlfriends—as so negative and competitive that you wonder why any of these people spend time together." She's left wondering if "Rosenfeld's point is that female friendship is inherently toxic."

The second is a piece about writer Julie Metz, who discovered after her husband's death that he had had affairs with five other women, and decided to track them down and confront them, then wrote a book about it: Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal. Notes Sadie at Jezebel:
Now, normally, we wonder, what about the husband? He's the one who had five known affairs, did so with your best friend, and seems to have been an asshole to boot? Of course, because he's dead, she "couldn't ask him." But what's interesting is, even when the husband is very much on the scene, this is how the thinking often goes: the Other Woman gets blamed. It becomes about an act of betrayal of female solidarity, a far worse crime than a man's peccadilloes. Ms. Metz's book, Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, has become a bestseller. I wonder if part of what appeals to people is the removal of the ambiguity: here's a case where it's appropriate to totally blame the other woman—because there's no alternative!
Except, of course, for how it's not appropriate to totally blame the other woman, because Metz's husband having died doesn't retroactively expunge his culpability in the affairs. It does, however, leave him unavailable to yell at, so Metz instead yelled at the women: "What did you think you were doing, getting involved with a married man with a kid? You weren't really thinking about me, were you? How would you feel if some woman did this to you?" One of them had been a close friend.

I don't really have anything brilliant to say about wither piece individually; I was just struck by how the ubiquitous narrative that female friendships are always compromised by competition plays out in both of these pieces. Constantly, we are offered examples of female relationships gone awry, until the overarching message about women in our culture is: One woman is bad, but women are awful.

Mostly to each other.

That's so not my experience with women. I love my girlfriends; I love working with women; I've loved working for women. I love so, so many of the female Shakers, who are overwhelmingly generous and supportive and not remotely reminiscent of the catty, competitive, sniping stereotype of any woman within 12 feet of another.

There are women like that. I find far fewer of them in feminist communities. That's not a coincidence: Women who don't hate women, don't hate women. Imagine that.

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