Women Against Women in Business
Topic: COMMUNITY INTEREST
By Tammy Duffy
A few weeks ago during a national meeting for a company, a new Vice President of an area was introduced. She is a woman. A woman who is attractive. As she began to share her background a female coworker, poked another in the back like a cattle dog. The woman ignored her poke. She poked again and asked, "We know you know her, what is the scoop with this woman?" What is she good at? Does she care about women?" The tone of the questioning annoyed the person who was poked as well as the question. They did not respond. The poker was not quiet about her question. Again, another poke and the same series of questions, yet at a higher decibel. The other person finally turned around and said, "Great lady, very competitive and wants to win."
The conversations over the next few weeks from other women in the company demonstrated this same level of mistrust and negativity towards the new VP. The person who was poked is a new employee at the company, it bothered them that the women acted in this manner. It is never a good thing when other women do not want to support or help other women. That is not a healthy culture. These women asked the question," Does she support women?", yet their very behavior is not of a positive sisterhood in business. Why should or would this new VP support them, when they have this attitude about her already and they do not even know her.
No one really talks about it, but one of the main issues preventing women from getting along with other women is jealousy. In the professional world, it breaks down to one of two things: jealousy over how good you are at what you do or jealousy over how good you look doing what you do.
These related but distinct problems each deserve their own explanation. I’ll start with Green Monster #1: when you’re prettier than the average woman. Many of you reading this are probably already feeling an aversion to the topic—none of us likes to admit that other people are better looking than we are or, even worse, that we resent them for it. In fact, many of us don’t admit it, not even to ourselves. Instead, we channel the jealousy into resentment and let it lurk inside of us until the object of it does something that we can interpret maliciously—and then we hate them for that reason. What I wish is that being hated for being attractive isn’t necessarily about what you look like. A lot of it is about what you do with what you look like. The most sought after person may not be the most beautiful one but rather the one who puts herself out there. Yes, I’m talking about flirting. So, while I would never suggest that an attractive woman should slum herself up so her co-workers, but one may have to for a client, I would suggest that there are things that can be done to avoid being eaten by other women by Green Monster #1, especially since, while in my experience women might be jealous of any attractive woman, they only actively hate those who inappropriately use their sexual appeal to get ahead.
In thinking about writing this article, there are three main questions with which I struggled. The first is: why are women jealous in the first place? I don’t have the answer, though perhaps women are still socialized to think that their primary task in life is to get a mate, and the main thing that mates are looking for (so it may seem) is the most attractive woman around. Other women are therefore competition, even if logically a woman can recognize that she’s in a relationship or not actually interested in dating people at the office herself or that there’s actually not a cash prize for being the best looking person in the office. Still, perhaps it’s experienced as a subtle insult to not receive attention directed at someone else, and the hurt of not being singled out finds an outlet in jealousy at the person who is singled out.
Question two: what can we, as women, do to stop the vicious cycle of women hating women? Again, I don’t know. We can all do our part by recognizing feelings of jealousy when we have them and working through our own issues instead of taking them out on other people. Though, as I discuss below, sometimes we actually aren’t jealous of the pretty girl and are rightfully pissed that flirting and sex appeal are being harnessed as professional tools to advance. If you are silent about your social life and have short hair, you are automatically labeled as the office lesbian.
Question three: what can one do now that she’s found herself the object of office jealousy (and jealousy’s BFFs, resentment and hatred)? Many of you will likely argue (with good reason) that it isn’t the persons responsibility to change anything—that the jealousy is about other people’s issues and not your fault. True, but . . . like many things in life, you can be in the right and still be professionally damaged from your moral high horse. Every person has to decide what price they’re willing to pay for any one of a million different behaviors, and using your physical assets in a professional context is no different.
From what I’ve seen, more often than not if people at work dislike someone for no other reason than because that person is attractive, it’s not only because they are jealous of how pretty that person is. Why do I think that? Because there are plenty of very attractive women I’ve worked with or gone to school with who other women don’t hate. Is it that the ones who are hated are just that beautiful? No. Well, is it that the ones who are hated are just that much bitchier? No. So what is it? I’ve thought about this issue a lot, and my best analysis is that women hate women who use their physical attractiveness to their professional advantage. No one hates the Angelina Jolie twin hard at work at her desk in a turtleneck and flats (or even a professional suit like the rest of us mortals wear). Women tend to hate the Angelina Jolie twin who wears a short skirt and a low-cut blouse and smiles suggestively at the partner while asking about assignments. So, if women hate you and inside you tell yourself that it’s because they are jealous, but you actually want to get along with other women professionally, here are my suggestions:
Know that you rarely if ever make friends by talking about how pretty you are
It may depend on your audience, but I feel comfortable saying that 99% of the time, you don’t engender positive opinion about yourself when you 1) talk about an issue with another woman and attribute the conflict to the other woman being jealous of you; 2) talk about how many men are after you, the compliments you receive on how beautiful you are, how some guy crashed his car while staring at you walk down the street, how it’s so hard to be you because of all the attention, etc.; 3) talk about how guys in the office stare at you, hit on you, etc. (unless of course it’s a sexual harassment issue, and then you absolutely should talk about it, probably to your boss in the form of a formal complaint). Just remember, no one likes a braggart, and when you draw attention to an aspect of yourself repeatedly, people notice and tend to draw conclusions about you that may not be favorable.
Recognize your own self-worth.
My assumption about many women who spend a lot of time flirting or talking about the items listed above is that their main source of self-esteem is their appearance. Regardless of whether or not I’m right, I view these women as less complicated and competent than they actually are because their own internalized belief that their looks are the best thing they have to offer comes across loud and clear, and I believe it because they believe it. A lot of us have been rewarded in life for how we look, and it’s natural that a certain amount of self-esteem has become attached to our pride in our appearance. However, we’re not in high school anymore. I maintain that it’s actually professionally damaging to project ourselves as pretty faces. Why? Because we’re so much more than that. We’re smart and ambitious and competent. If we still derive pleasure and self-esteem from being physically desired, then it’s important to leave that aspect of ourselves at home because people pick up on what we project, and if you spend a lot of time priding yourself on your looks and drawing attention to your physical attractiveness and flirting at the office, then a lot of your colleagues will view you in a one-dimensional way, and you will never be truly valued for what lies under the surface. You are more than a pretty face. Step forward and embrace that truth.
Understand the broader consequences of sexualizing yourself as a professional woman
I firmly believe that it is damaging to all professional women when any professional woman chooses to use her looks to get ahead. Why do I say “chooses”? Because I do think that it is a choice. True, none of us chose how God made us, but we all make choices about what to wear to work and how to interact with our clients and colleagues. Am I… gasp…saying that women can’t wear whatever they want to? I am absolutely saying that. Am I…gasp…saying that women have to take responsibility for how people respond to their natural state of being? Yes. Why? Because our “natural states of being” are socialized. Many women get positive responses to their looks and learn (from an early age) how to keep getting those responses through subtle things like eye contact, body language, etc. Do you do things of which you’re not aware that others perceive as flirting? Why don’t you ask someone you think would be honest with you because you might be surprised by the answer you get. It is always best to not get hammered or even drink at company functions as a woman. Trust me, when you do, you are judged, attractive or not.
If you’re a pretty girl, please think about this: As much as you may enjoy getting attention for being pretty, the cost is high. The pretty will hate you, the unattractive will hate you. There will be daily judgment, daily rumors and daily injustice. When you draw attention to your looks for professional benefit, even if subconsciously, you are reduced to a lowest common denominator, you damage your relationships with other women, and you create an expectation that all women who could flirt to get ahead should, which continues a scheme of rewards for behavior that we as professional women want to leave behind us. We no longer need to battle it out to be the fairest of them all. We have a seat at the table now. We can get ahead on our own merits. We aren’t reliant on men to take care of us. Ladies, I beg you to be more than just your pretty face, and I think you’ll find that in the process, you’ll be more respected by women and men alike. I also beg you to keep your comments to yourself. The world of business is hard enough for women, we do not need other women destroying our opportunities or self esteem.
I am not so sure the problem I mention here is limited to just attractive women. I've seen plenty of women I wouldn't consider very attractive conduct themselves in the same manner. I can't stand such women anywhere since I think they're pandering to men instead of being themselves & it just diminishes any "attractiveness" they may have. Plus it makes it harder for every other woman to be taken seriously on the job. At this same meeting there were many women who were completely inebriated, sleeping around, cheating on their mates, dressing inappropriately or even frumpily. It was the frumpy ones who were most critical of the attractive women. This is an interesting paradym. It never ceases to amaze me that these people post the videos of their antics all over social media. During this same meeting numerous unattractive women were lap hopping, throwing judgmental glances at anyone who did not look like them or looked attractive. If someone never has a kind word to say about anyone when you are with them about others; you can guarantee when you are not in front of them, they are doing the same about you.
I don't think attractive women should be subjected to double standards as you seem to suggest; however, I do think they should conduct themselves just as professionally as anyone else & be considerate of everyone, not just men. I wouldn't dream of using my looks to get ahead since maybe some of these people wanting to resort to that should look into a career where that would be an advantage. Maybe they should also pursue jobs in environments where their preferred dress code is the norm.
A lot of it is has to do with what you look like. I worked in a group where there were only 3 other women around my level of experience. Two of them were definitely more attractive than I was (or am!). Slim, tall, perfect hair and skin and makeup, and gorgeous shoes. I'd say both were equally competent. Both wore girly jewelry and pointy shoes and took pride in their appearance.
One was universally liked by women and men in the office. The other was only liked by the men. The difference was all in attitude. I think women realize quicker than men when they're dealing with a show-off. Or maybe we're more inclined to call it for what it is because unlike the men we can't see it as a personal compliment she'd make the effort for us.
The woman in question would do things like share unsolicited advice from her hairdresser, or about her dress size, or from her boyfriend. The nice pretty woman would leave that until she was either asked, or for a more appropriate setting like a coffee break or after work. It was pretty clear which one was just a nice woman who happened to be pretty and which was a pretty woman ramming it down our throats.
I think we're all capable of having both strong friendships and strong dislike of good looking female colleagues, which goes to show it isn't about their looks in the end. It's about their attitude to us and professionalism in the office. Perhaps their beauty distorts their own perceptions but I don't think its fair to call it a cross for them to bear that they are disliked by other women.
If you're pretty as well as competent, congratulations. Remember to show everyone how competent you are by not using your looks to either curry favor with the men or put down the women. Then we will like you even if you wear size 2.
Beauty brings out the worst in people. Brains and beauty makes people hostile. If men fall over their feet at the sight of a beautiful woman who is modestly dressed and who comports herself as an equal coworker who does not flirt, it should not become the problem of the beautiful women if others are envious when this woman is getting this unwelcomed attention and just trying to do her job.
Beautiful women are seen as not being smart or nice and manipulative and must have done something to get where she is. It’s a man’s world in that respect.
If a gorgeous friendly woman smiles at a man he thinks she wants him, which is nonsense. Women need to stand up to the stereotypes and come to grips with their own perceived shortcomings.
The world needs to come to terms with themselves that there are beautiful people (born beautiful) in it who possess more than their looks who are also smart, kind, caring, creative and talented and learn to live with it or try to bring out in themselves what is good and not tear down the beautiful people of the world to make themselves feel better.
Women are women’s worst enemies, unfortunately, especially professionally, and it is worse in southern states where the concept that women are in competition for men is most acute (because many women in these parts are powerless, uneducated, and really do need a man to survive). The problem with women being jealous of other women and working hard to try to bring them down must be discussed and exposed. It is unfair for some women to be subjected to constant harassment as a result of other women’s jealousy or relative professional inferiority. If nothing else, someone should create a website, a forum in which women can express their various experiences with this, and how it harms them professionally and otherwise (such as emotionally). There is no excuse for pretty women having to deal with other women’s (and sometimes men’s) insecurities in the form of harassment, attempts to undermine credibility, and even slander. It has been observed, women quitting their jobs and losing benefits instead of dealing with the constant unfair professional accusations resulting from other women’s jealousy. Ridiculous. This stuff needs to be exposed, and the perpetrators should be named, exposed, and held accountable. Most men have no idea what we are talking about - although some savvy men get it. Women need to stick together and to empower one another thereby. This issue has been silent far too long.
Posted by tammyduffy
at 2:41 PM EST