As a woman, I know that, unfortunately, sometimes friendships and interactions with other women can be fraught with passive-aggressive undertones. And, in order to overcome this, there are some creepy things women should stop saying to each other. Maybe I'm not "supposed" to admit that, as women, most of us are guilty of imposing deeply ingrained societal ideals on other women that we don't even necessarily believe ourselves — but the fact of the matter that it's often true.
Women are subconsciously trained by our culture to adhere to a certain set of standards, and mentally separating your own beliefs from those put on you by society at large can be exhausting. However, because we should be lifting each other up instead of holding each other back, it's important to think about why you're offering a particular judgement or piece of advice before bestowing it upon another woman.
It's tough enough out there being a woman. You already face unwanted remarks from men about everything from your body, to your right to decide what to do with it, and how you want to decorate it. Let's quit helping men keep women oppressed by making a conscious decision to stop reinforcing sexist stereotypes on each other and becoming allies instead of adversaries. Personally, I think most questioning of other women's decisions comes from an innate insecurity, and there are other ways to boost your self esteem that don't include some of these creepy things women should stop saying to each other.
1"Why Are You Wearing That?"
Last summer I was at a writing workshop where I was sharing a tiny room with three other women for a week, which actually turned out to be amazing. However, some of the other women at the workshop couldn't get over why I chose to wear a baseball cap all week... and they kept asking me about it.
My decision to wear the hat was two fold. First, four girls, one bathroom, 90-degree heat, and early morning workshops made doing my hair a low priority. Second, I have severe migraines that are triggered by certain kinds of lighting, which was of course present in all of the classrooms. Being able to shield my eyes from the light helped me stay well. It's important to note that a number of men were also wearing baseball caps everyday, and no one asked them why. I, however, had to explain myself all week to different women to the point that I began to think there was something wrong with me.
But the bottom line is this: It's not anyone's job to comment, question, or judge someone else's outfit. And no has to justify to anyone else why they're wearing what they're wearing, either. So let's all just stop asking this one.
2"You'll Change Your Mind About Not Wanting Kids."
Some women can't wait to get married and have kids, and that's great. Some women don't know if they want kids, and that's great, too. Some women are absolutely sure that they don't want kids, and hey, guess what? Also great. For a long time I fell into the second category, and any inkling I had toward being a mother was mostly because I thought that's what women were supposed to want. Now I realize that being a mom to human children just isn't for me, and that's OK.
Women who don't want kids are often shamed by other women, and sometimes even told they're not really women if they don't reproduce. But just because you have the ability to have children doesn't mean you have to have them.
After years of being asked over and over when she was going to have children, Jennifer Aniston finally responded, though she shouldn't have had to say anything at all. "I just find it to be energy that is unnecessary and not really fair for those who may or may not [have children],” Aniston told People magazine. “Who knows what the reason is, why people aren’t having kids. There’s a lot of reasons that could be, and maybe it’s something that no one wants to discuss. ... It’s everyone’s personal prerogative, that’s all.”
So, consider this a general reminder that whatever anyone is doing with their reproductive bits is no one else's business.
3"When Are You Getting Married?"
Just like having children, getting married is something society tells women they are supposed to want. Aside from, "When are you having children?" "When are you getting married?" is the number question posed to women, whether or not they are in a relationship.
Some people are happily single, while others in a relationship don't feel any need to make it legal, and guess what? No matter what someone's relationship status is, it's none of anyone else's business. Making a woman feel less than, or pitying her because she's not married, says more about the person delivering the critique than the person at which it's directed. If someone feel the need to ask someone else why they aren't married, perhaps it's time to examine why their answer matters to that person in the first place.
Confession: I did get married, and I quickly realized it's not for me. It was another thing I thought I was supposed to do. Marriage, being single, or cohabitation with a partner is an individual choice, and choosing one over the other doesn't make you a more or less complete human.
4"Why Are You Single?"
If a man is single, he's seen as a catch, whereas a perpetually single woman is seen as pathetic, despite whatever else she's accomplished in her life. Just like "When are you getting married?", asking women why they are single is a signal from you that you think there is something wrong with being single.
During most of her seven years on Gilmore Girls, actor Lauren Graham was single, and the question she says she was most often asked interviews and on the red carpet was ,"Why aren't you seeing anyone?" This happened so often that she pretty much devotes an entire chapter to it in her book Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything In Between.
"At one point during this time, my father was on a plane and noticed a woman reading a magazine I was in," Graham writes in her book. "‘That’s my daughter,’ he said proudly. The woman turned to him with a look of pity. ‘Please tell her I didn’t meet my husband until late in life — there’s still time.'"
Because the idea that you need another person to complete you is so ingrained in society, Graham spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to answer the constant "Why are you single?" question, which is sad. The fact that the only thing so many media outlets want to focus on is whether a woman has children or why she's single says a lot about how woman are viewed in our society. Let's stop helping them, and start supporting each woman's individual choice.
5"Men Won't Like It If You..."
This one covers a wide array of things. Remember on Sex and the City when Charlotte scolded Miranda for buying an apartment saying that men don't like it if you own and they still rent because then the power structure is off? Apparently things other women tell women that men don't like are your opinions, your body hair, your goals and ambitions, if you're too "aggressive"... the list goes on and on.
I once had another woman at work tell me that I was behaving too much like a man, and that openly stating my needs and concerns would hurt my chances of getting a promotion or a raise. She actually thought she was being helpful when in fact she was helping to hold me down.
Can we please stop telling other women what men don't like? If someone doesn't like me for any of the aforementioned things, why would I want to spend time with them?
6"Have You Lost Weight?"
Our society often equates happiness and acceptance with a particular body type, and in turn when women want to compliment one another, instead of doing so they often give a backhanded insult.
"Many friends and relatives greet me with 'Have you lost weight?' when I am looking particularly good," Maeve Marsden writes in Daily Life. "So why not just say that? What value does asking if I've lost weight add to the compliment? All it does is remind me you've noticed I'm overweight and think a change to how I look would be an improvement."
By assuming that someone's body type is not ideal and that they are trying to change it, you undervalue them as a human being and reduce them to an arbitrary set of standards imposed by society. If you want to compliment someone, just tell them that they look great, or that you like their outfit or what have you. There's no need to bring your opinions about their body into the equation.
7"You're Too Skinny, Eat Something."
This is another form of body shaming. Again, unless someone specifically asks what you think about their body or eating habits, it's best to keep it to yourself.
8"You're Going To Regret That When You're Older."
This is another statement that applies to myriad things. Women can be quick to tell other women what they might regret when they're older, whether it's going to the beach too often ("You'll look old"); tattoos ("What will people think when you're 70?"); not having kids ("What does your life mean without them?"); not getting married ("You'll die alone"); sleeping with too many people ("You'll get a reputation"); etc.
Unless you're a mind reader, you really don't know what another person may or may not regret, so it's best to err on the side of not telling them. If you are truly concerned about a decision a friend or family member is making, it's OK to address that in a loving and caring way by asking them why they might want to do X,Y, or Z and whether they have thought it through. If it's just something you don't agree with or like, for example tattoos, it's not your decision, and unless they ask it's best to keep your opinion to yourself.
9"You're Wearing Too Much Makeup."
Or "You're not wearing enough makeup" — same deal. Some women feel most beautiful fresh-faced and makeup free, while other women feel most beautiful after using their favorite beauty products. Either option is equally beautiful, and it's up to each individual person to decide for themselves which they prefer. Asking another woman why she is wearing so much makeup, or why she isn't wearing any makeup, is an uninvited personal judgement on her appearance.
Every woman on the planet has the right to decide how they want to live their life. Have kids or don't; get married or stay single; cover yourself in tattoos, or never get one; wear makeup every day or never wear it at all. Who cares if someone else don't like it? Let's focus on empowering each other for our decisions instead of shaming each other, because every woman is uniquely beautiful, and gets to decide how to live her own life, and that's a pretty amazing thing.