This year, I’m not tolerating misogynistic women
For far too long, I’ve overlooked female misogynists as ‘less destructive’
There’s a woman staring at me with the most intense fury imaginable across the dinner table, as if I’ve just slipped my hand over her husband’s thigh. I haven’t. My crime is simply being younger and more popular with this bunch of random blokes. Of course, this sin renders me satanic.
It began a few hours before, if I’m honest. Up until then, I’d done the polite cap doffing thing to an older lady (I shan’t guess at her age), pretending to listen with interest to some of her instructions and later, complaints about ‘the staff’. She hadn’t been particularly unpleasant to me until she realised she wasn’t going to be the centre of attention as my superior.
‘Come sit next to me,’ the host had said, gesturing to me casually.
She froze behind me. I could feel her beady, snake like glare burning into my back like a flamethrower. The rage was palpable. In her head, as she would tell me at length, spitefully, and often, I was beneath her both in age and station and needed to learn my place. I, not ever being very good at the whole 19th century servile thing, had no problem at all taking the head of the table. After all, I can hold conversation on my own, I liked the conversation going on at that end of the room and I wasn’t that fussed what anyone had to say about the matter.
In her eyes, of course, I was a slut, stealing attention away from her with a low cut dress and a few flirtatious jokes. She stabbed at her food in silence, gazing on intently as I gave up and enjoyed myself. It was not conceivable to her, in her internalised misogyny, that I could have any value at that table beyond being window dressing. She was so completely captivated by her own sneering perception of young women that she completely zoned out of the discussions on rent, epigenetic studies in Nepalese high altitude settlements and fiscal policy and decided to lecture me, and others, on the wicked, scandalous neckline of my dress, my grotesque flirting and how I made a mockery of her that evening.
I thought nothing of it at the time, until it started to accumulate into a wider picture.
She behaved very, very strangely and jealously towards any younger, educated woman in our social circle.
If the woman displayed intelligence or ability, she was quick to insinuate she’d got success off the back of being flirtatious, provocative or just fortunate.
If the woman showed incredible determination or ambition, she was quick to slam her down as being overly confident, arrogant or not knowing her place.
If the woman achieved anything, she was the first to imply it had been gained through her looks or promiscuous behaviour, rather than talent
It wasn’t until four other women separately came to me complaining about this that it actually struck me that this woman wasn’t just a monumental trashbag. In fact, I felt sorry for her.
There is something my delightfully wise grandmother used to say that has always rung true: “A good cat will claw if it pains.” Which, in human terms, means someone lashing out is usually hurting. Granted, sometimes they just are trashbags, but usually, nurture has something to do with it. Usually, when you sit down and think about it, they are making up for something they feel upset about within their own shortcomings or experiences.
And, as I stared at this aging, admittedly plain woman prodding her food around her plate, I realised why she was so bitter. She’d never been in the limelight. She’d never been the centre of attention. She’d no doubt been on the other end of bullying and abuse over her looks by her peers at school. To suddenly, after all that pain, be in a position of power left her vulnerable as to her own worth. And the only way she could reinforce that self worth was through belittling, hurting and treading on women she sensed were competing with her. In a world where older women were so often overlooked and ignored, she felt vulnerable.
I’m not saying I accept what she did. And I still hold that she is a trashbag, even if I understand the motives behind it. In my mind, you always choose to behave badly, even if it is motivated by a great deal of personal grief and sadness. That’s always a choice.
But now I’m aware of it, I’m not tolerating it.
If I see another woman behaving in a sex shaming, cruel or misogynistic way, I’m calling her out. If I see another woman belittling another woman’s ability, strengths or talents, I’m going to call her out. And what’s more, I’m going to do it with the same strength and zero tolerance policy I’d hold with blokes.
If we want to smash misogyny, we need to target it wherever we see it.