If reality TV was all you had to base your opinion of female relationships on, you’d be forgiven for thinking women simply cannot be in a room together without resorting to bitchy competition. Yet, that doesn’t reflect my life at all. I am surrounded by a tribe of women who lift me up and celebrate my successes, as I do for them. That isn’t to say I haven’t experienced my share of the ‘mean girl’ phenomenon and if I’m honest, participated in it too. However, as I roll into the back end of my forties, I see it less and less. Does age mellow our nastiness or are we evolving past our genetic urge for competitiveness?
There is plenty of research that suggests women are wired to compete for the best genetic advantage for their offspring. That is, we want the ‘best’ man to get us pregnant. Consequently, on a cellular level, we are prone to compete with other women through self promotion, to make us look good and degrading rivals, to make others look bad. So perhaps one of the few joys of menopause is that once our ticking baby making clocks quiet down, we no longer see other women as competitors and can appreciate their friendships more.
I spent eight days on tour with Taryn Brumfitt from the Body Image Movement to promote her new book Embrace Yourself. Along for the ride was the team from Birdsnest, Sandy, Steph and Molly; Ellen Briggs our comedian MC; Stacey McGregor a model and aspiring comedian; the Body Image Movement team, Prue and Chicken Jo; caterer and nurturer Kate from Love, Food and Gratitude; and brave token man Glen the film maker. It was bliss. No competition, no ‘mean girls’, no snarky comments. We were focused on a mission to spread body loving joy to regional Australia and it solidified us as a group. Yet several of the women in that group are still firmly in the baby making years and I saw no conflict at all. Quite the opposite, I saw only celebration of each other and abundant admiration. Maybe these girls are more evolved than others?
There is a feminist theory that female rivalry is a result of the patriarchy. We’ve been conditioned to seeing ourselves as a prize for a man and therefore our sense of worth is based on being the chosen one. We fight each other because we’ve been taught it is our genetic destiny to be a wife and mother and we feel the pool of good men is limited.
Perhaps when the way we view ourselves is warped by poor self-esteem, we are predisposed to hating on other women in order to bring them down to our level. When we learn to truly love and accept ourselves and celebrate our differences, the need for competition fades away. I no longer see a woman as prettier, thinner, taller, funnier, smarter or sexier than me. I see diversity and it is spectacularly beautiful. The women I’ve met through our regional Australia tour are not my competition, they are people I can learn from, be motivated by and hopefully inspire in return. This is why we had no ‘mean girls’ moments. All the women on our team have learnt to love themselves enough to no longer see others as rivals. And we shared this with the women of Albury, Bathurst, Wollongong, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Armidale and Toowoomba.
What I’ve witnessed over these eight days is evolution! By openly loving her socially perceived imperfections, Taryn has given us all permission to do the same. As we danced at the end of each show, the energy and love in the room was palpable. Strangers hugged and shook their groove thing together. Friends made pacts to never degrade their bodies to each other again. Mothers apologised to daughters for the body shaming language they’d used and promised to move forward differently. We all acknowledge our limited time on this planet and vowed to use it better from that night on.
This is what I’ve loved about the Body Image Movement and the Embrace Yourself Tour. It has shown me the absurdity of worrying about my lack of thigh gap more than I’ve cared about my impact on the world. I’ve learnt to say – Fuck off! I’m perfect just the way I am. And so are you…
To read more blogs from the Embrace Yourself Tour – click here
I read two fantastic New York Times articles whilst writing this, which influenced my blog – here and here.