‘Women Hate Women’: Is Madonna Right?

This week the singer slated women for slating other women, columnist Lucy Vine says this damages us all

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by Lucy Vine |
Published on

There’s a scene I love in a really old episode of Star Trek, where Captain James T. Kirk makes a robot’s head explode by telling it, ‘Every single thing I say is a lie.’ I always think about that when I hear yet another woman saying stuff like Madonna did this week.

During an interview with Billboard magazine, about why 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump, the singer ranted, ‘Women hate women. That’s what I think it is. Women’s nature is not to support other women. It’s really sad. Men protect each other, and women protect their men and children. Women turn inward and men are more external. A lot of it has do with jealousy and some sort of tribal inability to accept that one of their kind could lead a nation.’

The paradox of a woman turning furiously on other women for not being kind to women makes my head explode.

I feel tired of this. I feel tired of defending women, and it always feels so much more bruising when I’m defending them from other women – especially from a woman who calls herself a feminist.

So let’s take it as read that I love women – and come from a world of warm, supportive women – and look for a second at what Madonna’s saying. Do women hate women? After all, she’s right enough that a lot of women chose to vote for a bigot who has openly derided and dismissed their own sex. And a lot of the reason seems to be because of an intense, mostly baseless hatred of Hillary Clinton. There is also some research that points to how women tend to be much more critical of each other, that says we judge ‘promiscuity’ more, that we laugh less at a woman’s jokes than we would a man's. And there’s the much more serious and disturbing end of that, where female jurors are more likely than men, to return a not guilty verdict in a rape case.

Does that mean, then, that women hate women? Is Madonna right to be blaming all of women for women’s own problems?


This problematic self-hate is not a reason to openly start shouting about ‘women hating women’, it’s the reason we need to start trying harder to understand why the fuck it’s happening, and help each other realise that we’re playing on the same side.

Because I will admit there is a problem. Some women push women down because they think it is the only way ahead. If they play with the boys, they will be part of their team – the winning team. They want to prove they don’t have some kind of evil feminist agenda that will result in the periphery penises being chopped off (feminists and their penis chopping, eh?). There is an idea that social power is in short supply among females, and that the only way to get it, is to take it from another woman.

But guys, that is horseshit. This is not a zero sum game. When one woman does well, it helps all of us. When women in general succeed, it lifts all of us up. It shows men that we can handle those top jobs, that we deserve to be paid as well as them, that we should be treated equally.

I don’t think it’s too shocking to blame it on internalised misogyny. When we are told something from so early an age, then, duh, of course we take it in. We are trained to self-critique from the moment we can recognise our own ugly, stupid, gross face in the mirror. We are reviewed as little girls and told we are pretty. Or ignored if there is another little girl in the room with longer hair or a pinker dress. We go home and we say to ourselves, ‘You are not good enough.’

We have heard this stuff our whole life. We’ve heard that women are bitches. Some of us hear it and work our whole life to prove it’s not true. Others hear it, and repeat it out loud. Like Madonna has.

I can’t claim that some women don’t hate some women. But that some is pretty important, Mads. Please don’t speak for all women and about all women, because you do not represent me. Attacking women is never the answer to fighting misogyny. When a woman who believes all women are bitches hears this kind of thing, she gets to legitimately say, ‘See? It’s true.’ And I hate that.

I’ll paraphrase Madeleine Albright here: There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other understand why we should help each other.

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