“The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s hatred of one another was so intense it now has it’s own TV show. I can’t relate to Davis’s joy at pushing someone down the stairs. For all other people have hurt me I would not want to hurt them back. But there are I’m sure, plenty of women who would like to push me down the stairs, either literally or metaphorically.
I’ve started writing this many times in the past and stopped each time as I felt it was somehow not feminist of me or lacking in solidarity to have a go at other women. But no person is above reproach, no matter their gender. And women have hurt me in the deepest of ways, a pain that is worse than any caused by men because it came from a sister.
I can’t speak for other women but for me I feel a sense of kinship with other women, we’ve all been fed the lie of equality and at some point faced squaring off the version of the world we were sold with our vastly different reality. We’ve all experienced sexism and discrimination for being women. We’ve all been abused or sexually assaulted for being women. All of us.
When I meet new women I assume these things. I assume we have a common starting point and that in no way do I want to add to the oppression of any woman. It doesn’t mean I like every woman I meet or want to be best friends with all women, it’s merely an acknowledgment of our shared experience and a feeling from me that I do not want to add to any woman’s pain.
There are about a dozen women from my adult life that I let into my deepest places. These are spaces I couldn’t counter any man coming near. They are too raw and vulnerable and there’s a high possibility men getting in there would make it much, much worse. So I keep these spaces for women only. They know these spaces. They’re familiar with the terrain. Where to tread softly, where to not talk, where it’s safe and where it’s not.
I’ve let many women into my vulnerable heart, and for as many as I’ve let in nearly all have harmed me. Women (like men of course), can be nasty, spiteful, mean-spitrited, hateful, jealous and cruel. I’ve been on the recieving end of wounds so deep I don’t know if they will ever heal. From women I loved. Women I thought knew me. Women I thought understood me.
Being undertood, heard and seen is the most powerful gift you can give a person. When someone you thought undertood you betrays you it is an incredible pain, because you realise the love you had for them was built on a lie. They never undertood you, they never knew you at all. That’s where I believe the pain comes from. Because of the common empathy of shared pain, being hurt by women is (for me) worse.
I’ve had women betray me, hurt me, lie about me and dump me for lots of reasons — because of a man they were dating, because they had to choose between acknowledging their own pain if they stuck by me or ignoring it and dumping me, because a man they wanted a job with hated me, because someone they held as higher status than me didn’t like me…as many reasons as there are women who have hurt me. No two stories are the same but all caused the same pain for me.
When I think about the women I used to have in my life I hope they are doing well and are happy, I hope people are treating them with respect and that they feel loved and supported. I’m sad and hurt but I still wish the best for them, my sadness is not venegful or vindictive.
I carry a lot of grief for the friendships I thought I had with women. Though I know I’m grieving something that never existed in the way I thought it did. I’m grieving an idea. A concept. I’ve been harmed and bullied by other women as well but I know no matter how nice you are there will be people who for whatever reason don’t like you.
I carry no expectation of being liked by everyone. I know each person has their own set of life experience and values and that people can trigger all sorts of things for others before even before opening their mouths.
I know internalised misogny is within us all and it affects the way we interact with other women. I know we as women are pitted aginst each other by a Patriarchal system that is terrified of sisterhood and solidarity amongst women. It doesn’t want us to like each other or support each other.
I know all these things and yet I wish it was different. I wish I could meet women without ego or status affecting the friendship. I want more women in my heart. But I also know I’m scared of getting too close to women after all I’ve been through, my poor heart can’t take being thrown down the stairs again.