Let's Spread Fire, Not Steal It: The Competition Trap

By: Emily Algar, Guest Blogger

Women. Why are we so nasty to one another?

I swear that women and girls have been the bane of my existence since I entered this world. I have spoken about this bitchy and manipulative mentality before and I have had numerous discussions with my mother about why some women feel this need to pull other women down: to bully and ostracize other women and to treat other women, whether in their professional or personal lives, like they are playing a part in The Hunger Games.

I feel awful, especially as a feminist saying this, but sometimes I really hate women. From being bullied at school by bitchy girls, to being ostracized from a friendship group I belonged to in my last year of University by one girl who was jealous of me; from being treated like dirt by a group of clique women in my village, to having to deal with female work colleagues being passive aggressive in the office. I have well and truly had enough of this endless competition between girls and women. Because, let’s face it, all these actions--bullying, gossiping, lying and bitchiness--all stem from this need to compete against one another.

I am tempted to say that the reason behind certain women’s fierce competitiveness is because these women are intensely insecure or because they’ve been bullied or because they have had the fight their way to the top of their chosen careers. But I am starting to believe that these are excuses.

We all have our scars and have had bad experiences, but we don’t all inflict these on others. From my experiences of being bullied and being pushed out by other women I would not dream of doing this to other girls and women or other people period. Because I know how it feels. And that feeling is feeling like crap!

So what do we do? How do we remedy this endless battle of women pitted against women?


I honestly don’t know. There’s a bucket load of factors at work here, which I have only begun to open up.  

In terms of our professional lives, maybe if there were more women in management and executive positions and if it was easier for women to break through the glass ceiling, we may find that women who are in positions of power would be more likely to give a helping hand to those women trying to climb the ladder, and from there the only way is up with many supportive hands.

When it comes to women’s personal lives whether that be friendships or relationships, how do we get over this “Queen Bee” mentality where there is a constant power struggle to be seen as the most social, the most attractive, the most sought after woman of the group? I have seen and felt how ugly it can be when you are pushed out of your own friendship group by another woman or are put in the position to fight over a guy you really like with another woman who has decided to turn it into a Mean Girls fight to the death.

This issue is even more difficult to disentangle and solve than that of competitiveness in the work place because it’s not like these women are fighting for their livelihoods i.e., a salary or a permanent powerful position, or something that can be solved with the restructuring of the labour market or legislation that demands equal pay for men and women. This fight is for something much more personal and carnal: a prominent place in a group of their peers or for an attractive partner. However, by arguing that this competitiveness is wound up in our DNA, we are not only giving a women an excuse, but also doing them a disservice by saying that women are at the mercy of their biological makeup.

There is also the role of the media that is constantly pitting actor against actor, singer against singer, and model against model. From the gossip columns of which singer stole which model’s boyfriend, to the slideshows of which actor wore what designer dress better than her contemporary, we could all be forgiven for thinking that life is one long Miss America pageant.

So is it the media we should be blaming? Or is it our biological makeup that’s the causing all the trouble? Or is it our early experiences and battle scars that are responsible for our behaviour?

All these explanations, inherent biological competitiveness, media brainwashing and past experiences, all fail to explain why there are some women out there who are not competitive or manipulative in the slightest and actually go above and beyond to help their fellow human. Some of these women even go so far as to create organizations to address this very issue! So purely putting some women’s hardcore competitive streak down biology or bad life experience or the saturation of gossip magazines is both lazy and inaccurate.

As a woman, a feminist, and as someone who has experienced all of the above first hand, I believe we need to call an amnesty on all this destructive and competitive behaviour. If we allow it continue unchecked it will be our downfall.

So instead of seeing the girl in class as your potential opponent maybe view her as a new friend or mentor. And if you happen to be in a pretty lucrative position at work maybe start reaching out to women below you and giving them a helping hand in breaking the glass ceiling. Oh, and that person you and your friend both really like, why don’t you both walk away and focus on building your own friendship.

I am not pretending that any of this will be easy or that some women won’t break this amnesty because let’s be real, some people, both women and men, are just mean and there’s nothing we can do to change that. But if we can begin by seeing those girls and women we work with, go to school with, or hang out with as potential friends and teachers rather than enemies, it’s a start.

Let go of the fear that the girl next to you is going to steal your fire and instead embrace one another’s fire.

Can you imagine how bright you both will shine standing together?

Let's Chat!

What do you think fuels competition and mean girl behavior? Have you been in a situation where you practiced empathy and understanding to a girl showing unkindness? What happened and what did you learn? Tell us about it here!

About Emily

emily_a.jpgEmily Algar is an International Relations graduate who has just completed her Masters in International Security. She lives in a small town in Oxfordshire, UK where she writes, listens to music and walks her dogs. Since completing her studies, Emily is trying to figure out where she fits in the world and until she does, she is enjoying the ride.


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