Unsplash/Arisa Chattasa

For the better part of my life, my closest friends have always been boys. I’ve had friendships with girls too, of course, but at secondary school, in Sixth Form, and since arriving at University, the pattern has been that I feel most comfortable, and hence spend most of my time, in the company of boys. Last year, for example, I lived with my two male best friends. Aside from having to put the toilet seat down on a regular basis, it was having them around that made me most happy.

It’s easy to analyse myself and find reasons why this might be. Perhaps it is because I grew up with two brothers and a crowd of male cousins. Or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have always been tall, and so being around boys made the feminine parts of me stand out. Around boys, I was girly. Around girls, I was just big.

Either way, beyond eighteen, I still find the company of woman difficult. Not all women, all the time, but I am certainly more at ease in a room of men. This feels awful to admit. I am a feminist, proudly so, and on paper I ache for the success of all women, equally, but when I’m face to face with another girl, socially, academically, wherever, my mind switches into defence mode.

“This dynamic has more to do with our own insecurities as women than anything we have actually done”

I have come to realise that it’s not just me. My subconscious aversion to other women is not a deep flaw in my character but something that almost all women suffer from, only we deal with it in different ways. I spend time with boys to avoid the guilt of feeling compelled to measure up. Other women may channel this competitiveness through sport, or within their careers. What we have in common is that we are all mentally pitting ourselves against other girls, asking what we have that they don’t. Even among friends, it is difficult to overcome this sense of being threatened, and the urge to undercut one another prevails.

Evolutionary psychologists point to natural selection as a means to explain female antagonism. When cavemen roamed the earth, intimidation of other women was necessary to secure access to the best genetic material (the hunkiest cavemen). Interestingly, certain studies have shown that women’s testosterone levels go up when they smell the t-shirts of other ovulating females. This is thought to be in preparation for aggressive competition. While we no longer have to quite literally intimidate each other to bag the strongest most genetically blessed partners, female competitiveness continues to manifest in ugly and unnecessary ways.

Arguments with various girls I have come into contact with over the last few years or so have shown me this. The conflicts are never about what they seem to be on the surface. Underneath, I have an irrational feeling that I just don’t like them. I think that they are attention-seeking or whiny. And they don’t like me either. They think I am pushy or overconfident. We frown and scowl. We walk out of rooms when the other walks in.


Mountain View

The divorce dilemma

I am slowly becoming convinced that this dynamic has more to do with our own insecurities as women than anything we have actually done. Girls hate girls not because girls have done anything wrong, but because very often we see in other girls the things we fail to see in ourselves. Rather than all the things we have in common, we come to represent for each other everything that we believe we lack. When we look at other women we do not see whole people, separate independent entities, but versions of ourselves that are prettier, sportier, or more intelligent. We seize up, cling on, look down.

If we focus on building ourselves instead of tearing each other down, we are all more likely to succeed. This is the way forward. If we stop viewing each other as competition, if we strengthen each other and support each other, we can get back on the same team, and as a team, I reckon, we’ll be pretty unstoppable.