Friday, 17 December 2010

When Women Bully

One of my lovely Single readers was bullied by a gang of Married women the other evening, and I am as mad as a sack of hedgehogs on speed. It was a potluck supper, my reader brought a spicy dish, the Married women made faces and one actually said, "No wonder you're Single."

Not to be judgmental or anything, but I wonder if the divine light of grace left this Married woman's soul that instant or if it had been cast out long ago.

Frankly, I think "Now wonder you're Single" counts as fighting words, and I am indulging in a fantasy where my reader whips out her pearl-handled revolver and shoots her verbal assailant in the heart right over the jello salad. My reader is, of course, arrested, but she is in luck because the judge is ME, and when I hear that the soi-disant "victim" said, "No wonder you're Single," I bang my gavel on the desk and say "Case dismissed."

Being a woman's woman does not mean I am blind and deaf to the evil that women do. I have a long, resentful memory, and I could list dozens and dozens of girls and women who screamed, yelled, mocked and hurt my feelings from Grades 3 to 13. Occasionally they invite me to be their Facebook friends, ah ha ha ha. My all-girls high school, by the way, was utter heaven compared to co-ed elementary school, which was like the Lord of the Flies with sexual touching. And if the female bullies, child and adult, of elementary school were not enough, there were the bullies of Girl Guides, women's hockey, ballet and piano lessons. Ah yes, dear Mrs "Your-brother-is-so-talented-what-is-wrong-with-you?"

Looking on the bright side, however, years and years trapped with female bullies taught me how to cope with them, and I had very little problem from them in high school. That was a very good thing, for whereas the girls of elementary school had emotional torture down to an art form, the girls of high school were into physical violence.

The way to cope with female bullies is to not give a damn. My elementary class was small; there was no escaping "the Popular Girls." My secondary class was huge; I quickly found girls who were a lot like me and ignored the wilder sort. (The wilder sort still get together, and their Facebook photos, showing them tanned and fake breasted, are sadly hilarious.) I have a few favourite memories of my high school bullies; after a day of nasty whispers that Evelyn was going to beat me up, I found Evelyn and said "I hear you want to beat me up." Evelyn had a hangover, so she told me to forget about it. Happy days.

Anyway, off I went to university, and I have rubbed along pretty well with most women my age and younger--except abortion rights activists, of course--ever since. Older women are often a bit trickier to deal with, since they were brought up to fear younger women. It is sad. Personally, I love younger women. Competition is just not my thing.

Some women never get beyond the bully stage. As a temp, I got to see what women who waste their lives in purchasing departments are like, and it was certainly awful at times. I've seen mean-faced middle-aged women plot against another middle-aged woman and shriek with laughter when they made their victim cry.

Another way to cope with female bullies is to avoid them. Cut them right out of your life. If there is one making your life hell at work, tell your supervisor. And if the hell continues, quit and tell your supervisor why. Quit at a time that will be the most difficult time for your supervisor to replace you. You won't be there to deal with your supervisor's frustration, but the bullies will.

Bullies at work are hard to deal with, but there is absolutely no need for any woman to put up with a bully in her social life for more than 30 seconds. Family life--well, you may need a counsellor. But social life? No way. I advised my reader to never have anything to do with the Married Woman bullies she had to deal with ever again. Saying "No wonder you're Single" is emotional abuse, almost as much of an assault as a punch in the gut, and no-one should put up with that.

In my next fantasy, one of the married bullies, missing the scapegoat of her twisted little set, phones up my reader and invites her to another party. And my reader, beginning to plan a fun event for that very evening, tells her she would rather stick lighted fondue forks in her eyes, thanks. Buh-bye!

Update: Speaking of fondue forks, some nice person has sent me a raclette from England without including a card or anything. My husband has brightly suggested that it is a bomb from Al-Qaeda at last. If it was you, please send me an email. Thank you!

Update: The raclette was from my brother in raclette-loving French Canada.


Anonymous said...

What an awful experience to go through! What would you recommend as a good reply in that situation?

Silent Jen

Seraphic Spouse said...

The only best reply in that situation is "Good night. I'll find my own way out."

Saying "No wonder you're Single" should be an indictable offense in the Court of Womanhood. The sayer should be ostracized until she apologizes and is known to have apologized, or has decently left town, never to be seen again.

If, however, the words are uttered by a man, it is perfectly acceptable to empty the contents of your glass on his shirt before you say "Good night."

Oooh, my word verification was hexcuse. A dish you don't like is no hexcuse for saying "No wonder you're Single" to its maker.

Maggie said...

Oh my. I count myself lucky no one has ever said something so rude to me. What is wrong with us? Why must women feel the need to degrade each other in these (and other) ways? Gah!! Even if people don't say things to overtly rude, I despise the general feeling of "you're Single. Clearly you're doing something *wrong*. You are not ____ enough, or you are ____, etc." It drives me crazy.

Ellie said...

Women can be so competitive and cruel to each other, why oh why? We should rejoice in our sisterhood.

I work in Catholic media and they (some not all) use a subtle passive-aggressive cruelty here. Like the time all of the women organized a pot-luck lunch for someone's birthday and invited every woman in the office but me. I was left to eat alone in the lunch room. I don't know if it is as much cruel as self-centeredness; a total disregard for anyone not in their clique.

Ah, buy God truly will have his way. A new director (an orthodox priest) has been brought in to clean up the place. A year from now I expect most of these "professional catholics” will be gone. As for me, I eat lunch quickly and attend the daily mass in the chapel. No gossip, no exclusion. I like to think I'm lunching with Jesus.

Seraphic said...

Ellie, oh noooooo! Too awful! Why on earth did not someone, anyone march into the lunch room and drag you to the pot luck lunch?! I want to believe there was some mistake. (Could there have been?) But sometimes there is no mistake and people are that clueless.

Meanwhile, lunching with Jesus sounds really cool.

Ellie said...

Oh Seraphic, you are kind. It was deliberate as one of them came into the lunch room to purchase sodas from the machine and then walk back out to the party in the conference room. Luckily one of the guys came in and had lunch with me.

Sometimes, all of this makes coming home single at the end of the day even more pronounced. But lately a peaceful joy fills me. I know God has prepared and strengthened me to work under these conditions for a while. Just yesterday the new priest pulled me aside and said that he knows of the good work I am doing. He asked me for patience while he makes some changes and he envisions a much bigger role for me.

I guess I am most shocked in that this is a Catholic environment and that their spirituality is so thin. Mass is celebrated everyday at 1pm yet I am only one of two people that makes a point to go every day. So yes, lunching with Jesus is the most awesome part of my day:)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there was some mistake. I once inadvertently excluded two women in my office from a party I organized. The error was the fault of incomplete office emailing lists. Never heard the end of it.

My own traumas with female bullies were confined to the years between Grade 4 and Grade 8. The later years were worse: I was getting hit or kicked two or three times a month at least. One girl even got a boy she knew to hold me down so she could hit me. I knew how to fight back, physically, and girls who hit me once usually didn't try again.

What I didn't get was how to fight the emotional manipulation they used: "Do me this favour and I'll be your best friend"; "I'll tell you a secret"; "Did you know that X says she hates you?" Et cetera. I fell for this stuff repeatedly: I had no guile when I was younger, and came not to fear but to distrust girls as a result of being "had" once too often, something I've had a hard time overcoming.


theobromophile said...

It was a potluck supper, my reader brought a spicy dish, the Married women made faces and one actually said, "No wonder you're Single."

I'm pretty sure that what would have popped out of my mouth is, "Oooooh, that's your husband was hitting on me over the cheese tray."

(Forgive me, Seraphic, for I am a Bostonian.)

The serious part of that is that women who bully other women make really lousy wives. Women who adore other women and don't feel the need to compete with them make great wives. Sure, the girl bullies can be just adoring and sweet as pie to their husbands for a while, but once that ring has been on her finger and the glitz of marriage has worn off, wow, he's unhappy.

(Don't ask me how I know this.)

Seraphic said...

Ellie! I'm so glad things are improving and you are feeling peaceful joy. "Professional Catholic" environments without much spirituality (or orthodoxy) can really, really suck. Hang in there!

Clio, that really sucks, and I'm sorry that happened to you.

Theobrom, as they say, what comes around, goes around.

Alisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alisha said...

Thank you for speaking out so strongly against bullying.

theobromophile said...

Going off Alisha's comment: the bullying (or Mean Girl) problem isn't just an individual thing; it's a group of friends thing. That none of the other Married women so much as glared at your reader's aggressor shows that the entire group isn't worth her time. Making a bit of a face at her food is something that is possibly innocent: some dishes simply aren't to people's liking or what they were expecting. That, alone, might be okay, but that no one ever so much as said, "Excuse me? Any man would be beyond lucky to have Amy" is wrong.

Sometimes, you do just have to say "good-bye" to the entire nest of female bullies, which is not easy but definitely worthwhile in the end.

Also (don't ask me how I know this) women who say nasty things about someone who is Single, divorced, blonde, dating Mr. Wrong, prone to burning pasta, etc., will say nasty things about any woman who is Single, divorced, etc etc.

That said, Seraphic, you mentioned that older women can bully younger women. It's something that I run into far more than from women my own age. They often couple that with a very two-faced response, as if they were just trying to give me their (totally unsolicited) wisdom and I'm the stubborn/arrogant/mean one who doesn't get it. (Now, let me also say that these incidents have been followed with at least one person expressing their fury on my behalf, and that I firmly believe that classy people give such pronouncements in private, not in public as a means of humiliation.)

So... Auntie Seraphic, what on earth to do about these women? The big-picture part is easy: knowing how utterly rotten it is to be treated that way, double down on respect for younger women, but the small-picture part... YARGH!

Anonymous said...

For some reason I get bullied more by women. Men, I can handle most of the time just with a blank stare and a quick exit. Thank you for the advice.

Isabella of the North