“Την καλλίστη”: to the one most gorgeous; that is what was written on the apple given to Paris by Eris, the goddess of jealousy and discord, which was the cause of a quarrel between Hera, Aphrodite and Athena. In ancient Greek mythology, womankind portrays jealousy and discord, while beauty is a cause of conflict and competition. The beauty pageant between Aphrodite and The Three Graces (Pasithea, Kali, Euphrosyne), mentioned by an ancient poet, is another perfect example. In said pageant, Aphrodite did not win and decided to transform the seer Tiresias, who was the judge, into an old lady. The rivalry between women for beauty and appearance matters has been evident since ancient times. In the present day, a woman must play multiple parts, so the phenomenon of competition has been expanded to other frontiers too. This competition may be healthy and a driving force, but it often seems to take on special dimensions in modern society; it separates itself from the competition that may exist between either sex and is surrounded by stereotypes and negativity. Relationships between women are projected not only as competitive, but also as hostile, resulting in the prevailing perception that women are developing superficial friendships, which are primarily characterized by envy and jealousy. But does this projection reflect reality and, if so, to what extent? Why are women today projecting an unconstructive and hostile competition with each other?
Competitiveness takes place, mainly in the context of appearance. Starting from the social media and the beauty standards that are promoted by them, a woman’s appearance remains one of the most important reasons she feels insecure and competes with her peers. Social media is inherently an environment of stereotypes, negativity and toxic people. The screen allows the average person to judge, comment, and attack undisturbed anything that “stigmatizes” their own field of view. According to a global survey by Statista in 2020, women use instagram and snapchat, applications where the image is dominant, more than men with a difference of 1.8% and 23% respectively. More than a few times we have noticed insulting comments about a woman’s appearance, weight or attire. It would be breaking news if Jennifer Lopez has or has not got a botox or why a curvy girl is dancing on tik tok or how many filters have been applied to a friend’s photo. We rarely see photos of plus-size girls wearing a swimsuit or photos of women with hairy armpits and legs. To be more exact: how much time do we spend editing a photo before sharing it publicly? How many people do we ask their opinion from just to be sure that this photo is the best of all we have taken? How much do we value the number of likes and commends that we are to receive? So, the image of the woman on social media has specific proportions and characteristics. We reject and criticize what is different.
Facing this toxicity, women become insecure, struggle to accept themselves and turn against other women, that in them they see what they would like to have and believe that they lack it. According to Emily V. Gordon in her article “Why women compete with each other?” in New York Times, we do not compete as much with other women as with ourselves. We see in other women a better version of ourselves, more beautiful, smarter and for this reason we tend to be competitive and often hostile against other women.
This competitiveness however is ever more growing. Women today are faced with a social environment that on the one hand tries to eliminate the remnants of prejudices of older generations, while on the other creates new ones. These, in addition to appearance, may relate to a woman’s sexuality, her role as a worker or as a mother. Does a scientist deserve more respect than a sex worker? Is a woman who works a better mother than the one who stays home to take care of the children? Is a woman finally able to have many partners or is it then considered “cheap”? These are just some of the many questions that arise today about the roles of a woman and for which she is called to take a stand, often facing the opposite side with hostility and contempt.
This is directly related to the tendency of women to need the commendation and approval of others to feel good about themselves. According to an article in PsychCentral, many women focus heavily on the opinion of others about their abilities to fuel their self-esteem and end up not relying on their own strengths to succeed. This inner commitment often leads to underestimating the potential of other women and to eroding the trust that can exist in a friendly or a family relationship. In the given context, something that is observed quite often, is the competitiveness that exists when what is at stake is the attention of the opposite sex. Women tend to be competitive when it comes to attracting a man, and quite often they seem to be dependent on his own point of view and approval. An apt example given in this article is that in the case of an extramarital affair, the cheating wife will primarily blame the other woman, who managed to “cop her husband”, without placing much emphasis on her husband’s responsibilities.
It is evident, now, that competition between women has deeper causes which are often overlooked.The tendency to insist on this issue in vain and to separate it from the competition between men ignores thepromote standards and situations that tarnish the achievements and power of women’s solidarity, while women themselves often seem to be involved in promoting this misconception. In modern times, human dignity is sacrificed on the altar of money, ratings and likes. TV reality shows constantly promote images of women fighting for a man’s attention, while the phrase “I have no girlfriends” is just a cliché. It was rather the over-promotion of the phenomenon because it simply serves the prejudices that prevail around the female sex regarding jealousy anddiscord. social environment, the challenges and the beliefs with which women today are called to keep up and adapt. Female competition is often presented as a pathogenesis, as an inherent disadvantage of women not being able to form a constructive relationship with another woman. The main source of this phenomenon, of course, is the social media and television, which promote standards and situations that tarnish the achievements and power of women’s solidarity, while women themselves often seem to be involved in promoting this misconception. In modern times, human dignity is sacrificed on the altar of money, ratings and likes. TV reality shows constantly promote images of women fighting for a man’s attention, while the phrase “I have no girlfriends” is just a cliché. It was rather the over-promotion of the phenomenon because it simply serves the prejudices that prevail around the female sex regarding jealousy and discord.
Nonetheless, this superficial projection as well as the phenomenon itself cannot overshadow the importance of women’s achievements around the world. From Saudi Arabia and the right of women over the age of 21 to travel without the permission of their guardian, while many activists remain in prison, Poland and anti-abortion law protests, to Greece and complaints of sexual harassment and rape in various workplaces, women demonstrate undoubtedly their dynamics and solidarity with each other on issues of defending their rights. The beauty of a woman lies within something beyond her appearance and the exploitation of her personality through the media; the beauty of the female sex lies precisely in their achievements to date and in the continuation of the struggle for the crackdown on every injustice. After all, as the French poet Lamartine put it, “there is a woman at the beginning of all great things”.
Written by Kety Karyda.
Translated by Anastasia Stamoglou
Emily V. Gordon, Why Women Compete With Each Other, New York Times, October 31, 2015, Διαθέσιμο σε: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/opinion/sunday/why-women-compete-with-each-other.html
Lynn Margolies, Competition Among Women: Myth and Reality, PsychCentral, May 17, 2016, Διαθέσιμο σε: https://psychcentral.com/lib/competition-among-women-myth-and-reality#1
Rae Ann Estolano, Negative Competition Among Women: Why it Happens & How to Combat, Women Sound Off, March 14, 2018, Διαθέσιμο σε: https://womensoundoff.com/blog/2018/3/14/negative-competition-among-women
Aleksandra Atanasova, Gender-Specific Behaviors on Social Media and What They Mean for Online Communications, SocialMediaToday, November 6, 2016, Διαθέσιμο σε: https://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-networks/gender-specific-behaviors-social-media-and-what-they-mean-online-communications
Tankovska, Gender distribution of social media audiences worldwide 2021, by platform, Statista, February 9, 2021, Διαθέσιμο σε: https://www.statista.com/statistics/274828/gender-distribution-of-active-social-media-users-worldwide-by-platform/
Source of the first picture: http://mythiki-anazitisi.blogspot.com/2013/07/blog-post_639.html
Source of the second picture: https://www.facebook.com/healingthemotherwound/photos/a.453485721424537/2616681711771583