Author Kelly Valen was burned so harshly by her sorority sisters in college that she avoided female friendships. In 2007 she wrote a personal essay about her experiences for the New York Times entitled “My Sorority Pledge? I Swore Off Sisterhood.”
Now Valen has a new book called “Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships” examining female relationships from varied socio-economic groups across the nation. She surveyed more than 3,000 women to study the ways women relate to one another.
Time magazine recently interviewed the author about what she learned in her study. I can only pull three paragraphs so be sure to read the whole article on Time.com.
“About those women, what surprised you?”
“Let’s start with the good news. Ninety percent of those women said that they did have a solid girlfriend in their life. That’s wonderful news. But 84% of those same women said they had suffered real genuine wounding at the hand of other women. That shocked me. More than that, 88% said that there was an undercurrent of meanness and negativity plaguing the gender.”
“Michelle Obama has said she works very hard to make sure her kids are not mean girls. How much control do parents really have here?
Parents get the first crack at it. We’re the ones that are setting the moral compass. The survey results showed that more than 90% of women feel that a mother can set her daughter on the right course. If you are sitting there with your girlfriends gossiping, judging other women and being two-faced and your daughter sees that day in, day out, it really teaches her to follow your way. It’s a powerful message about how the world works when you see your mother bonding with other women over that. I’m not here to judge; parenting is hard. But I think we could all benefit from better role modeling. “
“What can we all do now to change the experience for the next generation of girls?
It’s so basic it’s silly: it’s opening up. It’s smiling. It’s being more inclusive and reaching out to other people. Not just writing other women off or dismissing them because they are different or not a part of your regular day or safe friend group that you already know. It’s putting yourself out there and knowing that a lot of women feel the same way you do. Maybe they’re sitting at home too, just waiting for another woman to give them a chance. We’ve got to treat people with respect and dignity. If that sounds cliché, I’m sorry, but it’s a reminder so many of us forget.”
Are we creating the little “mean girls” that live in our homes? Are we modeling good behavior toward other women? Are we inclusive? Are we gossiping about other women in front of our children? Are we judging other women for them to see? Are we treating other women with respect and dignity?
Do you think women are harsher on each other than men? Why do you think so? Have you had other women treat your poorly? If so when?
- byline Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, Momania blog