One of the more distressing aspects of such anxiety and wariness is that women hold extre­mely powerful impressions and long-term memories of their peer-inflicted wounds. The expe­rience of hurt, no matter its cause or justification, be it treachery, deceit, rejection, or just about anything else, mills around in their hearts and souls for many years, leaving behind deep emotional scars and powerful feelings of treason, shame, or incomprehension. Sometimes, one burn is enough to offend or injure a woman for her whole life and to pro­voke a trauma so profound that she will be unable to sense closeness with any other female and instead become uneasy or overcautious when approaching someone who has not yet pro­­ven her trustworthiness.

Even so, the latent anxiety does not only stem from passive or defensive postures, such as circumspection or misgiving. Where there is a victim, there is usually an oppressor. In light of the rivalrous nature of women, the culprit is usually easy to spot. Sisters, mothers and daughters, stepmothers, mothers in law, wives, ex-wives, lovers, concubines, mummies, co-workers, teammates, flatmates, school friends, girlfriends, best friends… They are all pitting against one another, somehow, somewhere, sometime, sooner or later. But unlike male bat­tles for dominance, which are fought loudly and in a visible manner (in the end, it has to be known by everyone who won the scuffle – that is the whole point), combats between women typically include back-stabbing and wear the stamp of underhandedness. Under nor­mal competitive conditions, words and other forms of language constitute the main ammu­nition. A frozen smile and a sneaky comment (“I like your new hairstyle, very… daring”) here, rumours (“What? She’s pregnant? I thought her husband was sterile”) and gossip (“I heard she had an affair with the friend of her son”) there, belittlement of peers (“She only got a baby 18 months ago, and she’s starting to work again, unbelievable!”), sub­ver­siveness (“She told me that she was getting a divorce, but don’t tell anyone you got that from me, ok?”), sabotage (“I’m so sorry I forgot to inform you about this morning’s dead­line”), withholding of information (“she failed her exam, but no one knows yet”), margina­lisation (“No no, you are not ugly, but we just prefer to hang out with other girls who have boy­friends”), and so forth. Such subtle tactics allow them to stay behind the scenes and cover their tracks (“I wasn’t trying to harm you, or anything”) thus reducing the risk of des­troying the bonds that are still intrinsically vital to women.

While the choice of weapons may appear objectionable to some, no one can blame females for their eagerness to surpass each other, as it is part of their human condition. They have always competed with one another because they have had to. Although they do not need to phy­sically protect their men, their offspring, their caves nowadays, the itch to measure them­selves against and to outdo others perpetually lingers. The obsession to be the prettiest, the best-dressed, the smartest, to have the cleanest house, the most successful spouse, the most achieving and well-behaved children, etc. is a deep-seated compulsion coming directly from their unconscious and signals nothing other than the readiness to fight for what they want. This is quite a normal thing, especially because they are vying for limited or highly-coveted resources, such as jobs, money, status, social approval, or partnerships.

Skirmishes over the latter, are generally the most fervid and the most violent ones. Once a man, or sex in general, enters the picture, the stakes are raised and the situation tilts. Oppo­nents start to roll out the heavy artillery, employing tools like manipulation (“Forget it, he’s too good for you”), ridicule (“With her bony legs, she looks like a giraffe on the Serengeti plains”), discrediting (“You want to go out with my sister? Don’t do that, she’s a bitch”), dero­gation (“Look at her new dress, it’s so last year, she doesn’t even how to dress up”), or occupation (“Hi, I am his girlfriend, and who are you?”) to undermine their rivals. But here again, such behaviour should not be judged too harshly, because women are just following an age-old instinct. Withdrawing from the mating contest has simply never been an option. A female who refuses to consider dating a man simply because she anticipates that other women find him attractive as well, would not be coping with this condition in a healthy way. On the contrary, it is their biological imperative to try for sexual attractiveness, an aspect that becomes very important in the process of natural selection.[1] And so, histo­rically speaking, the quest for and the retention of a partner has to bring out the worst in women, otherwise, they have no chance of survival.

That being said, this lenient type of argumentation only holds truth while the game is about a healthy campaign for scarce goods or a particular position. Major problems emerge when the contention shades into envy or jealousy, that is, the resentment about the achievements of another woman, respectively the desire to have something that is possessed by someone else. The focus of such grudge can be an object (e.g., a Gucci bag), a person (an eligible bache­lor), a position (a job), or a status (marriage, motherhood). Classic scenarios of the dete­rioration of the relationship between two females narrate situations when one part is cra­ving for something merely because the other already has it, for instance, when one of them is admitted to a prestigious university (although both had excluded even going there), when one is seen in presence of a male neither of them had expressed an explicit romantic interest in, or when one decides to retire from party life in order to have a baby. This is when the corrosive feeling of betrayal kicks in and the plain “I’ll have what she’s having” turns into a catty “I drink your milkshake”. By the time the green-eyed monster has entered the dispute, we all know that the shroud of the dark side has fallen and begun the Girl War has.


Related proverbs and citations:


wéi nǚ zǐ yǔ xiǎo rén nán yǎng yě

Only women and petty men are hard to deal with.



[1]    See chapter 19 “If you plant melons, you get melons; if you plant beans, you get beans”.

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