Reflections of an Island Girl
“Woman to woman is Bitch.” Sadly enough the only thing that struck me when I first heard those words was the fact that they were uttered by a man. Growing up in a family with a bounty of women, I was well accustomed to the bickering, backbiting and backstabbing that can sometimes take place between females. (If dem nevah do it to each oddah, smaddy was doing it to dem.) After years of experience with the antics and hijinks associated with womanhood, I had considered myself immune to the mayhem until the esteemed ‘Mr. Gentleman’ as I choose to call him, decided to throw his two cents on the crap table.
The comment was in response to the declaration made by another female participant in our regular loud, rum punch and domino infused discussion on politics in Jamaica. When the woman remarked that “…Beverly Manley most likely ‘wuk pon Michael’ in order to become the first lady…” the room became so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop. The obvious display of ignorance had shocked everyone into silence. The casual manner in which the comment was tossed out led me to believe that she thought that a considerable amount of people actually shared her point of view. I immediately sought to gain some clarity on how she arrived at such a conclusion. As a child I had always admired Mrs. Manley, and as an adult, I came to recognize and respect her intellect, tenacity and spirit. I remembered watching her being interviewed by the American press and marveled at her poise and grace. It was clear to me why the former Prime Minister was so captivated by his second wife. Her answer again silenced the room. Her assertion that she was too black and ugly for him, was not only ludicrous in fact, but was even more absurd was that this was also a black woman speaking. By the time Mr. Gentleman made his pronouncement, I was already contemplating how critical women are of each other.
I tried to take my mind back to the last time I heard a woman pay another a compliment, and found myself coming up empty. I could easily remember the last ten times I heard one female sniping about another behind her back. I could vividly recall the last three stories I heard about a woman losing her husband or boyfriend to whom she thought was a trusted female cohort. I thought of the innumerable stories of women in the workplace, who deliberately antagonize and sabotage each other, just to try get rid of the competition. The mothers and daughters in law I knew that were living in misery, because one was hopelessly fighting for the attention of the poor husband or son. Gone were the days when we used to walk home from school holding hands and sharing laughs with each other, the days when we signed our notes, ‘BFF’ (Best Friends Forever).
A few weeks ago I attended my niece’s fifth birthday party and complimented her on how pretty her dress and hair looked. Another little girl at the party promptly informed me that my niece’s hair was not real, it had extensions in it. The tone of her voice was a testament to how early the competition is starting.
With the ratio between women to men rapidly mounting, the countless magazine ads telling us how inadequate we are and how their product will serve to solve all our problems, (issues we never realized we had until they told us we had them). The pressure to be the best, thinnest, prettiest, smartest, mother, wife/girlfriend, employee, is it any wonder we are turning on each other like a pack of wolves? I love to see a confident woman, even if I do not like her personally, I pride myself in being big enough to celebrate her achievements whatever they may be, because in the long run her achievements are my achievements. Isn’t a road that is already paved easier to travel?
Upon closer examination I realized that at the root of all the two faced, man stealing and cut throat mentality is self esteem, or the lack thereof. A truly confident woman does not need to tear anyone else down in order to build herself up. We as woman have to eventually come to the realization that when we play the role of the ‘mean girl’, it is only speaking to the emptiness inside ourselves and mirroring what is missing within our own lives. As my great Grandmother Eliza used to seh, “Finga neva say look ya, it always seh look deh.”