Shifting My Body Hatred To You

Bullying girls 2Girls bully girls for a variety of reasons.

Some are angry that other girls are more attractive than them, and seek to extinguish the threat.

Others want to lift themselves up by putting someone else down.

And some project their body hatred onto other women. And then attack.

Psychologist, Jill Weber, has some thoughts on that last point, which were published in Psychology Today.

Dr. Weber points to CBS blogger, Claire Crawford, who once called an NBA cheerleader, too chunky:

She also asked her readers to complete a poll and rate whether she had “the perfect look to be an NBA cheerleader,” “could use some tightening up in her midsection” or “has no business wearing that outfit in front of people.”

Meanwhile, celebrity tabloids mock the so-called flaws of famous beauties.

What’s up?

Dr. Weber says that girls and women are expected to conform to impossible standards, set up by starving, Photoshopped, and silicone-injected *models* of beauty who are plastered all over billboards, TV, and the walls of the local mall.

Meet that standard or face gossip and judgment from women and men, alike. And forget about getting a boyfriend.

And then, she says,

In a world that feels as if others could turn on you at any time, taking a judgmental stance toward other women is a way to feel a modicum of control.

So girls judge other girls in order to feel better about themselves and gain control. Yet it all backfires as they face “relentless self-scrutiny and panic should one’s own flaws be attacked.”

So goes the vicious cycle.

As an added bonus, girls who land in this orbit may start seeing each other as scary, untrustworthy, ruthless and cruel. And who can build strong female friendships or grow empowered in that environment, asks Weber?

The bullies hope to shred their own shame by transferring their body hatred to you. And then seek to destroy both you — and their shame.

Only to end up as collateral damage, themselves.

Surely there are more productive and enduring ways to create personal empowerment and self-esteem. Like letting go of superficial cultural ideals, discovering what truly makes us happy (which is actually tied to making others happy) and gaining self-acceptance.

More on all that later.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 28, 2015, in body image, feminism, psychology, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. No doubt that bullying comes from lack self esteem. I have to admit that I have played both roles. I was bullied in middle school and I have also bullied some people who were less powerful than me. And to be completely honest, I wasn’t happy either way because deep down a voice kept telling that this is wrong and its not a sign of strength. However, I have seen other people taking advantage by showing off. However, those people would actually act depend of the other person. I have to admit that I was bullied because I didn’t stand up for myself and the reason why is because I was too afraid to get into aurguments and be put into a scene and then people would judge. Well, one of my roommates discovered that and have been doing that to me by gathering all the other roommates and starting a fight over simple stuff to show who is the boss. Such experience made a little bit more brave by not caring, however, I left the house because I am the type of person who doesn’t like to get involved in such dramas.

    • It’s too bad that so many of us have to go through this. It helps to understand that it is about them, and not us. Bullies are trying to project their own shame onto us.

  2. I’m sure you must have liked the “like a girl” commercial during the superbowl huh? An female empowering commercial showing up unexpected during the superbowl.

  3. I find it funny that women are just as much the abuser as they are the victim. I follow plenty of feminist blogs on Tumblr and most of the backlash comes from other women. If a picture of a woman proudly showing off her body is posted, the amount of hate from other women is incredible. We proudly state how female sexuality is becoming a new movement, but it seems as if we are the first ones to make negative comments when another woman decides to go for it. I believe women, myself included, have a long way to go. We cannot demand a social change and then degrade those who act on it. I agree that most girl on girl hate comes from hidden insecurities and plain hate, but I think more satisfaction can come from encouraging other women instead of breaking them down. That is what the sisterhood is all about.

    • I sometimes wonder if all of that hatred comes from a position of feeling powerless. A lot of people who feel powerless and up spewing hatred. Which solves nothing. A lot better to find sources of true empowerment.

  4. Christopher Solomon

    Very interesting topic I have seen a lot of these kinds of things happening throughout my high school years and into adulthood. I must say it is a very unattractive thing for women to put each other down. Thinking that making fun of someone else will increase their self esteem, when honestly they continue to make themselves look bad. I mean honestly what do women have to gain by doing these kinds of things? In this world I feel like men and women should focus on setting an example for our generation. Building people up not tearing them down. See, its all fun and games for these ladies to make fun of one another until they are the cause for someones demise. Like Dr. Weber stated, “How can strong female friendships be built or even grow empowered in that kind of environment”? It simply can not. These social networks are training us to compare our lives, instead of appreciating everything we are, so much so that we look down on others when they have less then we do or look a certain type of way. It is not a beautiful thing. They are judgmental, critical, and/or cold. If someone is not what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their live, but none about his or her own. One thing I have noticed is the most critical people are often the people who have been the most criticized. So why do they feel the need to pass this on? Why not treat the men and women of our society better, lets set an example for our children of today.

  5. It’s really sad to me to watch girls who get stuck in this cycle. I work with students of all ages, but I often notice these behaviors to effect junior high girls the most frequently. It’s frustrating that many preteens will value looks and appearances over their skills as well as the friendships they’ve maintained over the course of their lives. As stated, their motivation within bullying others seems to usually be caused by the fact that they want so desperately to fit in or to rid of their feelings of insecurity. Yet in reality, the relationships they throw away are usually the ones that could bring more meaning and support to their lives, while the friends they make through bullying are usually lower quality friends who will turn around someday in the near future and become another backstabber. It really is a vicious cycle, but I’m glad that awareness is increasing about girls’ bullying and the way media may influence it- as well as many adults’ and role models’ conscious efforts to prevent as much of this behavior as possible.

  6. This was a very interesting topic. Unfortunately we live in a society were girls talk about each other all the time, when young and even as adults. I remember being in middle school and all the girls would always be talking about each other, making up rumors, talking about how “ugly, fat, big, fake, etc.” Horrible things being said by twelve, thirteen year old girls. At this age, one tries there best to fit in, even if it involves putting other girls down. We grow up like this and it goes on through High School and even college. Even media puts this “impossible standards” as the blog mentioned for girls of how women are suppose to look like, act like. It definitely makes us feel a bit insecure about ourselfes, but I try to live my life the way I want it with out having people that I dont even know affect it.

  7. This is interesting because I’ve seen and heard how girls react to one another with snob remarks. The fact that the CBS blogger felt that she needed to tell an NBA cheerleader that she was too chunky to be wearing such clothes just shows you how desperate she is to get attention. By blogging about the cheerleader and asking people to poll and rate this individual is beyond ignorant. Dr. Weber is completely right in asking “Who can build strong female friendships or grow empowered in that environment.” If a anyone were to land in the “orbit” of something as hateful as that, how could trust be established between one another? The fact is that people who turn against others will be turned against as well. Bullying has been around for centuries and may never fully be annihilated but the participants in a bullying act can diminish. If someone on that CBS bloggers site would have said “how can you hate on someone about how imperfect they are when you, yourself are not perfect at all” I’m sure that blogger would have taken down that post.

  8. Thanks for this! I can’t stand when some women complain about the way they are treated by men, but then they treat another woman that way (or worse).

    I was often the target of bullying from other girls and women growing up…many of them did indeed shift their self-hatred onto me.
    Some of them criticized my looks and my body in the most hateful ways, including females who were far from the standards of conventional beauty. Now I understand that it really wasn’t about me; it was about them and their own personal issues. But that still didn’t stop me from feeling terrible about myself and my body. Certain comments can stay with a person for a very long time.

    That is not what “sisterhood” is about. We have to start uplifting one another instead of constantly back-stabbing and hurting one another.
    If we can’t respect and care for one another as women, how can we expect men to treat us with respect?

    I also agree with the poster who mentioned how certain groups can reinforce their own oppression. I experience this as a woman and also as a woman of color, on a daily basis.

    • A number of my students have written about having this same sort of experience. And if it’s not girls bullying girls it’s something else.

      It’s so important to understand that whenever anyone bullies they are transferring their own shame on to you. So as you say, it is about them, it is not about you.

    • “If we can’t respect and care for one another as women, how can we expect men to treat us with respect?”

      Genius line!

  9. I find this topic very interesting. I honestly think certain women have self esteem issues, which can stem from their childhood. It is sad to say that women talk down and bully other because there were bullied themselves or depressed with their own body. I feel that on today’s generation you must teach your little girls that their flaws are beautiful and no one can get them down. The cycle will always continue if someone doesn’t put an end to it. Even societies vision of a perfect women can ultimately change a little girls mind set on how they are supposed to look.

  10. Now this is a topic I am glad men do not really have to deal with, although there are still many cases. Bullying to me is such an awful and irritating idea, especially when it comes to young girls. As an uncle to my nieces and a brother to my younger sisters, I would hate to hear that some other girl is making fun of them because they do not look like the “typical” girl. To me, there is no image that defines a women’s beauty, rather, her confidence, personality and brain are what seal the deal for me. I believe that more girls should be taught that there is no definition of beauty. It takes more than looks to achieve success in society and that is a key thing that should be taught in schools. Even if bullies are still around, young girls should learn to stand tall and keep their heads held high.

  11. This is a great explanation for why it often feels like women dole out much of the damaging body-hatred reinforcement that happens in our culture. I’ve run across the term “horizontal oppression” as a way of describing how Target groups play a role in reinforcing their own oppression. This post does a great job of explaining the why and the how of it.


    It just goes to show how women need to ignore corporations trying to exploit and make money off of women’s insecurities, all created by the corporations for that very purpose. Look at this article and poll of what men think of women;s bodies..I’ll copy and paste some from it.

    Well never mind, I can’t do it for whatever reason.

  13. Yes I agree. When I refer to patriarchy I don’t equate that to men. But I do think part of why women compete against each other or belittle is the conditioning brought on by the patriarchy.

    • Yeah, I didn’t think that you thought patriarchy meant men. I just wanted to clarify in case someone was reading the comments and might get confused.

    • I think men compete against each other just as much as women do and both face belittling when one tries to divert from patriarchal norms. It doesn’t happen as much for men because generally the role of men under patriarchy doesn’t disenfranchise men as much as it does for women. The whole idea that “women are women’s own worst enemy” and “women hate each other and pull each other down” is false and it’s just another way to view women negatively, when the problem is due to patriarchy. The truth is women don’t treat other women any better/worse than men treat other men. Men react the same way towards other men who try to take on a role that is different from what is prescribed for their gender in patriarchal culture. Think about how men ridicule each other for displaying any kind of emotion other than anger, how men ridicule and sometimes even harass men who care about fashion, accessories and their physical upkeep, and use insults like “whipped” when a man isn’t dominant in his relationship(for which there’s no female equivalent for). That’s no different from women who ridicule and shame other women who try to divert from gender norms set by patriarchy. Since men already have the better deal (not best but better) most of the time, they don’t fight against patriarchy as much as women do. That’s where the stereotype that women are scary, untrustworthy, ruthless and cruel to each other comes from, even though women’s behavior towards each other is no different from that of men’s. In some cases men’s behavior towards each other is actually much worse but just like everything else in patriarchal culture, there’s a double standard that judges women’s behavior much more harshly. One example: There are so many songs by men with lyrics such as, “don’t leave your girl around me,” “she may have came with you but she’ll leave with me,” “you’re no good so i give it right to your wife,” “i’m a flirt,” “if you want to keep your girl, Don’t be walking up and asking me to meet your girl.” There are many many more songs like that and I can’t imagine the hate a woman would get if she had a song about being proud of being the other woman and telling women how she will be hooking up with their boyfriend/husband. There will be obvious slut shaming and it’ll open a dialogue on how women are always in competition with each other and can’t trust each other. I know this because I’ve seen it happen every time there’s a discussion about cheating, flirty women etc. So why is it that men are allowed to be just as harsh on each other and sometimes even openly sing about how conniving they are to other males yet there are no negative stereotypes about men treating other men badly? I believe it’s another way to create the perception that male behavior is better than female behavior, even though in reality there’s no difference. By perpetuating the stereotype it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when in reality boys and girly bully others of their gender just as much, compete among each other just as much and the belittling gets worse the more one tries to free from gender roles.

  14. Interesting.. as if bullying their own disowned parts of self that they’ve been told is unacceptable or undesirable. Also the patriarchy’s way of keeping girls/women separated because of we all stood in solidarity the world would have to change.

    • Patriarchy is an interesting thing in that a lot of people mistake it for men. And yet many men and women fight against patriarchy (a system that disempowers both women, and men in someways — as with cutting off the more feminine side of the male personality). And, many women and men also join in disempowering women. Often times without realizing that that’s what they’re doing. They think they’re fighting in their own interests, But they are actually hurting themselves.

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