Kernels of Nonsense, #9: Girl-on-Girl Hate

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bi-monthly feature here on my blog where I share my thoughts on various book-related topics. This week I will be discussing my heavy distaste for girl-on-girl hate in literature.

No other type of relationship in literature is more hackneyed, more condescending, more infuriating than girl-on-girl hate.

Whether it be movies, T.V. shows, or books, it’s pretty clear that society believes that women are incapable of actually liking one another. Simply Google “Why women hate each other” and there is no end to the articles explaining this contempt between females. Or ask anyone you know whether they think women hate other women (I did this and every answer was a resounding yes.)

The stereotype goes a little something like this: women do not actually like each other because we are secretly in competition with one another. We don’t like it when other women are in the room because it takes attention away from us. We are constantly in competition with other women over the attention of some male. If another woman gets more attention than we do, our reaction is jealousy and hatred. We only pretend to like other women and any compliments we pay are insincere and even at times surreptitiously hostile because in our heads we really just want to do this:

I’m not saying that this mindset does not exist. I’ve witnessed it plenty of times and even been guilty myself of comparing myself to another woman and feeling either superior or inadequate. But I don’t believe this is the natural way of things. I think society has taught us that women seek the validation of men and that if he gives attention to another female, it somehow takes away from us. It teaches us that we should feel threatened by other women and by pointing out the flaws in another woman, we can then feel adequate ourselves. I remember hearing a girl some years ago tell our male classmates that she didn’t have female friends because girls just didn’t like her. I couldn’t decide what was more tragic: that she felt that being friends with other girls was impossible or that she seemed to wear the fact like a badge of honor.

Frankly I’m tired of media outlets, including literature, telling me that I must feel insecure when there is another woman in the room, that my first reaction should be to compare myself to her, that I should feel insecure if another woman garners more attention than me. Isn’t it hard enough being female? Every woman knows it is an upward battle, that we are at a disadvantage because we are female, so why on earth would we push each other down even further? And why are we allowing this idea in literature? Why don’t we see more female friendships? Why does it feel rare to read about a female character relating to another female? Why was my first reaction upon finishing The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey to hope that in the next book Cassie and Ringer (being the only older female characters) wouldn’t hate each other? Why did I end up being disappointed?

It is my belief that one of the reasons so many female protagonists in books lack female friends is because of this idea that women hate each other. Sometimes I’ll read a book with a female protagonist and she’ll be surrounded by men, and I’ll just sit there wondering where on earth the other females in the world are. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a lack of women in the world, but we all seem to disappear in movies, T.V. shows, and books like we are rare creatures only seen in the dead of night. Worst yet is when these books are written by female authors and you’d think that if anyone would be able to show how valuable females and their relationships with each other are, it would be female authors.

I’m simply starved for books that spotlight strong female friendships because it is all too common that I see either the absence of females or the stereotypical girl-on-girl hate mentality. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy books like Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series. She shows us that women can coexist, that we can be friends without feeling jealous or secretly hating one another. Her books are a wonderful reminder that women should support one another and not buy into the idea that we have to hate each other. These types of toxic relationships in print only serve to perpetuate the belief that women hate other women, which is not only a patronizing cliché, it is also an extremely unhealthy mindset to have of yourself and others.

What are your thoughts on girl-on-girl hate? Is it something that bothers you? Do you feel that it is a correct or incorrect representation of female relationships? What books have you read that either showcase girl-on-girl hate or highlight the value of female friendships?