“Well, you know, it’s really been, you know, quite a trip for me.” — Patty Hearst

The trope that women hate women never feels true to me, even though I read the Phyllis Chesler book and I work with teenage girls, who are supposed to be the worst bullies of all. They’re not. Teenage girls experience the gamut of human emotion including a desire for power, which they rarely achieve via any other means but their sexuality — how “hot” they are; what they’re wearing; which guys want to date them. When they behave badly, it’s usually a sane reaction to an insane situation — an understandable response to a toxic culture that ensmallens them; asks them to be sexy but not “slutty,” (i.e. sexual); to self-objectify and see themselves through male eyes. This isn’t news. Have you listened to any mainstream hip-hop lately, the kind they played at my gym this afternoon? Watched any cable TV? Seen what’s new in free online pornography? (Skip the vileness and check out one angry girl instead).

Anyway. The subject of single-sex education came up in a staff meeting today, and the other 15 people at the table agreed that they would ONLY teach at a boys’ school because girls are “mean.” They’re “bitchy.” They “turn on each other.” I was fucking horrified, of course, so I said I’d much rather teach girls because, when you take boys out of the equation, they tend to calm down, re-focus, and do amazing things  academically and socially.

Several of my colleagues laughed quietly at me. I could read their faces: Yeah, of course, she’s a dyke. The woman sitting next to me, who teaches a male-dominated subject required to succeed in most high-earning careers, hardly looked up from her grading but I saw her face as 60 years’ worth of rage and bitterness broke the tight surface and she said, with real hatred in her voice, “I hate women. They’re nasty and two-faced; you can’t trust them.”


“Most,” she scowled. “I prayed to have only male children, and I got what I wanted.”

I gently posited that the world hates women, so naturally we begin to hate ourselves — had she listened to any rap or accidentally clicked on any porn lately; had she ever heard the term ‘internalized misog’–

“I don’t hate women because of porn,” she said, viciously inking an “F” at the top of a unit test. “I hate them because they’re shallow, petty bitches.”

What I wanted to ask, of course, was this: Are you like “most” women, or are you an exception? If you’re an exception, how — and by whom, and with what — have you been rewarded?  Does your special, non-bad-woman status make you feel more worthy? Does it make you immune to the dangers  and degradations “most” other women fear? Are you magic? Also, do you hate yourself, or just the rest of us? Where is your disconnect? Can you hear yourself? Do you know that the girls hear you, too? Every single day?


32 thoughts on ““Well, you know, it’s really been, you know, quite a trip for me.” — Patty Hearst

  1. I heard conversations like this in the faculty room when I was a teacher. They broke my heart every single time then, and I see they still do it now.

  2. This is such a painful “reality,” to get women to stop doing this to other women, to stop spewing that kind of intense hate. How do we undo what has been done to us? we don’t even have the language to understand that something has been done to us, mostly.

  3. Chilling, but my Mom has often said similar things. The self-hatred of women trapped in patriarchy scary. Very odd, because I find most women easy to be with, and I expect human conflict now and then. But really the teacher at your school is scary. I have found on occasion that teachers who are retired to have a tremendous amount of hatred toward other women, and seem very male pleasing to me. The son of one such woman said his mother gets along with men very well, but women negate her.

  4. I’d wondered about this for years, but I had to admit to myself that the woman was very obnoxious socially, very in your face, which another friend interpreted to extremely low self esteem, that then turns into the passive aggressive gambits: “Oh you probably don’t remember me…” when people obviously do remember her. Or this gem, “Well don’t say hello!” sacrastic in your face if people might be engaged in conversation with others and not immediately see her come into the room. Men almost never say this. So there is a lot of

  5. intense female horizontal violence out there, and old women who really suffered. Not to make excuses, but I do notice the rage of old women like my Mom, and in this other teacher. It confuses me, but then I have never lived with men, am happily a lifelong lesbian, never had kids, persued the lines of work I wanted, just wasn’t a part of the male pleasing game. It is true that I faced horrifying abuse and discrimination, but I had the beauty of intense love of women, which really is the glory of self love and lesbian autonomy. I find

  6. I have never understood people who say this. It has not been my personal experience. When I hear people (both women and men) say things like this, I feel like it’s that they are from a different planet. Occasionally I’ve run across a toxic woman. I’ve seen them in other venues, too. But, the exception rather than the rule.

    I have always trusted women much more than men. I do see many women as hurt, though, seriously hurt by misogyny. And I see women who are very-male oriented. Not easy to get close to them usually as they want to talk about jewelry and clothing and shopping (boring). It seems like they have a barrier around themselves. So, I have not generally been friends with extremely male oriented women. Not my type as friends even when young. So perhaps I just tuned them out or something. Since reading Dworkin, I better understand the motivation. Never hated them, though. Just we did not click.

    I did hear a third grade teacher say this a few times about girls in her class being “bitchy.” I could not understand it at all back then. I was volunteering in her class and knew the kids and it was clear that the boys were much worse behavior problems. Puzzling. It was upsetting that she was teaching these children. I haven’t thought about it for years. Your post is clear. I agree it is internalized misogyny.

    I’m also wondering if women who teach elementary school are having more difficulty since the age of puberty keeps getting younger. Probably due to synthetic estrogens in the enviro from plastic, in feedlot beef, and things like that. So, perhaps these girls are in distress because they are having to handle these hormonal changes at a too-young age. I worry about them when I think of it. (In addition to misogyny, which is horrible for all women of all ages). Thanks for this excellent post.

  7. That’s one reason I love older lesbians….

    and no, we don’t have the language to understand, much less describe, what has been done to us; what *is* being done to us day after day in a toxic, pornsick, male-dominated culture.

  8. Hi, Wordwoman; you’re right: Boys’ behavior problems are generally much more severe than girls’ — weapons violations, serious assaults, etc. Also? they chatter out of turn FAR more in class than girls do.

    You make a good point about the lever-lowering age of puberty, why it occurs, and how it affects girls. The messages they’re getting from a toxic culture about what women are — and what women are FOR — are arriving earlier and earlier in all forms of media as well as plain old Fox news. Saddest of all, the girls are buying the “Women hate women and with good reason” line of bullshit. They’ll tell you that they don’t get along with other girls because girls are bitchy and mean, and they’ll say it with a note of pride. “Most of my friends are guys” is something I hear quite often.

  9. Hi Phon,

    I wonder about this saying, “Most of my friends are guys.” Are they saying, at least in part, that they don’t want romances with guys? They will have friendships with them instead? Do you think this is harm reduction? Just curious. Or do they have no girl friends? Is it just what they say but not what they do? I can’t imagine not having girl friends when I was that age. I get that some of it is the internalized misogyny, but I’m wondering about the behavior that goes with it.

  10. It usually means they date guys and hang out with them as friends, too. They’re definitely into romance.I think a lot of it *is* harm reduction; allying/identifying with males.

  11. Re. “Most of my friends are guys” – I say this sometimes, because I have generally been a “one of the guys” kind of girl, and had tons of male friends, at all levels of intimacy. But I didn’t dislike other girls at all, and always had at least one female friend. Usually more than one — as a child I had legions of female friends. I was also very much uninterested in heterosexual dating. So, for me, I think it was a mixture of harm reduction, an actual sense of myself as One of the Guys, a literal statement of fact, and a desire to communicate sexual/romantic unavailability.

    I was a preteen/early teenager in the 1990s though, when things seem to have been a bit less fervidly (hetero)sexualized. It is quite possible that, if I were going through puberty now, that I’d have a harder time of it.

  12. That’s interesting and well-said — lots of factors at work for you. And I’m flashing back on the clothes we wore in the 90s…baggy shirts, big pants, etc. A different world.

  13. I have this old pair of…uh…remarkably spacious jeans. With, y’know, embroidery. They go really well with a big plaid checkered flannel shirt and a mock turtleneck.

  14. so OBVIOUSLY true that boys behavior problems are much more severe, and the kind that are likely to result in serious bodily harm (or death) and psychological damage to themselves and others at that…seriously, havent teachers put 2 and 2 together yet about boys and men? how many more SCHOOL shootings might it take for that one specifically to sink in? are high school (and younger) girls getting themselves or each other pregnant? many high-school aged (and younger) boys have already raped or sexually assaulted girls and/or boys. but its the girls the teachers hate. HATE, not just think bad things about, or believe are badly behaved. jfc.

    i remarked recently that its very (subjectively) traumatizing to have to deal with a “bitch” but the sexual harassment/degradation/predation, physical danger, entitlement and misogyny that accompany all interactions with all males barely registers at all, often times. i was talking about in employment situations but it applies across the board i think. it barely registers when we get this from men, and we certainly dont hate them for it. it enrages me. but i have done the same thing. it *is* traumatizing to work for a “bitch” and all the female entrepreneurs i have worked for qualified. LOL must have something to do with the definition. and how completely normalized it is to literally fear for your life and bodily integrity in the presence of males, and to even become injured by them. thats life isnt it?

  15. also, yes, things are getting worse. they definitely arent getting better, and they havent stayed the same, so…..yeah.

    we need to keep that in mind, and do something with that information i think.

  16. You are right about the trauma-bonding, Phon. That’s what makes women be loyal to men. You quote Patty Hearst. She trauma-bonded with her captors and defended them. If no one has read about her treatment it is educational to read. The stockholm syndrome is so clear there. Poor woman. She got trashed because she was rich. A target because rich, too. That’s why that SLA group targeted her. She was a woman and rich.

    And FCM, I think that’s exactly why we don’t even notice the horrendous stuff men do. Walking in public, for instance. You run into misogyny nearly all the time. More than once each time. If we noticed it completely all the time, it would ruin our days all the time. So we tune them out. Some of it is trauma bonding and some of it is just to make our lives more pleasant.

    There are women sociopaths. I had one in my workplace once. She did no end of harm, lied all the time. She was not a “bitch.” At times, when it suited her, yes. But she strategically ruined things. I think it was how she got her kicks. Hurting people intentionally. But that had nothing to do with being a woman. I’ve seen plenty more male sociopaths. They usually get away with much more.

    I think bitchy women are different from that. They’re often overanxious. They are in defensive mode all the time and it wears them down. Sometimes they are very detail minded. I think this is a survival strategy, too. Plus, if they have no other leadership skills but a position managing people, it’s the best they can do. If they are managing men, that also creates problems. They get angry but not just to hurt people. I don’t think we need to like people who are like this to us. But it helps to understand. We are trained to rationalize men’s behavior like this all the time. But not women’s. So, I’ve started to do that.

  17. Boys sexually harass girls from a very young age. Probably younger than they used to. It’s really horrendous. Plus, the derogatory terms they use for each other are usually misogynistic slurs. Belittling. Girls carry this all the time. It’s surprising that more of them aren’t behaving badly. If a boy were treated like this, he’d likely become very violent. Oh, things like Columbine. We hear those boys were belittled by others. But I’ll warrant, not as much as any one of the girls in the school from a very young age. I’d say that girls behave surprisingly well, given the circumstances.

  18. Patty Hearst and Stockholm syndrome definitely. People hated Patty back in the day, and they put her in jail, even though she was the victim, and had to survive. She was locked in a closet and repeatedly raped by the SLA men. It was a horror story she tells in her insightful autobiography. Meanwhile, William Randolf Hearst ruled the sensational press world, and it was the male fortune. Patty was simply born into a wealthy family, and as a student, she lived simply in a house with a boyfriend, and actually knew very little about

  19. her family’s history. We don’t know or have words for what is done to us every day by men. Sometimes, in business groups, I’d hear men make blatant sexist woman hating comments, and the women in the room would never challenge this. I would naturally, and then I’d ask the women privately why they sat silently and listened, and their usual answer was, “oh I just tune it out, or I don’t hear it.” That’s what women do all the time, and men just go on and on with their verbal threats and abuse all over the public sphere. I don’t attend m

  20. meeting like this anymore, and it very painful to see women so cowed and silenced and in denial about just how much men really hate them. I think it might be unbearable for hetero women to face up to this truth, better to side with the masters and get special favors… or marry them and get perks of hetero privilege along with access to money, and fashion and shopping, all of which women use as a drug of denial. A lesbian outside this system sees it and thinks it is insane. Lesbians love women, deeply deeply love women, and I

  21. believe this is a powerful thing. Sexual love between women is so powerful, I think we underestimate how this transforms the world we live in. And it can be a source of division, because hetero women who wake up and become radical feminists have a fanatic desire to be free, and I support this. But my feminism stems first from the depth of my love for actual women, the passion of it, and when I am in this, I am free of male supremacy, free of hatred because it is a physical thing, and actual power erotic connection to women, and it’s beauty leads me. This is the great divide in feminism, and we have to really understand that the love of women is the starting pont.

  22. So when we hear someone like the teacher in Phona’s example, it causes us a lot of pain. We see the servitude of women or maybe its they are the house slaves and lesbians are the field hands— they are closer to master, they think this gives them special access. The field hands don’t have this, we have some distance because master isn’t in the house, we have not been colonized by PIV, but women can feel violent hatred toward other women, because men set up an entire system to keep this going. They set up the system so that Patty is hat

  23. hated, but the rich men are not. Patriarchy engineers things in such a clever way, and men pretend to be the good guys, when really they have created a woman hating machine, and then the older teacher can feel anger, anger at the negation, or self hatred seeing the girls in class, while giving the awful boys a free pass. I remember this from gradeschool, the female teachers often favored the boys, even when they were bad. It confused me when I was little, so this discussion helps me understand more. It is a powerful thing we are trying to decode and free ourselves from. I don’t know the answef.

  24. P.S. Sorry for the spelling mistakes and grammar errors, I can’t go back and correct the post…computer issues. I do know the difference in usage between it’s and its, and honor the great female teachers who educated me! Just have to say this. It is my honor for the gift of literacy they gave me.

  25. SheilaG, it brought back memories for me, too. Bad ones, but also good. A female teacher who helped me over some rough spots, who made a big difference. She was a spinster :). Another who taught me Latin, made it fun, and I loved her for it. Also a spinster. I don’t think they teach Latin anymore. Too bad. Also, having girlfriends who were great friends and supportive. Not too much trashing back then.

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