There’s always been the assumption among men that women are a bitchy lot. Judgmental, spiteful, catty towards our fellow sex; there’s even a ready-made sound effect for it. To my knowledge, there’s no male equivalent to the ever-so-cutting “meowww” remark.

But I’ve always thought this to be an all-too-easy, misguided notion. Though I’ve never believed the whole ‘fairer sex’ malarkey – everyone knows that when a woman makes an enemy of another woman (for whatever reason) there are no limits to the bitchiness that can occur – yet I’ve always doubted the assumption that it pours forth so easily, or that women are mean-spirited by nature and malicious for the sake of it.

I must have been hiding under a cloud of Disney princesses and Sex and the City-style friendships, because recently, I’ve noticed a hell of a lot of girl-on-girl mud-slinging going on, and most of it entirely uncalled for. Whether it is newspapers criticizing TV presenters or Twitter trolls slating the appearance of X Factor contestants – from the most ‘professional’ forms of media to social media free-for-alls – I constantly read/hear/witness women being downright spiteful towards other women simply based upon shallow judgements.

It’s amazing how much of it slides under the radar, or is just blatantly accepted as the norm. A national newspaper slyly insinuating that a mother is choosing to go out when she should be at home with her children? Not an unusual occurrence when it’s from the Daily Mail, you might think. But take that journalist – a woman no less – out of the context of her ‘profession’, take away the comfy cushion of a right wing newspaper and wouldn’t you question her audacity? She’s a fellow female, probably of the same age and background as the very person she’s unfairly vilifying.

Then there’s Katie Hopkins, another woman who has recently made it her life’s mission to criticize others just because she feels like it. People are laughing; Hopkins undoubtedly all the way to the bank, but where’s the person questioning whether she should be given a prime time slot on daytime telly? I bet there were swathes of mothers sitting at home, possibly with sons named Tyler, who actually felt like Hopkins’ comments were directed at them. Whether those mothers laughed, were offended, mad or felt a reflex pang of shame or hurt: on what planet is it fair that someone like Hopkins has a platform from which to spout her venom?

Some people may call my incredulity naive. Again, it’s not that I am shocked it occurs, I’m just shocked at how nasty it can be, as well as a little surprised – fascinated even – at what makes an intelligent and well-brought up female turn on another in such a mindless way. A lot of it has got to do with issues of sexuality or class; a phenomenon recently labelled as ‘slut-shaming’ – when a woman is called-out and hated on for wearing very little or acting in a way that is seen as degrading to themselves and other women in general. Kim Kardashian and her Instagram selfie, for example. Miley Cyrus sitting naked on a wrecking ball.

Not that I condone the behavior of Cyrus or the sanitary nature of sitting on a wrecking ball in the buff – (she’s got too much talent for all that rhubarb, plus the last of her Hannah Montana fans now probably think it’s a cool thing to do) – but still, I’m sure she’ll come to her senses eventually. As the brilliant Tina Fey said in Mean Girls: “You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” And jeez, that was way back in 2004; have we not learnt by now? Fey’s probably looking at us all (and the state of ‘teen comedy’ today) in total disgust.

I don’t think shaming or mean-spiritedness is limited to the media or issues of sexuality – but disturbingly, it could be having an unfortunate side effect. I’ve come across women, girls of my own age, who don’t seem to think twice about judging others based upon the way they speak or simply because they don’t ‘gel’ with another’s personality type. I heard so many bitchy comments about Ruby Tandoh – a contestant on this year’s Great British Bake Off – that you’d think she’d gone and slapped Mary Berry round the face or something. In reality, she was just ridiculously self-deprecating to the point where people started to think it was all an act. But so what if it was? I still don’t think it calls for abuse. Frankly, it’s nobody but her mother or best friend’s place to tell her off for it.

(For the record, she didn’t slap Bez or put on a show; she just needed a bit of reassurance that she can make a cracking sausage roll).

But all that wading in on whether or not Ruby was ‘for real’ is a perfect example of women getting it wrong, and if it carries on: the justification for the aforementioned assumption that we’re all out to get each other. In today’s opinion-flooded society, one where you can tell the celebrity direct to their interface whether or not you like everything from their work to their choice of partner, we’ve started to feel entitled. We think we’re well within our rights to put in our two penneth, to have our say, shout about and shame the people we disagree with or are unable to relate to. But ya know what? Nine times out of ten, we’re actually not. It’s just not our business or place to get involved. A newspaper should stick to the facts and girls should keep their unkind opinions to themselves – regardless of how annoying someone might be or how skimpy their outfit. (If you must do something, tell them it’s chilly outside and offer them a cardigan instead.)

In the end, I’d still like to believe that the majority of women are supportive and appreciative by nature, mainly because if we’re not: what chance have we got?

Didn’t your mother ever tell you, if you’ve got nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all? I reckon it’s a piece of advice we could all do with being reminded of. So all I’d like to say is, Kim Kardashian looks pretty hot for a women who’s just had a baby. Don’t you think?

You can read more from Nikki Gilliland on her blog.

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