06/27/2014 10:00 am ET

Why Does Simply Existing As A Woman Have To Be A Competition?

Winston Davidian via Getty Images

The TV in the break room at my job is often tuned to ESPN, so despite my lack of interest in sports, I know that the World Cup is underway. A widely-publicized, widely-appreciated spectacle of athletic prowess, and of course, competition. There will be winners and losers, and while the losing teams will be disappointed, there’s always a chance for them to try again.

But I’m more tuned in to a different form of competitiveness: the ongoing practice of pitting women against each other. It’s sinister and it surrounds us constantly: ‘Who Wore it Better?’ polls in magazines; describing rising female celebrities as “replacing” more established ones; sparking controversy when two women do anything remotely similar (including aging and raising children) around the same time; tabloid covers whenever two female celebrities have dated the same guy; tabloid covers in general; the images passed around on social media that attempt to define “real women” or assert that “I’m not like THOSE girls”…the list is quite long. And it’s more damaging than it seems.

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