Thursday April 19, 2012
The rise of female bullies
A Writer's Life
By Dina Zaman
There are many reasons why women opt to turn into female Hydes, but seemingly Malaysian women bullies are who they are because society made them so.
THERE have always been bullies, but the increase in adult “mean girls” (the namesake film and Gossip Girls popularised the misdeeds and misbehaviour of female bullies) which, if before it existed only in social circles, has spilled over into the workplace, and almost every sphere of life.
It is an incredibly painful experience to have, or to observe. Because of the equality agenda, women have decided to be hostile and aggressive, and vent their insecurities on their victims. And because women are taught not to complain, and be good, the victims keep silent or choose to ignore the bullies.
Who are these women who heap abuse on other women ... and men as well? If you’re to meet them, you’d be floored by their sophistication and worldliness, or inspired by their seeming goodness.
They tend to be educated, popular, and assimilate well. They’re the women a lot of people look up to and are impressed by.
However, these seemingly perfect women are sociopaths who thrive on attention and drama. They probably were the Queen Bees in school, and can’t let that power go.
This kind of bullying is insidious. The victim(s) will usually feel that something is not right, and wonder if it is her or his imagination at work. The bullying is subtle, but poisonous.
Even when the perpetrator is unmasked, the victim may find it hard to believe who it is. How can a successful, attractive woman be so horrible?
It would be easier (though rather unfair) if the bully were unattractive and had a tragic background or history of abuse. Successful, attractive women have no reason to be insecure of others.
In the workplace, there are legal structures to protect employees and means to document abuse. Still, it is not easy. Just like sexual harassment, it is not easy to prove the incident, and even harder to defend oneself if the bully is charismatic. Women also want to avoid ruining their careers.
“Many bullies survive because they’re valuable to the business in some way. They’re destructive, but they’re destructive achievers,” Joy Chen, founder of Chen Partners, a California executive search firm, was quoted by Women’s Health magazine as saying.
But what if such bullying takes place outside of work, in a social setting?
You probably have heard of the term “wilding”. For the uninitiated, it means an attack or threat by a group of people. This tends to happen more in a social setting, when the Queen Bee is determined to still rule the roost and society.
She and her minions are even more successful at abuse simply because well-placed women just do not misbehave. Butter cannot melt in their mouths. There.
While it is morbidly fascinating to observe all these, it is also increasingly frightening to see many becoming banshee wolves.
There are many reasons why women opt to turn into female Hydes, but perhaps, after many a discussion with women victims or other observers, I would say Malaysian women bullies are who they are because society made them so.
There is little level playing ground for women professionally; and socially, it is the Amazon river filled with piranhas. A woman has to stand her ground, to protect her family and man all the time. Almost every other woman is out to get her.
When it comes to work, social connections matter more than merit, so a woman has to do what she has to do. She has to look out for herself. She has to be better than a man. If it means being vicious to others, so be it.
I bring this up because it seems that this phenomenon is increasing. I meet many women (and men, too) who had to leave their dream careers to pursue something different after becoming victims of bullies.
I know of a case of a young woman who had a severe nervous breakdown and ended up in hospital for three months. Her bully is still lording it away in a high position.
There are many ways of confronting the issue, and a quick Internet search reveals that the phenomenon is not particular to Malaysia.
Taking the high road may not necessarily be the best step for the victim. It is magnanimous, yes, but if the bullying forces you to quit a job with great potential and leaves you a nervous wreck, is forgiveness enough?
Retaliating physically worsens the situation, even though it may give the victim a great sense of satisfaction. Sending these sociopaths to a shrink won’t really help. They relish their behaviour. That’s why they’re sociopaths!
Documentation helps, and a supportive human resource department, too. Confronting the bully calmly may work, but socially, it may worsen the situation.
Sometimes it’s best to just avoid meeting and dealing with these bullies. But remember, karma does exist. When it bites, it’s like a dog with a bone ... It won’t let go.