Woman's Inhumanity to Women by Phyllis Chesler

There are 9 suggestions by Phyllis Chesler

1. Humbly Accept That Change Is a Process.
We must first accept that change is a process--one that can't be rushed. We will have the rest of our lives to work on transforming envy and conformity into tolerance and individuality, and on doing good, not evil, in the world.

2. Acknowledge, Do Not Deny, the Truth.
A woman must admit that women are normally aggressive and competitive and that oppressed women are also very angry; as such, they tend to take their anger out on each other. Such an acknowledgement may help a woman become more realistic about what to expect from other women and clear about her own limitations as well.

3. Become Strong.
Each woman must develop a strong self and a sense of her own utter uniqueness. No one can take your "good" away from you. Honour your own ambition; honour other women's ambition. Support strong women who are "different" from you, not only weak women who agree with you totally and who therefore do not threaten you.

4. Become Strong Enough To Take Criticism.
Women often become offended and emotional very quickly. We may be oversensitive to criticism because we have been excessively and unjustly criticized by both women and men from a very young age; we might also have been treated as if we were invisible. Women have been readied to hear unjust criticism where none exists. Therefore, I would like to see women learn how to hear each other gently, respectfully. At the same time, a woman must become strong enough to hear outside, diverse, and critical voices. Asking another woman what she really thinks is not the same as asking her to support you, right or wrong, or to falsely flatter you. A woman has to be able to endure opposing views without feeling personally betrayed by those who hold such views.

5. Learn to Express Your Anger: Rules of Engagement.
A woman may hold a grudge against another woman for a long time; she might turn others against her entirely unsuspecting victim. A woman might instead learn how to express her anger verbally, directly, to the woman who has offended her--and then let go of the anger. This is not easy to do. Perhaps here is where women can learn some rules of engagement from men about how to fight fairly and then, win or lose, move on, befriend our opponents, or at least quit holding a grudge. Men find this easier since they comfortably occupy a psychological middle distance from each other. Perhaps women might have to modify our intense intimacy needs in order to create and maintain more stable or flexible alliances with other women.

6. Learn to Ask for what you want; Learn to Move On If You Don't Get What You Want.
A woman must be encouraged to put what she wants into words, to ask for it directly rather than waiting for someone to guess what it is she wants. If a woman cannot get what she wants, she does not have to blame herself, give up, disconnect, or become enraged. She must learn that she can get what she wants another day or at another job or with another person. Women must be encouraged to move on as well as to stay the course.

7. Do Not Gossip.

Do not initiate gossip about another woman; if you hear gossip, do not pass it on. Let it stop with you. It's perfectly all right to talk about a woman when she is not present as long as she is someone you like, love, care about, and if what you are saying will not damage her reputation or ruin her life. It is not all right to punish and sabotage another woman whom you may envy or fear by slandering her or by turning other women against her.

8. No Woman Is Perfect: Apologize When You've Made a Mistake and Then Move On.

If you behave badly, apologize directly and move on. Cut yourself some slack and cut the next woman some slack too. If she has slandered or sabotaged you, talk to her about it directly; deal with it quickly. Do not let it fester.

9. Treat Women Respectfully.

Finally, even if we disagree with another woman, we must do so respectfully, kindly. We must cultivate the concept of an "honourable opponent". We should not automatically demonize our opponents or competitors. Women are not obligated to "love" or "hate" each other. We do not even need to "like" each other. I am suggesting that women treat each other in a civilized manner. Finally, women might learn how to thank other women for each small act of kindness--as opposed to expecting everything from other women and being angry when we don't get it.

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes


  1. Very powerful Trista. Thank you! <3

  2. Phyllis suffered for naming the elephant in the living room. So brave of her to speak truth. Proud to have her on my show and her essay on this topic in my first "manifesting a new normal" trilogy, Voices of the Sacred Feminine. Karen Tate

  3. THANK YOU...Womn, frs, foremost and forever, but very good advice!

  4. I needed this so badly, just had a disagreement with a friend of 50 years, breaking my heart.


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