I run a website where I am writing a fictional love story based on a well-known icon. It started out as just fun and really was, until a bunch of overzealous fans tried to take over. They were a nasty little clique, ewww; women in their 30s and 40s still playing the high school Mean Girl game. At first, the popularity of the site was extremely flattering. People loved the story and gushed over the site’s beautiful layout. They clamored for me to write more. I was having so much fun interacting with my audience and sharing my creative gift that it took a while to notice that a few of the women commenting were really just looking for their own platform to shine. I could almost see them chomping at the bit to share their own version of my story on my site. Now I’m happy to inspire, all creative artists inspire, but I viewed it tantamount to how Li’l Momma jumped on stage after Jay Z and Alicia Keys performed their hit song Empire State of Mind at the 2009 VMAs. You remember that award show, don’t you? The Video Music Award show where Kanye West tried to steal Taylor’s Swift’s moment in the spotlight by interrupting her award acceptance speech and being a complete ass. What kind of classless wannabe jumps on stage to enjoy the accolades of another person’s performance? What kind of fool tries to downplay someone’s accomplishments while they’re being praised?
Besides the scheming for the spotlight on my site, there were all kinds of underhanded, dishonest behavior going on. I was receiving emails behind the scenes like crazy. Online, certain members subtly attacked the personality of the leading lady in my story; they found her wanting as compared to themselves. Of course this was all going on amongst the group of “regulars.” Right before my eyes, they’d formed a little clique on my site that didn’t include me.
Often you’ll hear men making this complaint: women are catty and competitive with one another. They tear each other down rather than lift each other up. You see this stereotype promoted in our reality TV shows. I really think it all started with the dreaded The Bachelor, and that was all she wrote. The door was opened for disgusting competitions for love like MTV’s Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, Real Chance at Love . . . I can go on and on. But is this art mimicking life? On my site, the women competed for the love of my leading male character. Some of them considered themselves a better candidate than the one I had created and they were dying to let me know.
I created a site to share a story and naturally I expected support from those who claimed to love the story. Why was I instead getting cliques and shit?
How did I deal with my clique? Well, at first I ignored them. I told myself I didn’t have time for high school games. I welcomed people to comment on the site and actually loved the lively discussions we often had about human nature. My characters deal with real life issues and that often triggered deep conversations where people expressed strong opinions. I didn’t mind that at all. However, I don’t do gossip. I ignored the emails asking me to pick sides behind the scenes of an online discussion. If a person could not address me face to face, what was the point of me even thinking about what was being said behind my back?
Sadly, ignoring the childish behavior didn’t work because the behavior escalated. By this point, I had lots of members, but the members of my unwanted clique spoke pretty much only to each other and made everyone else feel unwanted. If someone came on with a thought or comment that didn’t match their line of thinking, they made it very clear that the thought was unwelcome and yes, that included me. You see, their daily participation on my site consisted of bawdy comments about how much they wanted to fuck the leading man in my story. Even though there was a very real plot and storyline that could be appreciated and explored that was pretty much their sole interest in reading.
I had already expressed my personal vision about what the story meant to me, how much I disliked sexual objectification and how I wanted all the characters in my story to be seen for the truly human, multi-faceted “people” that they were. Seemingly in defiance to my wishes, they objectified my leading man all the more. To each their own, right? But it was becoming like the classroom where only three students participate or better yet, where the three bullies in the back made it impossible for any of the other students to get anything out of the lesson. At one point I was having a discussion with a member, and someone in the clique told me to take it to “private email.” The clique was running my classroom.
Things came to a head when I decided to ban one member who was consistently disrespectful and argumentative. Of course, since she was a member of the clique, one of the other clique members wrote me an email begging me to unban her. I kindly and very clearly advised her to stop enabling and allow this person to deal with the consequences of her actions. This little bully had been warned several times about being nasty and I had had enough. Her self-appointed intercessor told me that she totally understood and had no tolerance for bullying behavior. But lo and behold, I found this champion of the underdog laughing and cheering on this bully as she lambasted people on Twitter who dared disagree with her, calling them all sorts of horrible names. And as if the universe was trying to tell me something, I even stumbled upon her blog while doing a random Google search. What was her blog about? Why, she was writing a story; a story very similar to my own: same plot, same story line, same leading man with herself as the leading lady. She had never mentioned a word to me. Who were her only members? The members of the clique. When I confronted her on her hypocrisy, she played the offended victim. So I banned the entire clique. Good riddance, or so I thought.
The ringleader refused to go and spent hours logging onto my site through a proxy server so that I could not see her I.P. address. She put up taunting comments letting me know she was still able to log on despite my banning her. Yet another member of the clique emailed me in distress. She couldn’t log onto my site!!!! Had she done something wrong? No, not really. I mean, she had been a member of this “secret” blog and I had read her comments comparing this “new,” “better” story to my own. I read her complaining about my leading lady and saying how much she liked this one better. Was she just trying to fit in with what I had come to view as a rotten batch of apples? I didn’t have the time or interest to wade in the shallow waters and figure it all out. I sent her an email that clearly proved the ringleader, someone who she thought was her friend, had been telling me all along that she wasn’t trustworthy.
Did she believe me? Nope. She actually asked the ringleader if I had created the email to try to divide and conquer them. I found it amazing! Once I revealed the machinations of the person who was actually playing them against each other, rather than realizing that they had joined ranks with an untrustworthy person, it actually made them a tighter group. They banned together in solidarity against their accuser, myself. Was it easier to believe the lie that their clique was good and loving and meant well than it was to see the truth about the basis for their friendship, about themselves?
Predictably, three of the clique members are now writing their “own” story. I’m not hating. People always think they can do it better. I suppose that’s how we ended up with all these different religious denominations. But it pains me to see women doing this to each other, and I wish I could say this was the first time I’d seen this play out online but it’s not. I once belonged to another blog where certain members were banned for not following the rules and criticizing the blog owner and her writing. They basically accused her of plagiarism. These were women in their 40s and well into their 50s. Did they leave quietly? Hell, no. They made the owner’s life hell for almost a year, creating fake blogs in her name, cyber-stalking her on every social network where they could find her, harassing her with hateful, anonymous emails and attempting to get all of her members to abandon her blog and come on over to “their side.” Yes, of course they created their own blog for no other reason but to compete with her. They were united in their collective hatred of her for daring to oust them from her site. When I tactfully pointed out that any writer would dismiss a person from their blog who accused them of copying their story from someone else, they cyber-stalked me.
So the question I have is: Why do some women do this? Why do they attack other women? Why would grown women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, women with children, careers, loving partners and supposedly a fulfilling life band together and spend hours creating, not because they had the drive or desire, but just to compete, put down and prove themselves as “better than” other women, especially women they supposedly once admired? I’d expect this behavior as some sort of weird right of passage in high school but adults? WTF! Is it society’s fault? Have we been trained by society to compete with each other? Has society conditioned some of us to only feel happy when we are dragging each other down? Is THAT how some women measure getting ahead?
I realize this particular piece is coming from a very hurt place. Of course I know not all women are like this. I’m speaking about the ones who are and I consider it a very real problem. When I have experienced this kind of behavior from other women, aside from feeling very bewildered what I felt most of all was of course attacked and yes, strangely enough, abandoned.