Thoughts on this post? Share them with me on Facebook, join the SPANily or Tweet me at @angieatkinson. ~Angie

I recently engaged in a LinkedIn discussion that left me disgusted, shocked and angry. It seems that I shared an unpopular opinion in one of my writing groups, and while I wasn’t surprised by the fact that people disagreed with me, I was completely floored when another woman attacked me personally. She didn’t like what I had to say, and I respected that wholeheartedly. I’m always up for a friendly and spirited debate–but then she took it one step too far. She implied that because I have children, I must be an incompetent writer.

This woman, who later admitted to being a mother herself, spewed hate and ignorance, the likes of which I haven’t seen since junior high school. She even attempted to insult me by calling me a “mommy blogger.”

Guess what? I am a mommy, and I am also a blogger. I’m an awesome wife, a homeowner, a friend, a daughter, a granddaughter. I love my life, and I’m proud of my family. I also happen to be a pretty successful freelance writer who brings in a pretty decent income. I’m passionate and I know what I want in this world–and I’m not afraid to go after it.

But apparently, simply admitting that one has children in some circles is a sign to some people that she’s not capable of being a professional. Instead, women who admit they’re mothers are often belittled and ridiculed–and often, this treatment comes from other women, even other mothers. People who openly admit to being moms might be called “unprofessional” and told that they must not be taking their work seriously–even from people who are less experienced and making less money than they are.

It’s not just the writing community, either. Back in my corporate life, I experienced discrimination from some of my colleagues, including other mothers, because of my maternal status–and my research tells me that I’m not alone.

Being female already puts us behind our male counterparts in the professional world. On average, we earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. While there are countless rationalizations for this phenomenon, there are just as many legitimate complaints.

Discrimination At Its Finest

If a career-driven woman aggressively pursues her own success, she’s called a bitch. If she chooses to focus on her family, she’s considered “just a mommy.” And, if she tries to “have it all” and work while she raises her family, God forbid, her intelligence is questioned and she might be called incompetent. The really messed up part is that men don’t generally experience the same type of discrimination when they become parents.

The thing that really gets under my skin in regard to discrimination against women, and especially mothers, in the workplace is that it very often comes from other women. By the time we’re 33 years old, 76 percent of us are or will become mothers. There’s a pretty good chance that could include you (or your partner), if it doesn’t already.

Woman Vs. Woman

As a society, so many have been conditioned to think that motherhood=career suicide that many women turn against one another. While competition in the workplace is natural and even encouraged in many cases, it doesn’t need to involve personal attacks–especially on a woman’s maternal status.

I don’t know about y’all, but I am over this whole “women discriminating against other women” thing. Some people seem to thrive on it–maybe they think that by spewing hate and insults at the other women in their respective industries, they’re somehow proving their own superiority. Or maybe they are trying to appear more masculine, as they mistake spitefulness for assertiveness. I honestly don’t know the answer here–maybe it should simply be chalked up to the fact that some people are just plain negative.

So back to the story…

While I’ll openly admit that my heart was pounding in shock and anger as I read this woman’s venomous words, after I had some time to think on it, it occurred to me that my initial reaction would only encourage her negative behavior. So, I reminded her that it’s easy to be nasty in a semi-anonymous forum to people she doesn’t know and will probably never meet. I apologized for any perceived sarcasm or negativity she found in my responses (although I was nothing but respectful to her–unless you count the time I suggested that her negative attitude might be the reason she’s having trouble finding high-paying gigs), and then I wished her well and removed myself from the conversation.

Sure, I had a brief urge to tell her what I really thought, and believe me, it wouldn’t have been pretty. But that would just be putting more negativity out into the world–thus, bringing more of it into my life. I don’t need it–and neither do the rest of the women in the world.

Woman, Support Thy Sisters

Listen, girls, I know just as well as anyone how it feels to be competitive with the other women in your life. Who doesn’t? This society encourages a certain type of perfection, and anyone who doesn’t fit in that perfect little box can expect some level of discrimination.

But I propose that we, as women, work together to climb that collective “ladder of success.” Let’s stick our proverbial hammers in our back pockets on the way up so that when we reach the top, we can break through that perceived glass ceiling people are always talking about.

And on the way up, why not give our sisters a helping hand? Reach out to the women in your life, personal and professional, and you might just find a kind of support that you didn’t know was possible. Get off the woman-hating band wagon and love your sisters, flaws and all.

Why It Matters

Here’s the kicker. When we focus on tearing down the other women around us, we are also tearing down ourselves on some level. Remember, you get back what you put out into the universe. So, when you’re constantly trying to “one-up” or belittle the other women in your life, you might just look in the mirror and see someone you don’t even like. After all, you’re one of those people you’re always cutting down. However, if you can muster up a little support for (yourself and) the other feminine folks in your life, you might just find that a beautiful, happy person you’re proud to call Self smiles back at you instead.

My challenge to my female readers today is to support and encourage the women in your life. Instead of feeling competitive and threatened by one another, celebrate one another in all of your feminine perfection. Offer praise, support, advice. Focus on the good things about the women in your life, and watch yourself  experience immeasurable personal growth and increased self love–and ultimately, an improved quality of life.

As for the men, if you’re still reading, I challenge you to tell the women in your life that they matter. Hug your significant other and tell her she’s amazing. Call your mother and thank her for putting up with you for all these years. Tell your female colleagues that you appreciate them.

What do you think? Have you or someone you know experienced discrimination in the workplace? How did you handle it? How do you support the women in your life?

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6 Responses to Woman, Support Thy Sisters: Stop Perpetuating the Mommy Stigma

  1. It's really sad how some people judge mothers that choose to work, especially when they are mothers themselves! It is unbelievable how after all this time women are still viewed differently. You can't let these judgmental people stand in your way!

  2. I enjoyed reading this post very much. It reminds me of a lot of the women I am surrounded with and how they view one another. It is nice to have a conversation with another woman and not feel as though I must defend my actions to make my dreams come true or battle off the negative feedback.

  3. Hi Angela! I don't know WHO said this (maybe Gloria Steinem or somebody) but it was this: I have met the true enemy of women – it is other women!

    Gives ya pause in light of your recent "run in" with one of "us", eh? I'm sorry you felt attacked – it is probably a reflection of how she feels about herself and has nothing to do with you personally on any level at all. Send her love. She needs it.

  4. I had this conversation today! It's sad that women feel the need to compete with each other instead of support and encourage each other. Kudos to you for not shooting back negativity. And for a mommy blogger, this post was very well written. : )

  5. agree! part of why i want to promote is to do better as a woman supervisor, the worst ones i have had in six years at my career… all of them, gals. how sad is that. ok one dude was a jerk too but three chicks to his one aint good. let's do better girls!

  6. Pingback: Why You Should Never Have Kids (Unless You Really Want To) | In Pursuit of Fulfillment

  7. Sad to say, this kind of reaction should be no surprise. The stereotype of women being more nurturing and kinder does not play out in the real world. I am speculating here but I believe most women would say their worst work experiences are due to a female boss and their worst personal experiences also stem from female to female interactions – jealous soccer moms, dance moms, stage mothers and the like. Even female teachers, if my own daughters’ experiences are any indication, are inclined to frustrate intelligent girls.

    In my personal experience is one hellish boss who created such a negative work environment that I took stress leave. I have worked since I was 12 in various capacities and in all instances of discontent, there was a female at the core of it. I had never taken stress leave and I was 45 at the time of this one. For the record, every member of her staff left and she was finally moved into a position where she would fail in order to oust her from the company. She has since been ousted from two others… and she’s raising daughters….

    The experience of angry, jealous women extended even to university in my case: in 1995, I applied to the faculty of social work at my city’s university. I was refused entry because my essay, Sexual Harassment of Women by Women, was deemed to radical and not reflective of reality by the female intake staff….

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