How did bitching become standard conversation material?

Calling each other sluts and whores makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores

Go on, admit it. At some point in your life you’ve had a conversation with someone and as soon as they were out of earshot, you turned to your mate to bitch about them. You’re not a spiteful person, but that feeling of wanting to voice your opinion on the way they look, or what they’ve said, almost made you feel… better?

As someone guilty of this myself, gossiping and judging others seems to be a recurring conversational topic with my female friends. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to gender stereotype. There are admittedly people out there who won’t say a bad word against anyone, and for that reason have my total respect. But why is it that there is a noticeable distinction with this type of conversation between guys and girls?

Time and time again, girls bring the focus back to talking about others behind their back, even when it involves their own friends. Personally, I’d like to think I’m not a particularly bitchy person. But yes, regrettably I can admit I have previously and continue to talk about people behind their backs, even when my intentions aren’t malicious. I’m sure anyone reading this would probably be surprised and perhaps even pass judgement themselves at my seemingly distrustful attitude. But as many of my close friends will relate to themselves, it is a trap all too easy to fall into.

Whilst it is difficult to own up to, I admittedly get a slight rush when my friend informs me of some juicy gossip, making me eager to input my view on the subject. Is it this satisfaction that makes us behave in this way? Is it a need to bring down others in order to feel better about yourself? Whilst in some cases this might be true, many girls would argue against their hurtful intentions and rather attribute ‘bitching’ to easy conversation material.

An incident last year brought my attention to the whole issue, after I was called out on mimicking my friend behind her back. The news of my actions got back to the friend, who was naturally upset. When I found out she knew, I was not only embarrassed but ashamed of the fact that someone who had never done any harm towards me, could feel betrayed by what I had said. In this case, my bitching was probably as a result of jealousy, but it since made me all too aware of not only how much gossiping was part of everyday conversation, but actually how harmful it could be, should the subject hear what people have said behind their back.

This also became particularly clear when I recently started hanging out more with my group of guy friends. Whilst they’re not immune to the odd passing comment about someone, it was clear that bitching was just not their thing. When I told them I was going to write an article on this, they commented on the amount of times their female friends would bitch about their mate to them. They made me realise both how much of a social issue it is amongst girls and how actually, we could probably learn a thing or two from their friendships.

So let’s make this relatable. Think about Mean Girls. Whilst it pains me to say it, as girls, we’re not helped culturally by this film which typifies a female need to gossip about others. Yes, I can admittedly quote every line of that film but it doesn’t serve to strengthen a positive image of female friendships. What it does offer, however, is an outcome broadly forgotten by the majority of its viewers which promotes the negative impact of bitching on the lives of the girls. Ms Norbury astutely points out towards the end of the film: “you all have to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.” And she’s right. On an even broader scale, by negatively talking about others amongst ourselves, we not only ruin our friendships but discredit the way we are seen by guys. If we judge a girl on her clothing and comment that it is too revealing, why should we kick up a fuss about a guy who says the same? It has to work both ways.

So the next time you go to judge someone or bitch about them, stop yourself. Imagine saying what you think directly to their face and how they would react. So what if they’re wearing something a bit out there? Who cares if you don’t agree with their actions? Are you directly involved? If not, you have no reason to pass negative judgement on someone. And just like the wise Ms Norbury recognised, it won’t help you, your friends or women in the way we wish to be seen.