The toxic trend of trying to 'expose' successful women for being a b*tch.

This International Women’s Day, Mamamia is creating the world we wished we lived in via our website and socials. That’s why today on Mamamia, you’ll see headlines we wish existed. But we cannot write these stories. Instead, the story will reveal the reality of what the world really looks like for women in 2022. You can read more about our pledge to #BreakTheBias this IWD here.

This is the headline we wish we could write on International Women's Day: Two famous women appear to be getting along just fine, thanks. 

But this is still the reality for women in 2022:

No matter how successful a woman is, we seem to have a sick obsession with revealing the 'truth': that she's actually, really, not very nice.

The more successful she is, the greater our desire becomes. 

It might be an interpersonal meanness we long for - do those two female TV hosts hate each other? How about the partners of those footballers? Was that a snarky tone from one podcast host to another? And those lead actresses - surely they clash?

Take Sex and the City as an example. In no world did anyone think that four women could star in a TV show together and all get along. Someone had to be cruel. Conniving. Manipulative. So at the inkling of any disagreement between the women, culturally, we pounced. 

Rumours about the Sex and the City cast circulated for years. Image: Getty. But it's not only interpersonal b*tchiness we try to expose. We want to find evidence that, broadly, successful women are not good people. Is she vain? Selfish? A bad mother? Is her behaviour offensive or upsetting to other women? Is she a toxic boss? Unaware of her own privilege? 


This manifests in a call out culture that disproportionately affects women. 

On social media, celebrity gossip accounts don't engage their followers by targeting men. It's overwhelmingly women they aim their lens at - women who are hypocrites, women who have the wrong opinions, women who have made a mistake, women who are causing harm.

Of course, some women do cause harm. Women can be mean, and rude, and cruel.   

But it would be hard to argue that men are somehow more virtuous. They're most definitely not - it's just that we allow them to be complicated. Perhaps a brilliant visionary who puts his work above all else. Or an ambitious leader who happens to value ideas above people. Or a wild creative who's chronically misunderstood. 

Women's behaviour isn't granted these nuanced interpretations. Instead, we hold one question up against them: do I like you? And if not, that's it. Because a woman must be liked. She must be kind and warm and inherently likeable, in order to have value.

‘Be kind’ is a message aimed squarely at women, tied in stereotypes about gentleness, humility, passivity and agreeableness. 

If women fall short of these standards, the consequences are immense. 

We're desperate to expose a woman for being less authentic, less considerate, less altruistic than she may appear, and once we're able to point at something, anything, to 'prove' it, the consequences are immense. 

Actress Katherine Heigl was essentially frozen out of Hollywood after her 'clash' with producer Shonda Rhimes. Taylor Swift was declared 'cancelled' after her public call out by Kim Kardashian. Ellen DeGeneres faced consequences that David Letterman - whose show has also been accused of breeding a toxic work environment - has never.

Because we have two sets of standards, and for women, they're near impossible to reach. 

So next time you see a headline about two female celebrities feuding, or a well-known woman whose behaviour is deemed unacceptable, ask if you're seeing the same stories about men. 

Or if this is just another weapon of misogyny, to keep women down. 

At Mamamia, every day is International Women’s Day. We fund the education of 300 girls in school every single day with our charity partner Room to Read, and our goal is to increase that number to 1,000. To help support girls’ education in developing countries, you can donate to Room to Read and contribute to a brighter future.