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What's next on the 'bitch' list?

I’ve always maintained that there is no such thing as a sisterhood when it comes to women who work together. Seema Goswami on the recent Sonam-Aishwarya episode...

sex and relationships Updated: Sep 18, 2009 21:06 IST
Seema Goswami
Seema Goswami
Hindustan Times
Seema Goswami

I’ve always maintained that there is no such thing as a sisterhood when it comes to women who work together – or even those who don’t, for that matter. And after the recent contretemps between Sonam Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai, I think I stand vindicated. <b2>

The truth is that when it comes to pulling one another down – while pulling no punches – there really is no beating two women.

For those of you who haven’t been following the saga of the L’Oreal ladies, well, it goes as follows. The young, dewy-eyed Sonam gave an interview saying how excited she was about walking the red carpet at Cannes with fellow L’Oreal girl Aishwarya Rai. Ms Rai’s spokespeople reacted with outrage.

Much like you would slap down an over-enthusiastic puppy, they released a statement announcing that Ash would be the only Indian beauty walking down the aforementioned red carpet. Sonam, it added cuttingly, had not been invited to do so. She was welcome to go to Cannes, but as for the red carpet, it wasn’t for the likes of her.

Cut to the quick, Sonam reacted with a few barbs of her own. After making it clear that an insecure Ash had scuttled her chances of making that red-carpet walk in Cannes, she added that she was a big fan of the actress. And wasn’t it wonderful how Rai was still getting work even though she was 35? (Though, added Sonam kindly, it had to be said that she didn’t look bad for someone in her mid-30s.)

You could probably hear the sound of claws being unsheathed all the way down to the French Riviera. And yet, nobody was very surprised. After all, isn’t this what actresses are supposed to do? Take pot-shots at each other?

Well, it certainly seems that way. Even Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, who once professed to be friends, are now forever making digs at each other. After Priyanka claimed to be close to Kareena on Karan Johar’s show, the anchor confronted her with a clip of Kareena denying that they were at all friendly. Then, Kareena accused Priyanka of using her to drum up publicity for a new release, which Priyanka angrily debunked at a press conference.

To top it all, there were those rumours linking Priyanka with Kareena’s former boyfriend, Shahid Kapur, which didn’t exactly help matters. Especially since Kareena has been telling her friends that she still cares for Shahid and wants him to be happy – but Priyanka is simply the wrong girl for him.

Even on television we are confronted with the unedifying spectacle of women bickering with one another and dissing each other at every opportunity. On Bigg Boss, some of the ugliest fights were between the women contestants (who have since gone into well-deserved anonymity so I won’t bother to jog your memory with their names). And on some of the dance reality shows, the bitchiness displayed by the women performers towards one another verges on the astonishing.

No matter where in the world you go, there is little evidence of that much-vaunted sisterhood we all look for. In the pop world you have the bizarre sight of two stars like Cheryl Cole and Lily Allen trading insults in the media like two bullies in the schoolyard. Allen kicked it off with an interview in which she attacked footballers’ wives like Cole, calling her “as ugly on the inside as she is on the outside.” In a display of staggering maturity, Cole responded by dubbing Allen “a chick with a dick”.

High fives all around the playground, presumably? Needless to say, this bitchiness is not restricted to the world of celebrity. It is alive and well and flourishing in every corner in which women come up against one another in real life. At the office, it is women who give other women the worst time, attacking one another for anything from weight gain to bad shoes to coming late to work or taking time off to look after sick children. The war between parents and non-parents at work is more often than not conducted between women who have children and those who don’t.

And then, there are those much-derided Mummy Wars, in which stay-at-home moms take on working-away-from-home mothers and vice versa. It’s a war that neither side can win, but you would never guess that by the enthusiasm with which they engage in their regular skirmishes. Moms who stay at home are slackers who are giving their children a bad example by not working. Moms who spend the whole day at office are guilty of criminal neglect of their children… etc., etc.

Honestly, when it comes being unforgiving of each other, there is no besting us women. We bitch about the co-worker who hasn’t lost her baby weight even a year after she gave birth; we make fun of the new girl at work who dresses like a ‘behenji’; we gossip about how so-and-so’s husband is cheating on her; we giggle over the misfortune of other women’s children.

Behind all of this compulsive bitching lies a certain incessant competitiveness. It’s as if we have been socially conditioned to regard all other women as our rivals. So, unless they are doing badly, how could we possibly be doing well?

Given these circumstances, what hope is there for sisterhood? Well, if you ask me, I would give it a snowball’s chance in hell.

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