The Women’s Room

Britain has a new fairy tale princess.  Meghan Markle is refreshingly different from the usual British Royal being of mixed race, successful, independent and a self-declared feminist.  I am not a monarchist but it is always heart-warming to see two people genuinely happy and in love as Meghan and Harry seem to be.  But I’ve been wondering how many of Meghan’s female friends are sincerely rejoicing at her good fortune? Or are they secretly sticking pins into little Meghan effigies, making vicious comments behind her back and tearing out their own hair in a jealous frenzy?

As a teenager I devoured feminist writing by Simone de Beauvoir, Marilyn French, Erica Jong, Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan.  I grew up believing in the value of female friendship, that there was a natural bond between women.  Unity would make us stronger and female friends would offer a sympathetic ear and support in times of despair.  We didn’t need men to rely on, we had each other.  The feminist argument implied that in the past men had practiced divide and rule, forcing women to compete against each other for male attention.  By grouping together women would be liberated from male oppression and pursue fulfilling lives.

Decades later I’m not so sure about this theory.  After fifty years of feminism women are at each other’s throats more than ever.  Female bullying is on the increase with the development of social media, an ideal weapon for bitching and back stabbing.  I’ve lost count of the number of female friends who have betrayed me, lied to me, magically disappeared whenever I have a crisis, resented my boyfriends, tried to sabotage my relationships and begrudged me any kind of happiness or success. Experiments have shown that narcissistic women who are often at the center of social cliques try to surround themselves with women they perceive as less attractive, weaker and less successful.  This makes them feel better about themselves.  They will shine ever more  brightly by comparison to the ugly ducklings.  So any attempt by The Queen Bee’s entourage to break out of this subservient role will be perceived as a threat, met with negativity and even hostility.  Insidious passive aggressive tactics may be used to demean a female friend in these situations.  It’s tragic that many women  feel so insecure about themselves that they cannot tolerate a friend’s success.  We cannot blame men for making us compete among ourselves.  No-one can have everything in life.  We are all blessed with different gifts and talents.  The important thing is to be the best possible version of yourself and stop comparing yourself with other people.  Some of us drive BMWs, some of us take the bus.  Some of us play the violin like an angel while others make the best cookies in the world.  Some of us have children, others have exotic holidays.  But we are all equal, precious and unique.  As the cliche goes, life would be boring if we were all the same.

If you are a woman with real female friends then count yourself lucky.  True friends are like rubies in the mist of deceit.  If you ever find one, make sure you treasure her.  And Meghan Markle, I wish you well.  I hope you will sparkle in the glow of sincere friendship and love.



Here she comes… stilettos
tapping, floorboards creaking.
She’s no dainty, porcine
in skinny jeans reeking of charity.
I shudder, squeeze back into the darkness
under some old Cosmos.
I’m in for it once more, beaten
blue, still sore from our last meet,
left knee splitting at the seams,
dress fraying, fingers unravelling two ply.

We started out so well.  I thought
she was my friend until she began
smothering with home-
made soup, stories of The Perfect
Life. So I told her stories of The War.
She smiled, looked away.
She said, get out more,
visit Barcelona or Tibet,
be more party,
get a tan.  You’re so depressing;
legs so thin,
skin so pale, eyes so sad.
You’ll never win.

Her six inch heel smashed down my head.

Afterwards, I tried harder, pinned
flowers in my hair, started writing poetry.
You’ll never be normal, she laughed.

I showed her a mirror.


Lydia Popowich; Rag Doll
Original artwork by the author: acrylic, household paint, charcoal, collage on canvas.