When Women Support Other Women (and When They Don’t)

As an adult, I hoped (or assumed) that cliques, competition, and bullying would be a thing of the past. Sadly, I’ve learned that some women make it a habit of judging, labeling, and critiquing other women. It’s a lot worse than anything I ever witnessed as a kid. I’m making some updates to this original post – just clarifying a couple of things. 

I can only speak to my experience as a woman, and about my friendships with women. Females who identify as women. Mothers can be especially hard on one another. Mothers! People who are supposed to teach kindness and empathy to a new generation. The judgment, hurtful comments, bullying, and need to label other women is deplorable and it has to stop. Is this to say that men or people who are nonbinary never experience these things? No. I am speaking as a woman about my experience. I can see who my readers and followers are and it is almost entirely women. So it’s safe to assume that the people in those forums are…women. Maybe there’s someone who is nonbinary or a rogue dude who reads my blog, but that’s really not the point. 

There’s a group of women out there who spend time in online hate forums. They spend their free time saying mean and hurtful things about people they don’t know with other people they don’t know. Some are likely less active. Some snarky. And some are legit, cruel, bullies. It’s like a real-life online burn book for strangers. Nothing is off-limits: they’ll go after your looks, relationships, careers, and even children. 

For the sake of being completely transparent, years ago, I used to read everything they had to say about me. Reading those words was both unhealthy and damaging. Looking back, I’m not sure why I did it, but when I was about 7 or 8 months pregnant with Margot, something clicked, I stopped, and haven’t read anything since. It is my hope that they stopped, not because I care what they think, but because I have to believe that they haven’t wasted 3.5 years talking about me? 😜 I don’t know who these women are, but cutting ties with those grown-up mean girls was one of the healthiest things I ever did. There was a shift after letting their toxic bullshit go.

In the end, it all comes down to women not supporting women, and as a group of people who, historically, have been (and still are) marginalized, it is not ok. Men are hard on each other, but from my experience, they do not pick apart the way they parent and attack each other the way (some) women do. Women are judged for how they live, how much money they make, who they marry, if they hire any sort of help etc. Too fat, too skinny, not pretty enough, etc. Hell – we’re judged for how we feed our babies. Nothing seems to be off-limits anymore. 

Over time, I started caring less and less about what other women thought of me. Of course I want women to feel they can relate to me. I want to be helpful, show kindness and empathy, and be someone people enjoy following. It took time to learn that the rare nasty comments that trickle in on instagram say nothing about me and everything about the people who send them. It’s all about how they see someone, so even the positive comments are really about them, because it’s their experience.

Constructive criticism is always welcome and there is an appropriate and respectful way to engage with someone. Name calling or judging someone’s life decisions, appearance (I don’t even know where to start with that – it makes me sick) is never ok. It’s mean. 

I am not one to judge people’s hobbies, so if spending time in a hate forum is your thing, ok. But bullying? That is not ok. Hate following seems like a not-very-positive hobby. In a recent conversation with my friend Dana,  she asked me to imagine the day-to-day lives of people who spend their time following people they don’t like, and then talking about them, or sending nasty messages to them online. We have one life, and only so many hours in a day. Imagine if they unfollowed the people that they clearly didn’t like in the first place, and used that time to do something good. They’d be happier and kinder. And maybe, they’d help others be the same way. I don’t expect to resonate with everyone, and I sure as hell don’t expect everyone to like me. But I will never understand using your time and energy to follow someone who doesn’t bring joy to your life. 

Chances are that you have never sent a nasty message to someone online. I’m assuming (and hoping) that’s the case for most of us. But, we’re all guilty of judging (even silently). We’ve all done it, and as women, I think it’s especially important to think about why. Can we for a moment, imagine that someone else might do things differently, and that maybe it’s what’s right for them or their family? 

I remember my mom having a falling out with a friend and then making fun of her behind her back. She called her names in front of me. Isn’t that sad? What if these women have kids and are just raising another generation of real-life Regina Georges? 

A few months ago, someone left a comment on my blog saying that I should just lean into my role as a stay at home mom. I don’t know that there’s any position I respect more than a parent who for whatever reason is home with their children. It is far harder than any paying job I’ve had, but this isn’t about the label/title – it’s about being labeled. I think it’s my job to tell people who and what I am. And why is it so important to define ourselves? Can’t we just do what works for us without a title? 

More recently, someone left a judgmental and condescending message urging me to seek help after I had what I thought was a panic attack while thinking about my toddler’s upcoming spinal tap and chemotherapy. Feeling that level of grief and anxiety after going through what I have as a mother is normal, and I shared those feelings to normalize them. Now it’s obviously ok for someone to express concern, but I wonder what it would look like to message and ask how I am feeling. Do I feel supported? What was I worried about or feeling? I am going to assume that the woman who left that comment has not walked her toddler through cancer treatment and I truly hope she never goes through anything close to that.

Being upfront about taking anxiety medication, therapy, and the trauma I’ve struggled with helps other women who are struggling feel less alone. Almost all messages are positive, and I want to urge women to think about how they talk to one another. 

I’m confident with where I am in my career, as a mom, and generally, with the decisions I’ve made. But not all women feel confident where they are and from the messages I receive, it seems that many of us are struggling. Attacking or labeling the wrong woman (and the wrong mother) could be extremely damaging. Maybe it’s their relationship status or where they are in their career? Women are judged for their relationship status, if/when they have children, the method of becoming a parent, how they parent, what they look like, how they feed their babies etc.

All of it has to stop. 

What if I was struggling in my role as a mom? What if I didn’t feel confident in my decisions or had something (anything) else going on that left me feeling uncertain and insecure? It is not right or fair to tell someone who and what they are under any circumstances. It is not ok to tell someone how to raise or feed their child. It is not ok to ask someone if they are pregnant or if/when they want children. As women and for those of us who are parents (as people teaching a new generation) can we be better? Can we do better? We have to be mindful of the fact that we don’t know where anyone is mentally and the reality is that we never know the whole story.

It should be up to us to tell others who we are. We’re all guilty of judging others in one way or another – even if the thoughts are just internal – and we can all be better. Instead of supporting one another and being in this together, some women choose to tear others down. If you’re a grown-up mean girl, imagine someone treating your child, sibling, or even you this way. 

Most of you don’t need to read a post about being kind. Honestly, I receive the NICEST and messages daily. Most of you are wonderful human beings. The online world can be a negative, hateful place, but it can also be one that brings women together. If you follow someone you want to talk shit about or send hateful messages to, please hit the unfollow button and move on. I unfollow anyone who doesn’t resonate, and it’s such a good feeling only letting in the people you enjoy hearing from. It is my hope that this post will be a reminder to do things that bring joy into your life. That’s who I want to be and what I want my blog to be. To bring women together, help them feel less alone, and to make their lives easier, too. I can talk about difficult relationships with my parents or my early miscarriage, and remind women that they are not alone. When I hear from someone who can visit my gift guides that I spent days on who shopped for their kids in under an hour, that feels good, too.

I have always been mindful of including others – of wanting women to feel a sense of connection and togetherness. It is my hope that I’ll raise my girls to be the same way. Since the girls were babies, I’ve talked about kindness, being a good friend, and including others. We talk about how it’s a good thing that we can love whoever we love. I once told Margot it was “ok” and her reply was “no, it’s good.” and it was one of my best moments as a mom. When my girls are in school, above anything else, I hope I hear that they are kind and include others. Maybe it’s because at 28, I was the new girl in Chicago, and I needed a friend. Ten years later, I find myself starting another new chapter – a big shift in my career, friendships, and priorities. 

I wish I knew why I wrote this post or what the point was. It’s one I started weeks and weeks ago (honestly not sure why) and after editing and having a few friends (and my sister) read it, here we are. I will continue to use whatever “influence” I have to help other women where they are. I will always stand up for what is good and what is right, so let’s be kind and support one other. 🤍

This post has been updated since it’s original publish date. I said that men “do not do this” and should have said that it seems that women can be

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  • Thank you. I used to follow some folks I didn’t like or agree with in order to hear a wider point of view. But after a while I realized it was hurtful and I was often angry.Now once I see a nasty comment or unkind judgement I hit that unfollow button. Thank you for this post.

  • 💛💛💛 Love this. Been going though a major life shift in the last 3 years (I think, inspired by motherhood/Trans-Atlantic move/post-partum anxiety), but only realized it in the last year or so. This has resulted in distancing/redefining/ending multiple relationships – some close family, some close friends – that I’ve not only realized were toxic to me, but also made me a toxic person to others, which is not the example I want to give to my 3.5 year old daughter.

    We are the company we keep, and to be kind, empathetic people, it’s important to surround ourselves with that. It’s hard, feeling alone and having to forage new relationships, but the relationships I’ve created, even with acquaintances, inspire and uplift me more than former best friends have done in recent years. I know so many people have these experiences, but it’s always SO nice to read posts like this as a reminder that I’m doing right by myself – and mg daughter. Much Love. Xx

  • This. A million times this. No one is perfect, but if we can catch ourselves having these thoughts and really thinking about them, it has the opportunity to stop. Another “influencer” I follow has one rule “your lane, your rules”, a nicer. way of saying “you do you”. The curse of this “social world” is voyeurism. I am envious of parenting in the 80’s and 90’s when you only saw “inside” when truly invited… I feel like the comparison, hate, and the absence of so much choice surely must have been better. That said, I’m also grateful for the people I intentionally follow like yourself. You make this new “world” better.

    1. YES. Your comment is the whole point. Let’s just look at how we see and talk about others. Let’s follow people that bring joy and positivity into our lives. And be kind. It’s pretty simple.

  • Great post! But, as someone who has worked in corporate culture for many years, I can tell you… this is not only unique to women. Men do many of the same things too, just use a different playbook.

  • Totally agree and thank you for sharing! However, in the spirit of constructive criticism is always welcome, I’m curious to know where you believe calling out your mom and specific people who have sent comments to you on a public blog falls on the kind spectrum.

    1. I do not believe calling someone out who was and is abusive, manipulative, or cruel is unsupportive (or abusive). Sharing an experience I went through is ok. I believe that telling someone they should be doing something a certain way, that they are not enough etc is not ok. Calling out a bully or abusive behavior IS ok. I did not post their comments or emails. I shared an experience that did not feel good.

      Yes, my blog is public, but does that mean people have a right to be unkind to me?

      I am honestly curious to know how you think a child who endured significant emotional abuse should not be able to share their experience.

      @thejeffreymarsh talks A LOT about this on instagram. They are wonderful and worth following, and just letting cruelty or abuse go is not ok. We are allowed to and should call out that kind of behavior.

      1. Thank you for responding! I agree that sharing experiences is okay. I do not believe that people have a right to be unkind because you have a public blog. But I do think modeling kindness is worth considering to facilitate further kindness. I am not familiar with @thejeffreymarsh, so thank you for the recommendation and I will follow!

        1. Of course. And I agree completely. It’s a fine line when it comes to what feels appropriate. Trust me when It tell you I tread very, very lightly when it comes to what I share about difficult or painful family relationships. It’s not just my story to tell, but I also owe sharing something (I don’t mean that negatively at all) to women who have faced similar pain. It’s helpful when we share those experiences, and when we, as women, say that we have to call out those who are unkind. Or at least that’s how I feel! It’s clearly something I feel strongly about.

      2. Danielle – how do you square saying “I believe that telling someone they should be doing something a certain way, that they are not enough etc is not ok.” with your posts and comments about what to say to a person going through a cancer diagnosis? Telling people not to call your daughter “strong”?

        1. Hi. Because the two feel very different and I’ve had the experience of living through it and hearing from dozens of moms in treatment. I shared so little about what we went through. It might not seem that way but trust me – I kept a lot private to protect my daughter.

          I don’t know if you’ve walked a child through cancer treatment or if you’ve been diagnosed. I truly hope not. But I know how painful it is to hear those words and want to help others who are going through what we did. I know people mean well. Hearing I can’t imagine…Glennon just said imagine is the bridge of empathy. Can’t people imagine? Am I strong and that’s why this happened to us? Those posts were all written in an effort to help people show up for their friends and families facing a diagnosis. When you tell someone they are strong when they don’t want to be and when they don’t feel that way, it CAN (not always) be hurtful. So similarly, this comes back to telling someone who and what they are.

          I guess I wonder what the benefit is in telling someone they are strong. Should they hear that and feel better? Does it mean anything to people that more often than not, it makes them feel worse? I don’t know. Hope this helps explain my thought process.

  • It’s a breath of fresh air when you get to the point in your life that you don’t care what others think.. or don’t take it personally; their opinion of you is not you. On that note I will say this goes hand in hand with people that complain all the time. The reality is many people (men & women) are just miserable & misery keeps company. It’s so petty & what a sad way for people to connect.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. It’s more about learning that it isn’t about us.

      I believe it is ok for us to share our struggles, but once you’re able to process something, it is so important to find the good. That is something I experienced firsthand with all we went through, and while I do not believe there is a reason for something like that, I can find the good and bring some purpose to the pain, right? But there is just ZERO excuse for being mean and judging others.

  • Thank you for this post. In the spirit of constructive and inclusive feedback, I believe it perpetuates old and tired stereotypes to say ‘men’ don’t do this, and this is exclusively a ‘woman’ problem. I believe it is counter productive to continue to label women as catty vs. men. First off, unless specifically indicated, how are you to know someone’s gender, or how they identify? Especially for an online random person? I believe this is a very harmful and outdated trope.

    1. Hi Jenna,

      You’re right. I appreciate you sharing your point of view.

      From my experience, I haven’t seen this with men and it seems to be a lot more common with women, but that’s different than saying “men do not do this.”

  • It does seem like you have a lot of problems with a lot of people…perhaps the common denominator is you? From a mental health clinician’s perspective, I worry about the anger you seem to have toward your youngest (portraying her as not being related to your oldest because she is younger and therefore can’t eat her cupcake as “cleanly” as your oldest? That struck me). There is a thinly veiled passive agressiveness in many of your posts which is also concerning. I think your readers may pick up on that and it turns them off and/or they feel like they have to walk on eggshells with you. I would just say to be careful about the energy you put out there…bullying is never okay, but you will catch more bees with honey. Sending love and peace to you.

    1. Hi Rachel!

      I’m going to guess you don’t have kids? The cupcake post had me cracking up since I have for sure made the same comments about my daughter’s regarding chili, chocolate and any number of other foods. This has nothing to do with child preference and more to do with a mother finding hilarity in raising her children.

      Your post was cruel and completely unnecessary and I hope you move on to other accounts that bring you enjoyment.

    2. Rachel, I am truly shocked that a mental health clinician would be so….bad at understanding people. I don’t know how else to say it. Most replies to those posts were laughing emojis or comments about how cute Kate was covered in frosting (which she was). Truly, if you read anger, you should revisit how humans work.

      I can’t even defend what you’re saying because it’s just so silly. It’s comments like this that make the internet a sad place. The time and energy (which feels sad and negative) that you put into this could have been used in a much better way.

      Please reconsider who you follow and the energy you put out there. If you think I’m passive aggressive, and based on this comment you clearly don’t like me, why are you following me?I don’t get it. If someone doesn’t bring happiness into my life, I don’t follow them. This is the point of this post!

      Also the “sending love and peace” is so unbelievably condescending. Come on.

    3. Hi Danielle–I’m curious why you deleted some other comments addressing the blanket statement you made about women vs. men…but chose to keep a comment as mean-spirited at this. Someone replied to that part of your post at length–I found it really thought-provoking and actually posted my own response. It seemed like a good opportunity to open a dialogue and I was disappointed to see it (and responses) removed.

      1. I wrote the comment you are referring to.

        I won’t repost it out of respect for Danielle and the fact that this is her space on the Internet.

        I will say I find it telling that she did not respond to my respectful questions and deleted the comment as well as other comments in response. I’m extremely disappointed.

      2. I wrote the comment Danielle deleted.

        The website would not allow me to respond under the original email I used. Maybe that was a fluke or maybe I was blocked. I’m not sure.

        I won’t repost the comment out of respect for the fact that this is Danielle’s space on the internet. I will say I’m glad the post was updated but I am disappointed she wasn’t willing to engage with someone who asked respectful, big picture questions. She kept some comments that were mean and that she could respond righteously to but deleted mine.

  • This was quite the read and has given me a lot to unpack. Danielle, you are truly a wonder of a woman. To be where you are today with the hands you’ve been dealt, your story should be told with pride. To look back on all you’ve accomplished and what’s still on the horizon is definitely and inspirational story for most.

    With that being said, the internalized misogany is SCREAMING at me in this blog post. This blanket statement that men “don’t do this” is not only just wrong, but adding more to the stereotype that women are “catty” but men are “leaders.” Men pull the same shit-talk and judgey-ness as women, they may just not be as passive about it. Every one is human, and it’s normal to gossip no matter their gender. (This is not excusing the behavior by any means.) By continuing to make these broad accusations towards women, doesn’t that continue to add to the stereotype?

    The person who claims to be a mental health professional may have crossed the line, but their words were not that far off. Everyone is human and everyone has their own way of communicating and having relationships. You have every right to have boundaries and expectations for those relationships. However, if someone does not meet your standards, they are instantly deemed a bad friend. Maybe there is truth to the saying if everyone you meet is an asshole, you may be the asshole.

    At the end of the day, you are an influencer and is your choice to share your lives with the public. That doesn’t mean you deserve to be bullied or receive hate, but that does mean people are going to peer into the slices of your life and form opinions. Being kind isn’t leaving hate messages, but being kind also isn’t blasting someone on your very public feed so you can say how kind you are in return. Kind people don’t have to keep telling people how kind they are.

    I do hope you’re keeping space for just yourself. Holding your mental health as a priority, and taking care of you. It’s very clear you have so much on your plate, and it’s admirable. But, you’re only one person, one body, one soul! Be good to her ❤️

    1. Hi Jen,

      I’m not sure where to start with this one but I’ll do my best. First, I agree that I could have said things differently. From what I have seen, men do not typically pick each other apart the way women do. They do not typically judge each other for how they parent, what they look like, if they stay at home/work etc. That is not to say they are not competitive or unkind, or even cruel to one another. I was referring to what I see women doing (forums, nasty emails/comments/messages). That behavior seems FAR more common among women.

      Your third and fourth paragraphs are where i struggle a bit. There is a nicer way to say what you are saying. And asking a question vs. making an assumption would make more sense to me. I haven’t blasted anyone and the reality is if you knew the whole story, it would make a lot more sense, but I’m being respectful of the two people who let me down. MOST of my friends are wonderful people. I am very, very lucky. I am also EXTREMELY loyal (as are most of my friends).

      People are busy. Covid complicates things. We are still pretty isolated to protect our daughter. My expectations have been fairly low. When the “standard” is basically a hello every 1-2 months and you can’t meet that, it feels not great. When someone tried to use what I went through for their personal gain, that felt horrible. But it’s really unfair to say that if someone doesn’t meet my standards they are a bad friend. I never said that and you don’t know what my standards are. That is what I wish women (and men) wouldn’t do to one another.

      My point in all of this is for us, as women (and human beings) to consider who we let in. How we think about other women. How we treat one another and spend our energy. How people make us feel. Yes, this is a public blog. OF COURSE I don’t expect everyone to like me. What I can’t figure out is, if you don’t like someone, why spend time following them, sending unking messages, and talking shit about them? That’s just not a positive way to spend your day. Eliminate people who do not bring joy into your life and if “joy” is shit-talking people in a forum, maybe seek help or think about why that is the case.

      We should all be kind to one another. Treat people how we hope they’d treat us, or our children.

      Being kind also isn’t calling someone an asshole, which is basically what you did.

      1. Danielle, I never said I was kind. I don’t feel the need to have to convince anyone of that. I also never called you an asshole, rather than referencing the saying.

        When I look back at what I said, I really don’t understand where I could have been nicer? I never said any harsh names or words but rather am trying to open the conversation on why making blanket statements on women’s “behavior” is just continuing to add to the struggle.

        “There is a nicer way to say what you are saying.” I am sorry but not every sentence towards you can be perfectly curated so that no toes have been stepped on. Being in the public eye means people will challenge you, I’m not putting you down, I am not trying to say you yourself are a bad person. But rather trying to give more perspective from an “every girl” you once claimed to be. If you truly believe in the above statement for us to consider how we “think about other women”, then think about why multiple other women have come forward on this blog saying there are strong misogynistic undertones.

        I’m also afraid you took my statement: “However, if someone does not meet your standards, they are instantly deemed a bad friend.” too literal which I take responsibility for. After all, this is the web and inflections are hard to get across.
        -This was more me addressing how if someone wants to engage with you in any way it has to be by your standards. Even above you’re trying to say I could be nicer when speaking to you. Not a single harsh word was spoken other than calling out your harmful stereotypes.
        -It’s also to address how even on your stories and posts if someone asks something a little touchy they are now a bully who is unkind. Not every person who tests you is a bully. If you feel as though you are being bullied every time someone questions you, then there is a deeper issue that I am not qualified to speak on.

        Danielle, many of us have followed you from the beginning. You were a woman who moved to the city as a fresh start! You started a company called The Everygirl for every girl!! I truly believe the people who still continue to follow don’t hate you but are trying to understand. You have been vague posting for months about unkind friends, you leave a company you started and unfollow your business partner. If makes no difference of gender, people are curious as to what exactly happened. You have been under extreme stress during these last few years but that doesn’t give you the excuse to unleash on people and then at the same time go on and on and on about being kind. If more than one person is giving you the same feedback, it may be that’s something you can be open to hearing (which was what I meant by the asshole comment).

        I hope this blog post opens new perspectives for you and I wish you continued growth.

        1. Hi Jen,

          Appreciate the reply. And you did have some very kind things to say at the beginning of your first message, so thank you for that.

          “However, if someone does not meet your standards, they are instantly deemed a bad friend. Maybe there is truth to the saying if everyone you meet is an asshole, you may be the asshole.”

          This is what I took issue with. I am fine being challenged but that’s not what this was. I’m not comparing that to a mean, cruel comment, but it’s one of the reasons I wrote what I did. Why not ask what my standards are or ask me if I write people off quickly? We point fingers and tell women who they are/what they are, imply it’s their fault, and make these big, bold statements. I’m not suggesting I am perfect because of course i’m not. Who is? I can see that you have some big feelings about this. I get that this sparked a lot for you – it made me think about a lot, too. Which I suppose, is a good thing!

          If my standard is ending a friendship when someone tried to benefit off of what my family went through means it’s “high” then ok, I have high standards. A couple friends let me down and that means all my friends are assholes? No. When the standard is don’t go 4 months without saying hi (and yes, I tried on my end) it feels shitty and I want to help other people be there for their friends. Most of my friends are wonderful.

          When I share what I do, it’s about asking others to show up for those who are struggling. To think about how we view and treat each other, the assumptions we make…all of it. That’s why I shared how to help someone going through something difficult and “what not to say” which should have been “things that are hard for people to hear”. I never said “if you say this you are bad” – it’s “you mean well when you say x but it’s actually hard for someone to hear” and I want to do everything I can to take that pain away. It is as you can imagine, horrible. When people message to say that they were able to better support a friend, that makes it all worth it. When someone feels less alone, that makes it worth it, too.

          I agreed that I should not have said men “do not do this” (too black and white) but women, for many, many reasons, do tend to do things a little differently.


          Not suggesting you’re bullying me with this comment and it doesn’t have to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. I’m just referencing the bigger picture. I’m not saying women are bad – Society plays a huge role in all of it. So does privilege. Men can be horrible to each other too, but I think most would agree women can pick each other apart in a certain way.

          There are times I could not afford therapy – times when things felt really really horrible. Do I think all people who spend time in hate forums are bullies? No, of course not.

          And re: hate forums, from what I recall, there were some people who were quite mean. That’s just sad. My thought/point was for women to consider a few things. How they follow/who they follow and who they let in. How they spend their energy. How we talk to and judge one another. And really, if they’re spending their time reading mean, hateful messages, why?

          I know everyone wants to know why I left and I shared what I could. I have my girls to take care of and protect. Like I said, there was no going back after Margot got sick – I needed to do things differently, focus on my girls, myself, and do what felt right for me. That’s all I can say.

    1. I called someone out (a man) for telling a new mom to apply lotion to her baby’s face as many times as I’d like because it would give me something to do. And I was met with DOZENS of messages from women who were harassed (one sexually) at the same practice. So yes I called them out and I’d do it again. I call that protecting other women.

      1. This is just another example of sexist garbage, to be blunt. If the dr was a woman and the parent was a new dad would this situation somehow be different? You are just not listening to any of the feedback above 🙈. Please make a change.

      2. Additionally, some people actually have a sense of humor and obviously this comment was made tongue in cheek. New parents are absurdly busy so im sure the dr was just messing around with this comment. You need to gain some self awareness.