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!

      2. 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.

      3. 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”?

      4. 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.”

  • 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.

  • I have never commented here before but the above is an unnecessarily mean comment! Jeez

  • 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 ❤️

  • Totally agree with all of this and to your point about all women being painted with a broad brush, I feel Danielle does this regarding women on “hate” forums. Real hate, real bullying and cruelty, is not okay. But, snark, for lack of a better word, is a part of internet culture. Danielle wouldn’t have the life she is afforded if it weren’t for the internet and the rise of social media. Not all snark is cruel and hateful and sometimes it’s not even really snark- it’s genuine feedback, constructive criticism, and real frustration expressed by an audience when they feel an influencer is being tone-deaf. The people who may participate in this sort of commentary aren’t necessarily miserable, catty, sad individuals who do nothing healthy or productive with their time and it’s unfair to paint everyone with legitimate criticism in such a way. If I villainized, dismissed, or snapped back at every single person who offered me an opposing viewpoint or challenged me or dare I say, called me out, in any way, I’d have missed out on some vital opportunities for growth and self-reflection in my life.

  • G, for what it’s worth from an internet stranger, I found this to be both thought-provoking and spot-on.

    Also, I work closely with a man who exhibits all of the behaviors described above to the point where it is detrimental to both team morale and productivity. Danielle, I’m glad that you haven’t (or have rarely) seen or experienced this type of behavior from men, but you dismissing it repeatedly is especially frustrating for someone in the thick of it.

  • You put a pediatrician’s office on blast to your 50k followers… is that an example of kindness?

    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.

  • 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.