Women on Facebook are too bitchy even for me

I love my Facebook friends. They make me feel young again. But the fighting is preposterous

20 September 2014

9:00 AM

20 September 2014

9:00 AM

In the heyday of the Hollywood studio system, Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM (‘More stars than there are in the heavens’) was rumoured to have had a very strange chart on his wall. This graph, allegedly, kept a record of the menstrual cycles of the studio’s leading ladies: Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Grace Kelly and the rest. By consulting it, directors and cameramen knew when their precious cargo might be feeling a mite tearful and would ruin her make-up if spoken to sharply, or when her skin might not be in the best condition for a big close-up.

Some mornings when I come back from my husband’s place, sit down at my computer and eagerly turn to Facebook, I wonder if I too should nip down to the office supply shop and buy a bunch of graph paper — not in order to track the state of the silken skin of sirens (nice work if you can get it) but rather to help keep me up to speed vis à vis the screaming sirens of Facebook feuds, as they reverse over speed-bumps with their horns on, over and over, just like a gaggle of selfie-snapping monkeys with miniature cymbals. I love a good scrap as much as the next media whore, but sometimes even I feel myself wilting in weary disbelief when I see what’s been kicking off overnight.

Don’t get me wrong — I love Facebook. Just when I’m convinced that the internet is the main domain of a gang of mass escapees from Broadmoor, the amazingly agile minds of my Facebook friends shimmy by and like a bedazzled dancing bear I stumble after them. My best barbs are long-blunted in booze and self-satisfaction — but being with these glittering ghosts is like being young again, without the boring or embarrassing bits. I don’t tweet, but that’s mostly because the first night I did (there was actually a petition, on change.org, started by the Observer’s Eva Wiseman, to force me on to it) I got into seven scraps in the first hour and realised that I didn’t need another excuse not to write my novel.

But devoted though I am to Facebook, the level of feuding which I’ve experienced recently in my immediate circle of female friends — people I met through FB but have since pressed the flesh of and consider to be mates — has reached fever pitch. Or rather, PMT pitch. Recently, I got back to one particularly vicious skirmish, dreading what I would find, only to be informed by one of the feudees that she and her foresworn enemy had both started their ‘periods’ and were now bosom buds. Too much info — though Louis B. would have appreciated it. Elsewhere, another ‘friend’ posted rabidly jealous comments whenever I Facebooked photos of myself out and about with other amigos. Mrs Patrick Campbell famously called marriage ‘the deep, deep peace of the double-bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue’; I have come to see it as the slow dark ride of sexual companionship after the helter-skelter of female friendship.

I can see that some people might think I’m being a bitch to be bitching about bitches, as a good part of my career has been built on flagrant bitchiness. But my scraps have been about something — usually about calling out broads I saw to be bullying other women. I took on Dawn French when she made the ludicrous claim that ‘Big women do sex fantastically well’ (bitch-point: thin women are bad in bed) and Camille Paglia when she dismissed just about every living human with a vagina except Madonna (the starstruck old stick!) But so much modern bitching can be boiled down to two un-burning issues: ‘She looked at me funny’ and/or ‘You like her better than me’. Ick, ick, and thrice again ick!

Where does all this tiny-minded toxicity in female friendship come from? Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol’s film director, had a theory that the young Americans he met took so many drugs because they had been the first generation of generally healthy babies and, perversely, wanted to test themselves by inflicting ill-health upon themselves. Are the first generation of women to take the sisterhood as a given attempting to taste the forbidden fruit of cat-fighting through Facebook feeding frenzies? Once women have said how ‘strong’ and ‘supportive’ they are, do they feel they have a blank cheque to act like a menopausal mean girl? An experiment once showed that people who buy ‘green’ and ‘ethical’ products may be prone to acting in a shady way in other parts of their lives; does posting inspirational FB messages about kindness and karma mean it’s OK to go around slagging off other women?

Is it because modern women don’t have enough hobbies? Women like to mock men’s friendships, saying that they’re shallow and mostly about football and video games, but is that so bad? It certainly seems to contribute to them not getting their knickers in a twist over their mates. When I asked my husband whether he’d be upset if one of his mates went out for a drink with another mate and not him, his face was a picture. So many female friendships seem to be about emotion, pure and simple — except it hardly ever is those two things. And we all know that the over–examined life is not worth living.

Reading about Theresa May’s new ‘Cinderella’ law, I wondered if there would be any chance of using it against one’s ugly-hearted ‘sisters’ as well as men. I’m not one of these halfwits who says ‘O, female flack is worse because it’s psychological!’ It’s not — two women a week killed aren’t killed by being unfriended on Facebook. But I do know that while I have experienced jealousy, possessiveness, verbal abuse and violence from men, I have also experienced jealousy, possessiveness, verbal abuse and violence from women — usually when I failed to respond to their advances. Of course the former was worse — being beaten up by a man is far scarier than having a bitch-fight with someone of your own strength, and usually comes without the handy advantage of earring-pulling. But the sisterhood warns you about the first, whereas the second is swept under the carpet in the name of feminism.

I don’t hate the old-style bitchiness, which is plain in its intent, and which knows itself. How could I — that would be self-loathing! But I am repelled by modern passive-aggressive bitchery as demonstrated by the spiritual slop-buckets who post pictures of sunsets with ‘positive’ messages and then stick the boot in, all the while telling mates that they are ‘worried’ about one.

Dame Edna got it completely when she would destroy a female member of her audience from head to toe, then murmur: ‘And I mean that in a caring, nurturing way.’ All I’m asking for is a good, fair fight — one that isn’t based on jealousy, envy or any of the other things that add nothing to the quality of life or the gaiety of nations but actually drain and corrupt our daily lives, and which pass as bitching in these dog-end days. Remember, ladies, ugliness goes to the bone, no matter how many smiley face emoticons you slap on to the surface.

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Show comments
  • Liz

    Nothing compares to the bitchiness of men online. Just peruse any Spectator or Telegraph Women thread to harvest a veritable feast of spiteful, hysterical, stalking psycho comments from men. And it doesn’t stop there, the sports pages are full of them biting and verbally slapping one another. Politicians hurl nasty one liners to their right honourable gentlemen friends. Listen out at work and you notice that the vast majority of the bitching is being done by blokes. You know very well that the nasty hormone is testosterone not progesterone.

    • Gwangi

      No, men do not DO b-tchy. They do honest mano-a-mano confrontation and argument. Women can be so vile and underhand when they want to hurt others – just ask ANY teacher who are the worst bullies, boys or girls. I don’t think you understand what ‘b-tchy’ means really. Men can be aggressive, abusive, nasty – but women are b-tchy, not men.

      • mustbenice

        But that’s all you do. Whine and bitch. Seriously, you are the biggest cry baby I have ever seen, and yes aggressive, abusive and nasty too. Basically, every comment you make is bitchy, whiny, abusive and nasty.

        Hilarious irony 😀

    • Tim Reed

      An article relating to gender?

      Cue misandrist-in-chief Liz, to demonise half the population.
      You really are a hateful bore.

      For some, their target for prejudice is black people.
      For others, it’s ‘p@kis’ or ‘f@ggots’.
      For you, it’s anyone male.

      Recognise your place in the bigotry line-up.

      • Gwangi

        Yes indeed -spot on!
        And oh the stark irony when angry bigoted feminists b-tchily attack men and especially women who refuse to obey their professional feminut orders. Most women are not manhating muffmunchers like Sister Liz, of course – and how the Sisterhood hates that!

        • Liz

          Still bitching I see.

          • Gwangi

            You should ask your nurse if you could borrow a dictionary from your mental home’s library, love. You clearly just do not understand what being ‘b-tchy’ means.
            Interestingly, you do not deny you’re a manhating muff muncher… Hmmm…

        • Kaine

          And so we slip so easily from misogyny to homophobia.

          I’ve seen no evidence Liz has anything against men, just against self-pitying tossers.

          • Gwangi

            Listen if you are ABLE, Kaine…
            No misogyny in my remarks and no homophobia,
            You remind me of a mad Muslim who accuses anyone who dares criticise his belief in chopping people’s heads off an ‘Islamophobe’.
            If you cannot see evidence of any man-hating in the posts of twisted sister Liz then you are either blind or thick.
            Feminism = self-pity + self-obsession + manhating – and by a lot of women who have mental health issues, it seems.

        • Nele Schindler

          You do sound more than a little pussy-whipped! I imagine that once your allocated 10 internet minutes are over, your good lady will demand you do the washing up.

  • Liz

    Did you choose the irrelevant, clickbait photo of female flesh to accompany this article or was that the spaffing image editor under general direction of the bitchy Nelson again?

    • Tim Reed

      Prude. In case you hadn’t noticed, parading naked female flesh is all the rage amongst feminist activists today – an act of ’empowerment’, so we’re led to believe at the numerous ‘SlutWalks’.

      Perhaps a full scale Burqa is more your preference, for appropriate female modesty.

      • Liz

        No, I was thinking more along the lines of buff male buttocks and testicle cleavage on the Spectator every other day.

        • Kaine

          I hear Douglas is lobbying for it. Has my full support. 😉

        • Gwangi

          What about the naked men always being mocked on TV – the Girlie Show et all – and the man-mocking TV drama and adverts too.
          Women are not objectified any more than women, and I don’t see feminists – the hypocrites – ever campaigning to stop MEN being shown naked anyway.

          Also, you don’t have to read the Speccie so don’t moan. Maybe stick to Manhater Monthly, or Menstrual Tantrum News, for your reading pleasure, eh?

      • mustbenice

        Nice to know you hang out at slut walks so you can make bitchy comments about them afterwards…

  • Guest

    Bitchiness? You want fights? Hairpulling? Name calling? Aspersions cast on parenthood? You want Mumsnet round about the time of the full moon. Now that you really can’t beat for entertainment!

    • Liz

      Did they drive you off again for trying to test the chauvinistic waters?

  • The date of this article is the 20h September, 2014! I am readng it on the 19th September,2014…woooohhoooo weird!

  • hdb

    What hold does this woman have that after being sacked by The Guardian (no less) for being too extreme in her feminism that she can waltz into a column on The Spectator?

    • Colin

      She writes brilliantly, that’s the hold she has. I’m glad she’s here.

    • John Smith

      ‘too extreme in her feminism’

      That sounds fun . .

    • Anthorny

      Her recent Spectator article “Meet the new faces of nepotism” was the best I’d read for a long while. So with Colin I’m glad she’s here. And I never read the rubbish Guardian or Observer.

  • You want bitchiness and mean-minded gossip? Just stand at your kid’s school gates year in and year out. Nothing prepared me for THAT. The constant comparisons with their child and yours. The constant competition between which Mum does this and which Mum contributes to that.

    Nowt about any of that in any of my antenatal classes. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

  • Gwangi

    If a man has an argument with someone online, they’ll just block the person if it gets too much. Women, on the other hand, will burst into tears, seek attention and sympathy, cry ‘harassment, play the victim, get the police involved and thereby infantalise themselves! Really, JST BLOCK people and delete their posts – men and grown up do that. Spiteful little girls don’t and even initiate REVENGE ARRESTS against men wasting police time and public money.

    • Liz

      Stop crying.

      • Gwangi

        Oh dear, more mentalism from the resident hysterical feminut!

        If it were MEN sending these abusive messages to women on Facebook you’d no doubt call it cyber bullying and harassment and call the police through your sobs.

        Because it’s wimmin, it’s empowerment to be a nasty vile and disgusting hatemongering minger of a sad man misandrist.

        • Guest

          Hahahaha! This weirdo is FUNNY 🙂

    • Kaine

      As you’ve admitted before darling, your response to people being mean is to run to your mum for reassurance.

      • Gwangi

        Another mentalist moron feminut spurting her lie vomit online.
        Typical attempt by a vile woman to hurt a man by accusing him of having a mother. Anyone with a brain can see how nonsensical that is.
        Let’s just hope you never breed, eh. Any boy brought up by you would have my full sympathy for his awful life.

    • Nele Schindler

      ‘Women, on the other hand, will burst into tears, seek attention and sympathy, cry ‘harassment, play the victim, get the police involved and thereby infantalise themselves!’

      You shouldn’t make generalisations about all women based on your mother.

  • Jim

    Facebook is an unhealthy environment for everyone involved.
    The best option is removing yourself from it entirely.

  • Suzy61

    I have recently broken contact with a life-long friend because I could no longer tolerate her bitchiness towards my other friends. While she has been sweet and supportive towards me she has been truly vicious in her remarks towards my other close friends, both male and female. Men do not behave in this way and, thankfully, neither do all women. However, the few that do poison those around them. Keep clear of them.

    • Liz

      Men absolutely do behave in this way.

      • Suzy61

        I have lived, loved and worked with men all my life and never come across this. Actually, I tell a lie…the bitchiest person I ever worked with was a gay man but the straight guys…never.

        • Anthorny

          Straight men do behave this way. They don’t even need to be young. I’ve had nothing but vitriolic hatred from a married former friend after I suggested his favourite popular music group are actually rubbish. And he’s 50.

          • Suzy61

            You misunderstand me. I am talking about the bitchiness and jealousy of one friend aimed at my other friends, not at me. I’m sure there must be a word for this particular behaviour. I have never known a man, be it my husband, friends, sons, brother etc., who does this. I could be wrong…but I have known and heard of plenty of women who do this.

          • Gwangi

            Suzy, you are 100% right. Of course your comments do not fit in with the ‘politically correct’ diversity agenda BUT they are true. Men just do not do that b-tchy thing that women do – which is really devious, underhand, spiteful and nasty.

            Except as you say some gay men – I used to know a gay guy who told me his ex-boyfriend who he dumped tried to get back at him by spreading the rumour around the gay bars that he was HIV+ which he wasn’t. This was years ago too and maybe more serious than now.

            Girls do that when bullying – spreading rumours other girls are sl-ags etc. Nasty nasty nasty. ALL teachers know just how awful girlie bullying is, just how hard to spot too as it is all based on rumour and isolating and ostracising the victim. Boys are far easier and way less nasty.

          • Suzy61

            Yes, as the mother of two sons and two daughters…I know which of my children suffered the most. The girls at the mercy of other girls, sad to say.

          • Des Demona

            I’d suggest that any ‘man’ pouring vitriolic hatred over criticism of their favourite pop group either has a mental age of 12 or is in need of some counselling.

    • mustbenice

      And yet, nearly every male comment on this page is a bitchy, nasty one.

      It’s almost as if your anecdotal evidence means nothing at all.

  • Skyeward

    The medium is the problem. Social media brings out the worst in the undisciplined – and I’m rather afraid far too many among lack purpose, focus and discipline.

  • flippit

    I believe its called narcism. This vain, silly promotion of the image they want to project – laughing, surrounded by friends, good time girls, bubbly, selfie after selfie after selfie (all carefully photoshopped first) whilst taking offence of every little thing. Maybe someone too slow to ‘like’ the new look or not gushing enough in the comment. Yuk, yuk, thrice yuk. They’re not women, they’re holograms. How awful it must be to give a monkeys what they say or do.

  • Smiffy51

    What on earth is the point of this dreary article? If you don’t like facebok, don’t go there!

  • Kenneth O’Keeffe

    Presumably keeping tabs on menstrual cycles also served another purpose; it enabled these bully-boy studio bosses to know when they could get away with f….king their charges with a lower risk of getting them up the duff.

  • Ashley Bcloud
  • Kenneth O’Keeffe

    Burchill. The woman who was sued (successfully) by the actor Steven Berkoff for taking personal insults to a whole new level of venom is now calling others bitchy. Ha ha ha. I think we’ve had enough from this self-confessed cocaine fiend.

  • Guest

    Just read these comments. Men bitching and whining. And on every other forum on the internet.

    Men, they are genuinely excellent at bitching, whining and back stabbing.

    Fact is, there is no such thing as only women do a) and only men do b) and anybody who makes such a comment tells us an enormous amount about themselves and nothing, whatsoever, about the other sex.

    And that’s that 🙂