Women Are Their Own Worst Enemy: Ten Ways To Prove This Saying Wrong

Last week I was a Guest Speaker at a workshop in Abuja on Women and Youth in Political Participation. During the discussions that followed, there was a consistent reference to the saying ‘Women are their own worst enemies’, echoed by both male and female participants. From my own experience, I can argue both sides of the case. I know that women are capable of doing unspeakable things to other women, I have no illusions about that. However, like an incurable romantic, my position has always been that it is not women who are each other’s worst enemy, it is patriarchal oppression. At the workshop, women spoke about other women being their greatest allies in their political journeys while some spoke about being persecuted by other women. I think this is a debate that might never be resolved satisfactorily. Women will not automatically like other women because they share the same sex. If however, we are indeed concerned about more unity and cohesion amongst women in the face of patriarchal oppression, there are a number of things women can do to stop people from repeating the awful refrain that ‘women are their own worst enemy’.


  1. Stop using social media as a weapon to terrorise women: I know this is wishful thinking, but I can’t help but dream of a day when women will treat one another with respect in cyberspace. How does a mistress post messages threatening her lover’s wife on Instagram? How does a woman call Lupita Nyongo ‘’dirty’ because of her black skin? Why would a woman call another woman fleeing a violent relationship a ‘prostitute’?


  1. Show solidarity with other women: You do not have to like every woman, or her choices. Yet you can show solidarity when it is required. When you hear that a woman you know is in distress or is in need, reach out to her. A visit, phone call, email or text, anyway in which you can show that she is in your thoughts, even women you might have a strained relationship with. There is a Yoruba saying that roughly translates as ‘My quarrel with you is not about wishing you death’. Even if she does not reciprocate when it is your turn, at least you have established that you are not her enemy, even if you are not friends. The further you go on your journey through life, the more effort you need to put into supporting other women along the way. When it comes to friends, never be that woman who declares, ‘I don’t have women as friends’. You do need women as friends. Value your friends and do not betray their faith in you.


  1. Show empathy for women in public life: Life is not easy for most women when they are elected or appointed officials, or spouses of leaders. There is a backlash against women in public life that is always bubbling under the surface. Their mistakes are amplified and their frailties are exaggerated, compared with the way men are treated. Next time you are tempted to abuse or insult a woman in leadership, think again. If you were the Minister for Finance, would you appreciate being told to go back home and cook the finances in your husband’s kitchen? If you were a President’s wife, would you appreciate every item of clothing you put on being relentlessly   scrutinised and costed by other women?


  1. Treat female in-laws well: If you are married, you have to maintain a good relationship with all in-laws, both male and female. If you are a Mother-in-Law, treat your Daughter-in-Law well. Treat her as a daughter and not a stranger. If you are a Daughter-in-Law, treat her like your own mother. Same goes for the Sisters-in-Law. Even when you feel you have had it up to there, think about enlightened self-interest. What I mean by this is, as a mother, you don’t want your daughter terrorized by her Mother-in-Law. So think about this the next time you pick a fight with your son’s wife. As a Daughter-in-Law, think about how you might feel if, years from now, your son’s wife calls you a witch. So why call your Mother-in-Law one?


  1. Don’t be a ‘Wicked Step Mother’: Wicked step mothers exist as fact and fiction. We are very familiar with stories of step-mothers who abuse, banish and even kill their step-children. It is the stuff many a Nollywood drama is made of, and culturally, it is a global phenomenon. Why don’t we ever hear about the good step-mothers? I know a step-mother who brought up her husband’s three children from his first wife alongside her own two, and there was no difference in the way they were treated. She earned their love and respect. I am sure there are many more like her, why do we only hear about the wicked ones?


  1. Avoid body shaming other women: Most women have a life-long struggle with their body image and appearance. Sadly, women run a never-ending commentary on each other’s bodies. Women declare other women ‘too fat’, ‘too black’, ‘too ugly’, ‘too many pimples’, ‘too many stretch marks’, ‘too old’. If you are a woman (men, in your own interests pay attention too), never greet another woman with ‘You have put on weight! What have you been eating?’. This is gross and unkind. She knows she has put on weight. Her jeans and bra which don’t fit anymore have already told her so. She does not need you to re-enforce feelings of self-doubt leading to further erosion of her self-esteem.


  1. Treat domestic staff well: For the women who rely on a team of domestic staff to keep their households running, treat your staff well. Don’t abuse, starve or humiliate your staff. It is such a contradiction for women who are seeking to be treated fairly to be the ones who mistreat their domestic staff in private. Pay them on time, be generous to them, be firm but fair, and remember that they spend time with your children. Any abuse you mete out to them will manifest in their behavior towards your children. We know that no matter how well they are treated, some domestic staff will still plot to steal from you or worse, but at least strive for a clear conscience. I wonder how those women who put pepper in the genitals of their maids sleep at night.


  1. Don’t demonise your female boss: If your boss is a woman, are you one of those who go around saying, ‘I prefer a male boss, my female boss is terrible’. Really? Is it because your female boss insists on you meeting her deadlines, and is not susceptible to the subtle flirtation you used with your former male boss to get out of a tight spot? Did you call your former boss names such as ‘Bitch’, ‘Witch’, ‘Unreasonable’, ‘Emotional’ or ‘Hysterical’? Well, you probably did call him a bastard, but did you ever question his competence?


  1. Lions don’t need to roar: Neither do Lionesses. If you are the boss, you are the boss. Unfortunately, women in leadership often feel they have to prove a point. Women work twice as hard and go above and beyond to prove they are good enough for a job. If you were ever in any doubt look at Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. In what universe does a Hillary Clinton have to prove she will be a better President than Donald Trump? As a female boss, you do not need to prove anything other than that you are qualified and competent for the job. You do not need to be called ‘Margaret Thatcher’ , you don’t have to bully your staff, threaten them or be rude to them. Be clear with your vision and goals, build an empowered team and be assertive.



  1. Help another woman tell a good story: Thanks to gender stereotypes, we are socialized into believing that the world in which women live is one of gossip, back-biting, envy, jealousy, quarrels and so on. These are the habits that fuel the ‘women are their own worst enemy’ Men never gossip. They only have ‘conversations’. Men are never jealous or envious of each other, they only have ‘differences of opinion’. As women, let us stop writing the wrong kind of story for and about each other. Stop repeating unsavory stories you hear about other women. Refrain from the pervasive culture of ‘they said’ or ‘they say’. A few years ago, I was trying to rally support for a female candidate who was running for the State House of Assembly in Ekiti State. A woman came to see me, trying to convince me to support another candidate, who happened to be a man. She knew that I was unconvinced with her arguments so she decided to up the ante. She moved closer to me and almost whispered, ‘I hear that the lady used to be a beer-seller’. That was it. I brought the meeting to a close. My candidate won her nomination as well as her election .

So dear sisters, daughters and mothers, let us try and win this debate. It is not likely that men will give us the respect we deserve until we learn how to treat one another with dignity and kindness. Men have been tyrants, terrorists and have waged all kinds of wars, but we don’t hear them declaring that ’Men are men’s worst enemy’. I know there are many women who will continue to act in ways that undermine the notion of sisterhood. It is their choice. It does not have to be yours.


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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21 Responses to Women Are Their Own Worst Enemy: Ten Ways To Prove This Saying Wrong

  1. D'apoet October 31, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Can’t stop wishing all women will read and just know all these. The world would be a better place, even for men

  2. Femi Diipo October 31, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    You hardly meet a guy who doesn’t have a male friend, but several women can’t keep at least a close female friend. I think women should really learn to support and cope with themselves as well as follow these golden rules

  3. precious October 31, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    women!!! the world leave’s in the hands of woman. I thank God this topic is been posted so be it will really try to make sure some ladies read this and understand this post.

  4. Olakunle Olajide November 1, 2016 at 7:43 am

    I love this write up. This is so apt. This is just the reality of life. And i hope women would be able to work together in love. I experienced something of sort during the course of last month where passers-by already concluded that a woman was the culprit without even getting to the scene of two vehicles blocking each other. I don’t understand why women find it hard to let things go. I’m sharing this asap because i am sure it will help someone out there.

  5. Legzycool November 1, 2016 at 8:01 am

    This is so thoughtful of you ma. Women really are not helping each other, it’s like they just love to fight each other for the silliest reasons one can imagine. I hope they can get to understand the strength one gets by helping each other.

  6. Opeyemi November 1, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    This is deep. I wish women would always want to learn because i have had personal experiences with ‘wicked’ women. I hope the change really happens.

    I am good and i know that there are few good ones around also

  7. Arite Anne November 1, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    ‘I hear that the woman was a beer seller’ that really cracked me up but really who buys the beer more?. Seriously, we should not always be like this. We should stand for each other and help ourselves win.

    I hate talking about my past to my girls because i feel they won’t keep it and when trouble starts, they will dismantle it publicly. I will share this with my friends, this is really a Character Builder.

  8. Maveedah November 1, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Tell me more about what women do to themselves but I can tell you like the writer, that I have seen good women.

    Whn my uncle wanted to get married to an igbo woman we were so tensed. It was just one of the sterotypes that Igbo women are demons but This woman is So sweet. Very accommodating, Honest and so great a woman she is….

    If we had stopped him from getting her, we would have stopped a good woman from being a part of the family.

  9. Olaniyi November 1, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Women should be praised.
    Loooool. Okay, i think my female friends should see this.

  10. Detutu November 1, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Women should read this oooooo

    I have lots of male friends than female friends because i am scared of my female friends. I don’t know if it’s nature but women are full of drama.

    There are good ones though but then, experience has taught some of us evil stuff.

  11. Lota November 1, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Getting on this platform has been worth every click and this isn’t different at all.

    Women! Women! Women! Of course we are so full of different dramas but i think if we constantly tell ourselves the truth like this, the world will be a better place.

    If we constantly get to teach ourselves manners genuinely we will match forward and these men won’t use us against ourselves. Thanks for this great platform of learning. One last thing, if we keep reading from great sites like this and stop running on gossip sites, Our lives would change.

  12. DSEED November 1, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Woman who is not reading this article is missing out. These points are really helpful. Come think of it, there are some points listed here that must of the woman don’t even know how to handle well.

  13. Olowolafe Olanrewaju November 1, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    This is wow… Like seriously as a woman if you don’t get this key points right you are out. We just have to accept our weakness here and work on it.

  14. olakitan November 1, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    Inspirational! Women this is a call for repentance because most of us as been a victim of any of the points listed here. Let stop be enimity to one another.

  15. lanfem. November 1, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    This is very deep thoroughly. We just have to learn from this lesson and making right the wrong.

  16. lafe D. November 1, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    A lesson to all women…

  17. Olufunke Baruwa November 2, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Useful tips I must admit.. women are their own best friends!

  18. Bamisebi toluwalope November 4, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm, very true ma. I hope all women will read this and learn from this. Women really need to be each other’s keeper and each other’s friends and not enemies.

  19. Pingback: Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi Shares 10 Things Women Can Do To Stop People From Believing Women Are Their Own Worst Enemies – Woman.NG


  21. Pingback: APT! First Lady, Bisi Fayemi Shares 10 Things Women Can Do To Stop People From Believing Women Are Their Own Worst Enemies - Motherhood In-Style Magazine

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