Why Do Women Play The Jealousy Card?


I was recently out with friends, having dinner, and while the conversation was travelling at a hundred miles an hour, darting from one topic to another, as it does when you’re one bottle of wine down with another on its way, it eventually turned to my friend’s work colleague.

“I don’t think she likes me,” said my friend.

“Why?” I asked.

“She’s always just a bit funny with me, and she never backs me up if my boss is giving me a hard time,” said my friend. “It’s like she wants me to do badly, so that she looks better.”

“She’s probably just jealous,” said our other friend. “After all, that big project you’re all working on was your idea. And you’re more senior than her. She probably hates that.”

It made me think. I hear women saying this kind of thing a lot. That another woman must be jealous of you. It’s usually said in a supportive way, when you’re feeling down and a friend wants to lift your spirits. But are we, as a result, selling ourselves short?

There’s a chance my friend’s colleague is jealous of her. Of course there is. It’s not uncommon within the workplace for envy to rear its ugly green head, and some might argue that in small doses, it can spur you on to achieve more. But there could be a bazillion (totally is a real number) other reasons too. Why do we assume jealousy is part of it?

It’s almost like we’re so keen to elevate our friend and squash the person they’ve disagreed with, we’ll say anything. But it is possible for women to just think differently about something. Envy might not play a part in it.

It’s so rare to ever hear men talk like this. Men can often have a disagreement about something and see it for what it is. Two people not seeing eye to eye. Why do women often attach an emotion to the situation?

And while I don’t think that emotion is always a bad thing (I think a good cry in the loos at work can often be the best way to deal with something, or someone, awful) it’s good to see something for what it is, and not belittle it by dismissing it as jealousy.

I’m sure that there are women who say it about me too. Last year, I had a disagreement with someone and I’m fairly sure her friends will have told her that I was jealous of her, and that I was trying to knock her down a peg or two. But I wasn’t. We just see the world very differently. And I think that’s OK – we can’t all see eye to eye, all the time. Providing we can disagree in a mature, balanced way, it’s no bad thing. Having someone challenge how we see the world is good for us all.

So whether we’re in the office or at the school gate, in the pub or chatting online, is this show of support we offer friends actually achieving the opposite? Are we contributing to the stereotype that women are over-emotional and bitchy? What do you think about this?

Image: DTTSP



  1. August 19, 2015 / 3:13 pm

    Really interesting post – I had never given this a second thought, but it’s so true that this is a very female thing to do and I’m sure I am guilty of it too. Yet if I don’t particularly like someone it’s never because I’m ‘jealous’ of them – it will always be due to something they’ve said or done that I didn’t agree with. Perhaps we find it harder to understand and rationalise why another woman wouldn’t like us which is why we feel the need to trivilalize it..?

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:26 pm

      That’s a really good point – maybe we sometimes think it’s jealousy as a kind of self preservation method?

  2. August 19, 2015 / 3:27 pm

    Interesting. While of course, jealousy does exist, I agree that we may blame disagreements on jealousy all too often. It starts in the playground and does tend to be more of an issue for females, doesn’t it? This will make me rethink how I deal with school fallouts with my girls, and of course for me as an adult too.

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:27 pm

      ooh yes, I hadn’t thought of how it probably starts at school.

  3. August 19, 2015 / 4:08 pm

    I’ve been guilty of saying someones probay jelous to a friend i think its a mix of assuming they may be and trying to comfort a friend. No one likes to believe there at fault so easier to put the issue in someone elses hands.

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:27 pm

      That’s true – it’s a way of passing the buck, isn’t it?

  4. August 19, 2015 / 4:51 pm

    I must admit that this isn’t something I’ve thought about before and I am definitely guilty of throwing the jealousy card about. It’s tricky because actually I do think that women can be more emotional and that heightened emotions and yes, jealousy, do play a part in lots of fallouts. You’ve really made me think now..!

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:28 pm

      Yes, women can be more emotional, and I genuinely don’t think that’s a bad thing. It does feel like the jealousy excuse is used more than it should be though….

  5. August 19, 2015 / 6:15 pm

    It’s an interesting one. I think we sometimes say things because it’s the easy thing to say … support your friend and keep the conversation moving along. Often, I feel like I have to have a split personality as I spent the majority of my career in an extremely male dominated environment and, even though I’m quite quiet and a little shy, I’m also very direct but now I have more to do with females, I have to really tone it down because it causes upset. I’m used to being able to talk freely about positives and negatives but find that I can’t do it with many women because they take the negatives as a personal attack rather than an open discussion. Apologies, I think I could go on forever with, I better stop now before I completely off on a completely different target 🙂

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:29 pm

      I wonder why women take it as a personal attack, when men don’t? You’re right of course, but it’s making me really think about why!

  6. August 19, 2015 / 6:52 pm

    I totally agree with you, it is so easily thrown around! Although honestly, I do sometimes say it if a friend is moaning about someone “it looks like they’re just jealous” but actually I very often sit there thinking “what did you do/say that meant they reacted like that?” and weirdly I think that way when I heard events from nursery regarding my eldest, because in life people react to what they hear and see.. there’s always so much more to the story! (especially if it appears to be a recurring issue!)

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:30 pm

      Yes, there often is much more to it, I agree!

  7. August 20, 2015 / 8:47 am

    LOVE this post. I get increasingly disillusioned with how tough women can be on each other. I’m all about encouraging the sisterhood! The irony that often the biggest block in the way of women is… other women! But you’re right – sometimes you just don’t click. x

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:31 pm

      Totally. Women can be SO tough on each other. And I think this blaming jealousy thing is quite anti-women, whereas just having a mature disagreement or debate with someone and then both moving on is MUCH more supportive overall.

  8. August 20, 2015 / 8:49 am

    Ohhh this is interesting! I do think “jealousy” is an overused fail safe but is it because women don’t want to acknowledge what the truth may be – such a as the work colleague might be driven by ambition or maybe she simply doesn’t like her colleague?

    I think jealousy is often confused with other emotions too – such as when a friend posts a photo from their holiday – the instant reaction seems to be to write “ohhh I’m jealous” but actually, it’s more a moment of brief envy rather than a true case of jealousy!

    Emma xx

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:32 pm

      Definitely! I feel envious of friends and other women /people all the time but rarely feel jealous. I mean EVERYONE feels jealousy from time to time, but not as often as we say!

  9. August 20, 2015 / 10:14 pm

    I think it can be hard to channel jealousy. We all feel it – right? – but I guess the hard bit is to try and turn it around and use it positively. So, remembering, basically, to just. be. nice.
    It’s not always easy though is it? Really interesting post lovely. I agree that there is a stereotype, but it’s probably there because we at least provided a basis for it. Sadly. x

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:34 pm

      Everyone gets different opportunities in life, but I’m a firm believer in counting your blessings rather than focusing on what someone else has. And maybe if more of us did that, the stereotype wouldn’t be there?

  10. August 22, 2015 / 8:49 am

    Really interesting! I think it is an easy thing to say to comfort a friend, but it is a bit oc a cop out isn’t it?! x

    • Alison Perry
      August 22, 2015 / 4:35 pm

      I think it’s more than a cop out, I genuinely believe it’s doing a massive disservice to all women. But that said, I can totally see why friends say it to one another!

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