Toughen Up, Ladies: Criticism Is Not a Personal Attack!

If you go online and dare criticize a woman — any woman — for anything, no matter how gentle, no matter how constructive, no matter how necessary, there’s a good chance you’ll face an avalanche of other women accusing you of betraying the sisterhood. We’re all women! We’re all moms! We should be building each other up, not tearing each other down! Stop bullying women! Don’t attack your sisters!

Well, if you believe this, then I have a message for you: Toughen up, buttercup.

Should women be supportive of other women? Absolutely. Should women refrain from bullying, insulting, or attacking other women? Without question. But what is frustrating beyond all belief is the ever-pervasive idea that if a woman is criticized, it’s somehow a personal attack, and the critic has committed a sin against all women. That means women, evidently, cannot handle book reviews if they are authors, movie critiques if they are filmmakers, restaurant write-ups if they are chefs. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all, right? Except here in the real world, sometimes hearing things you don’t want to hear is desperately needed. Sometimes the criticisms that hurt the worst can also make you grow the most.

We live in a time when women are able to be seen as the strong, competent, capable, empowered people that we are. Women can do anything, and for the most part, people acknowledge and understand that. Yet at the same time that we call each other strong enough to do anything, we’re treating our fellow women like fragile flowers who will crumple into a heap at the slightest hint of negativity. Which is it? Are we strong women, or are we fragile flowers? Part of being a capable, competent woman is being able to understand that disagreement does not equal rudeness or bullying and that criticism does not equal tearing someone down. Yet this is the mantra among women, especially online, and why? Are we really that weak, ladies? Are we so helpless and emotional that any negative statement will make us doubt our own self-worth?

Even worse is the idea of disagreement. Evidently, even today — in the year 2019!! — women cannot have fierce debates and still remain friends. Women can’t express differing opinions passionately without being tone-policed or told they’re harming their fellow women or made out to be a bully. Again, ladies, really? Debate and arguments and disagreement does not make someone rude or a bad person, or worst of all, someone who is belittling or tearing down women. Why is there this insistence on making women smaller than what we actually are?

Come on, girls. We’re better than this. We’re stronger and smarter than this. Look at none other than the notorious RBG herself, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. One of her best friends was fellow Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The two agreed on little, but they were exceedingly close; Bader Ginsburg even delivered the eulogy at his funeral! Does this pioneering woman sound like someone who is afraid of a disagreement? Who wilts because someone criticizes her? Believe it or not, we’re allowed to disagree. We’re allowed to offer constructive criticism of fellow women. We’re allowed to debate passionately. And it doesn’t mean we’ve somehow broken some kind of unspoken woman-code. We have to stop doing this to ourselves and to our fellow women, treating each other like weak-willed ninnies, while also perpetuating a faux-empowered sisterhood. Is this what it means to support our fellow women? To lie and pretend that we’re strong enough to tackle anything while simultaneously forcing women to keep themselves in little boxes where we must keep sweet and assume that our fellow women aren’t smart, capable, and competent enough to handle debates or criticism? That’s not a sisterhood. That’s not empowerment. That’s misogyny, and isn’t it time we stop?

Cassy Fiano-Chesser
Cassy Fiano-Chesser is a Jacksonville native and mom to six kids. Her husband is a Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient. She works from home as a blogger and a freelance writer, and they currently live in the Argyle area of Jacksonville. Benjamin is their oldest, born in 2011, and he loves being a big brother. Wyatt was born in 2012, and he has Down syndrome. Ivy came next, in 2013, followed by Clara, born in 2015, who is a diva-with-a-capital-D. Rounding out the brood is Felicity, born in 2017, and Lilly, born in 2007. They love discovering things to do on the First Coast and going on family adventures, as well as cheering on the Jumbo Shrimp and the Icemen.


  1. I’m a divorced mom of two children one who is grown and one who is a middle schooler at Beaches St. Paul’s
    I can say that I’ve never felt welcomed by other moms at this school .
    The cliche of being divorced or that it’s contagious or that you want someone’s husband is ridiculous .
    I don’t notice this issue with Divorced dads , so why do we as women cast such harsh judgement on each other .
    No one gets married to get divorced!!
    I’m glad that someone has written about this situation as I deal with this judgement on a weekly basis even from female school teachers as my daughter is active in school activities and sports .

    Please stop the hate so we can show our daughters to be better women …

    Thank you for this article

    • This was so Very good and written to hear the truth. No we are not frail women we are strong and Alive and need to voice our opionion. Sure we will not all agree we are not meant to. We are individuale and independent of one another but we truly need each other to fight this life while we are here on this earth ?

  2. This is so true! In mom groups online I see well-intentioned criticisms and warnings often about serious safety issues. But woe to the well intentioned mom with a warning about an unsafe toy, improperly installed seat, or unsafe sleeping area. Never mind the fact that “warning mom” herself may be coming from a place of humble concern due to personal experience but would prefer to not disclose that. As soon as I see someone give a warning moms jump all over her and tell her to be “supportive”. But you know what is supportive? Wanting another mom’s baby to grow up safe. Wanting another mom to not go through a serious ER visit, illness or tragedy is supportive, even when it stings a bit to find out you might have been making a mistake with some aspect of childcare. What is not supportive is the “You do you, mama!” culture in today’s mom groups because while some topics are open to preference, others are backed by research and data, especially in a country like the USA where pediatric deaths are investigated more extensively than many other countries so we do tend to have more info on what is safe and what is not.

  3. The article was so well written. We are not going to agree on everything. We are not meant to. We are here to encourage each other and help each other to be the Mother’s we are called to be. This world has a lot of challenges and it is okay to agree to disagree?

  4. There is video on you tube called antifragile motherhood that I really like. The idea being that antifragile is something that is getting stronger under stress. Good example is a muscul, the more they are stressed through exercise the stronger they get. Mothers are like that.


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