Envy in Women

Envy in women often tends to be related to certain cultural and educational aspects that tend to place them in situations of inferiority compared to males.
Envy in Women
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 25 April, 2022

Studies suggest that envy in women is different from men. For example, men are known to get envious when someone rivals them in status and power. On the other hand, women exhibit more complex processes.

We live in a society where, whether we like it or not, women must work harder to achieve success. As a matter of fact, even when they’re carrying out the same work as their male counterparts, in the same job, they have to prove they’re more valid in order to maintain the position. Indeed, their abilities, resistance, assertiveness, negotiation skills, availability, and ingenuity are put under constant observation.

Women aren’t only envious of other women. They also direct it at men. In addition, they extend it to family members who have greater recognition than them. They may even be envious of their own partners if they command greater respect or admiration than them.

“Envy is so skinny and yellow because it bites and doesn’t eat.”

-Francisco de Quevedo-

The definition of envy

Envy doesn’t necessarily mean we want something that another has. We might even occasionally envy someone who has nothing. In fact, envy works on the logic of desiring the satisfaction that another person experiences.

For example, say someone dresses extremely modestly, but they’re completely happy doing so. This may make another person, even though they dress in expensive clothes, envious. It’s not that they want to have the other’s clothes, but they want to experience the gratification that they feel.

apples symbolizing envy in feminine

Envy involves seeing that others achieve the recognition that you don’t get when you do the same. It also includes not having the skills that other people demonstrate and that you lack. In this respect, a study conducted by the University of California indicated that:

  • Envy is a phenomenon that every human being experiences and that often arises unconsciously.
  • It’s a repressed emotion that we even try to hide from ourselves.

In the case of women, envy becomes another of those cultural burdens, the product of several centuries of contempt and exploitation to which the female gender has been subjected.

Envy in women

Envy in women tends not to be talked about. In fact, even women themselves avoid recognizing these kinds of internal processes in themselves. A study published in the journal, Evolution and Human Behavior, claims that the female gender experiences this reality habitually within the family.

The study claims that it’s common for women to feel envy when parents value their siblings more highly. This cultural aspect is usually deeply ingrained and orchestrates female envy to previously unknown levels. British psychologists, Susie Orbach and Luise Eichenbaum point out the following:

  • There are women who experience problems recognizing their own needs and desires due to their education. For instance, seeing other women who are more self-confident, assertive, and who know how to claim what they want, generates feelings of envy in them.
  • Often, women envy the kinds of skills exhibited by others that they haven’t worked on themselves. This is a common occurrence that requires further reflection.

Interestingly, studies on female envy claim that women aren’t necessarily any more envious than men and vice versa. Indeed, everyone experiences this feeling. Consequently, both sexes often fixate and yearn for the social success and physical attractiveness of others.

woman evidencing envy in feminine

Envy and hostility

However, men show higher scores in levels of envy centered on status. Women show higher levels in the aspects we mentioned previously. Nevertheless, unlike men, hostility due to envy between women is generally harmless.

In fact, women have a tendency to limit themselves to small everyday acts of envy but rarely cross the border into the territory of hostility. As a matter of fact, it’s common for solidarity and sisterhood to prevail over rejection at decisive moments. That’s the nature of being a woman. 

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • DelPriore, DJ, Hill, SE, & Buss, DM (2012). Envidia: especificidad funcional y características de diseño diferenciadas por sexo. Personalidad y diferencias individuales , 53 (3), 317–322. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.03.029

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.