Not quite a punch in the face, but close

I was 49.5 years old when I was first introduced to the social phenomenon referred to as ‘lateral violence’. I was at the beginning of a three-month online bullying campaign against me executed by women, all between the ages of 17 and 28. They were young enough to be my kiddies, some of them out to destroy me like their next Saphora voucher depended on it.

At the time, my super smart friend Summer simply said to me, ‘Lucy, it’s called lateral violence. It happens when a group of people is oppressed for long enough, they will turn on each other.’ She explained that most of the research on this is in Aboriginal communities and in the nursing profession. Google it, she told me and I did. 

That little mind blown emoji is what happened to me when I learned more about lateral violence. It explained why women can be so utterly awful to each other and why we see so many flipping memes and quotes encouraging the ladies to be a cheer squad for each other rather than a firing squad. You don’t see blokes posting pretty graphics that say ‘When men support men, incredible things happen!’

After this revelation, I spoke about it in all my International Women’s Day speeches. I said to my audiences from Melbourne to Christchurch: raise your hand if you have heard the term lateral violence. Not one. 

So dear reader, here is a brief summary and some action points to kick lateral violence to the curb instead of other women.

Lateral violence refers to harmful behaviours including bullying, gossiping, undermining or sabotaging that occur within a group of people who share a similar social identity or status. It often happens among people who are marginalised or oppressed within a community. Even though women are 51% of the population, there are still far reaching factors that keep women oppressed, even in 2024.

Violence might seem like an overly strong term, but ask anyone who has been on the receiving end of bullying, gossip or sabotage at work, in their friend groups or other communities and it can be utterly devastating and injurious.

A good friend of mine resigned from a horrid job because the treatment she copped from her female coworkers caused what Safe Work Australia refers to as a psychological injury. She would vomit before work and her underlying illnesses came roaring to the fore. She couldn’t sleep and lost her apetite. She was so ill she had to resign, doesn’t have the resources or the energy to pursue the matter with her ex-employer and she’s still unemployed a year later. Violence is not an exaggeration.

Lateral violence stems from frustration, power imbalances, competition for limited resources, or internalised oppression. This can lead to the displacement of frustrations onto others within their own community. It can perpetuate cycles of harm and hinder solidarity and progress within these groups. 



Nurses appear in so much of the research because they are professionally oppressed in a system that gives doctors the full scope of care for a patient and nurses just a fraction. And most of them are women. I will never forget an experienced midwife who said to me in reference to the bitch-ass chaos among staff in the labour ward, ‘Lucy, midwives eat their young.’

I asked Super Smart Summer to review this article and she added this: ‘Make sure you understand all systems of oppression so that you can better understand our own privilege and oppression. We can’t divorce lateral violence from colonisation and white supremacy. We can be both violent perpetrators and victims of violence without realising, because without awareness of systems, these things seem subtle and individual.’ Told you she was smart.

I promised an action list or Lucy Listicle of things you can do to take steps in the right direction to acknowledge and work against lateral violence:

  • If you see a woman behaving like an angry ninja on crack towards other women, that’s an oppressed and frustrated human. Maybe not in the community she is acting out in. She may be oppressed at home, at work or by her extended family so she powers up her douche canoe online and throws vicious barbs at women she may not even know. She needs support. Don’t patronise her, don’t isolate her. Be like a soldier who runs towards the gunfire instead of away from it and see what she needs. How can you help her?
  • Diffuse gossip. Only take your facts from the source and walk away from conversations about people which are hearsay. If anyone lowers their voice in a convo, you can be confident gossip is on approach. Take an imaginary phone call or just glaze over. I have a mate who blurts out, ‘No time for gossip!’
  • If you catch yourself thinking bad thoughts about your fellow oppressed, like ‘who does she think she is?’ take a moment for self reflection. Have a rant to your bestie and accept that you are in fact turning on your own kind. Then go like her last ten Instagram posts. 
  • Get personally involved in dismantling the systems and social structures that oppress women. Namely, the patriarchy. That is one monstrous task just slightly beyond the scope of this article but if we all pick one of the following and go go go, we will make progress: 
    • Legal reforms that end discrimination in all forms
    • Promote women’s economic empowerment
    • Challenge harmful stereotypes and norms
    • Provide access to education and healthcare
    • Support women’s leadership and participation in all spheres of life
    • End male violence against women
  • Share this article. I wrote it so that more people can understand that women being asshats to each other is not their fault. It’s a social phenomenon caused by the patriarchy. Once we understand it better we can conquer it. Thanks for reading.


Lucy Bloom is an international keynote speaker and author with a background in advertising and international aid. If you book speakers, bookmark Lucy Bloom
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