Growing up everything from pop culture to adult behavior taught me that my biggest competition was other females. They were the only thing stopping me, a girl, from getting my ‘prize’ aka Prince Charming. Luckily I never bought into the whole man-saving-me-from-myself story, but the idea that other women were meant to be destroyed so that I could reach my goals — whatever they might be — stuck. For the longest time I viewed other females’ success not as excellent examples, but something to criticize and stifle so that I might rise above. This of course, is not something I’m proud of. And to be honest, I don’t think I ever actually put action to these thoughts. Nevertheless, I definitely thought them. And as a full grown ass woman all I have to say is FUCK THAT.
Among the many* problematic stories that we were told growing up (don’t you dare use ‘like a girl’ as a derogatory statement around me… or better yet anytime), the idea that women need to relentlessly rip at each other is one I’ve ardently rebelled against as an adult. Even the women (and let’s be honest, there are many) who still buy into this narrative should be lifted up and supported. We have enough going against us — as a general group of people — how about we support one another. And do it so fervently that it sparks a domino effect.
How do we do this?
Start with your inner circle. Actively lift up your women friends.
I think for obvious reasons, it starts within our own circles. When was the last time you told the women in your life that they were ‘killing it’ (or however you’d typically verbalize the sentiment)? I’m not talking about complimenting their style or their latest haircut (though of course there’s nothing wrong with that), but complimenting their efforts at whatever it is they’re doing. And by that I really do mean *whatever. For the love of god, can we stop criticizing each other’s choices in life?
Support women at your workplace.
So you’ve shown support for your friends. Cool. You’re not done yet. It seems one type of place that breeds the toxic women-against-women behavior I’m hoping will soon be extinct — is the work place. Which is just crazy. We’re out here killing it and working towards growing our careers, why the hell are we pushing each other down? There are many different ways in which we can lift each other up at the workplace and it’ll vary based on the working environment and industry. But we can please stop shitting on one another for the sake of ‘competition’? Competition does not include being nasty towards someone simply because you find them threatening. Be the badass boss bitch that you are without shitting all over the other women at your work. Lift them up. Or at the very least* don’t try to drown them for the sake of lifting yourself up. Again… That’s not competition (which I’m ALL for) — it’s the same toxic bullshit we’ve been taught to act on. Stop it. Chances are, if you start actively helping your female co-workers and help to build trust amongst one another you will build a community that will only benefit you in the long run. And remember, no picking and choosing — that’s not how this works. Support ALL women. Men do this all the time. They form partnerships and alliances. I’m saying take this to the next level. Women up!
I hope this isn’t taken to mean that I don’t support a good fight. The working environment sometimes breeds competition and I’m all for that. But just as being a good athlete means having a good sportswomanship, don’t fight nasty. It’s not cool and it will only hurt you in the long run.
OK. So you’ve reached out a helping hand to the women at work… Maybe even at the office next door. You’ve shown them support and expressed your desire to build bridges. The work has begun…
Make a ‘strangers’ day… Actively engage in empowering women you don’t know.
I’d love it if we could all begin to lift one another up even as ‘strangers’. March is women’s history month. March 8th is international Women’s Day. Now, in Russia — where I was born and lived until I was 7 — March 8th is an actual holiday… Not the day in which we post a picture of some lady friends on Instagram, #March8th and call it a day. In Russia, women receive flowers and best wishes just as one would on a birthday. I love this. Recently, I’ve been taking the day to spread some lady-love by purchasing a large bouquet of flowers and handing them out to strangers as I walk around. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make this happen this year with COVID or now that I’m in Orlando vs NYC. But there’s an example of something you could do *any* day to help lift up women you don’t necessarily know.
Thank women for their awesomeness.
Another way you could help lift up other women is by sending thank you notes. “Thank you for being the stellar badass boss bitch that you are… You inspire me and I thank you for that.” — Or something along those lines. You can send this to the women that have inspired you. Think teachers, community organizers, local officials etc. I’ve sent this type of note to a podcast host I admire (she wrote me back!) as well as authors and local business owners. Go a step beyond that and write a note to the receptionist at your Doctor’s office or your local barista. Seriously, there’s really no cap here… You can certainly write an email, but I’d suggest doing something more personal. I’m a huge fan of snail mail and sending real thank you notes by mail. If you don’t have the mailing address you can hand them the note in person. These notes obviously have a bigger impact. If you want an easy way to do that, you can use Postable.com (you can write your note online and they’ll mail it for you).
Support BIPOC women businesses & organizations.
No mention of supporting fellow women is complete without mentioning the need to support Black, Indigenous and women of color who have historically been left out not only from society as a whole, but feminism as well. Support Black women and other women of color especially now that so many BIPOC women have been disproportionately affected by COVID. To support this group we can go out and buy from BIPOC women owned businesses — there are a ton of lists out there so just do a bit of research. Donate to an organization (I prefer local when possible) that specifically supports BIPOC women. If there is a local BIPOC women running for office, volunteer! We need more women in office!
Ultimately, I think the most important thing to remember is that we must support one another unconditionally. And by that I don’t necessarily mean we must support efforts or ideas with which we disagree. In fact, I think we can hold each other accountable for our errors without resorting to name calling or any other derogatory bullshit. How’s that? Honestly, I’m not sure… Still figuring that out. But the point is this: can we please stop jumping at each other’s throats the second we see an opening and instead challenge each other in a way that holds us accountable without berating one another. Support the women that are determined at making your life more difficult and maybe with time they too will see the light. I truly believe this will only help you.
I feel deep sorrow for my younger self and all the little girls who were (and still are) taught that we must be ‘catty’ towards one another. We are pitted against SO much in this world… Let’s not pit ourselves against one another. Let’s show the younger generation of young girls that other women’s success is something to celebrate. LIFT EACH OTHER UP.