At 92Y Tribeca the other day, I heard Susan Shapiro Barash, author ofTripping the Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry, talk about the ways in which women hold each other down instead of raising each other up. Following are three:
1. The “Not Enough Pie Syndrome”
Women seem to be under the impression that there are a finite amount of good things that can happen to us, so if a good thing happens to one of us there’s less pie left for the rest of us. An example of this is the Sex and the City episode where Charlotte finds out that Miranda is pregnant and cries, “That should be my baby!” This idea of “limited goods” or “magical theft” makes us feel like something is being taken away from us just because it’s happening to someone else.
The flip side of this theory, I imagine, is that if something bad happens to someone else we’re relieved because that means it’s less likely to happen to us.
Solution: Introspection. The more we define and focus on our own goals the less we focus on what other women have that we don’t.
2. Competition vs. Support
We constantly compare ourselves to each other in superficial, usually physical ways. We are hyperaware of who is thinner, younger and holding up better. Gossip mags pit actresses against each other with the caption, “Who wore it better?” Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston are often compared on the basis of weight, hair and net worth. Can you imagine a men’s magazine doing this to male celebrities?
As an aside, I find that men are more likely to share the wealth with other men. They’ll tip each other off to business opportunities, take slights less personally and try to help each other out when possible. And more shared wealth means more wealth, period.
Solution: Mentoring younger women, even if we weren’t mentored ourselves. Pushing, not just for ourselves, but for the whole lot of us to make more money, to excel in our fields, to have it all.
3. The Intolerance of Aging
We don’t see too many older-looking women around. There is so much pressure to look as young as possible for as long as possible that we don’t see women in their 40’s with wrinkles or women in their 50’s with grey hair. The more we fight the aging process the more we buy into the notion that it isn’t ok for women to age.
Solution: Being honest about what we look like. Perhaps we should stop dyeing our hair or, at the very least, not disparage a woman with grey hair and no makeup for looking her natural age.
Another thing that Shapiro Barash said that really stuck with me is that we should stop expecting so much from our friends. Men don’t hold each other accountable to the standards by which we hold each other accountable. If we stop expecting so much from our friends it won’t take anything positive away from our friendships, it will just allow us to give and receive pure support.