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Why do women regularly pull other women down in real life when supporting each other will really make things better for every one of them?
A friend once said on a post I had written about #WomenSupportingWomen, “though these campaigns look great, the truth is, most often women do not stand up for other women.”
Instead of answering her individually, I thought I would rather share my views with all of you. It’s a long post but I sincerely request you to read till the end.
American feminist Gloria Steinem on various occasions has spoken about this. She calls it the “pull her down” syndrome, a way in which too often women denigrate other women.
This infighting happens within any community or group that has been impoverished or disenfranchised for a long time. You see one person doing well, you think she’s getting it all and you want only to take it away. Sadly, we have been taught to look at each other as competitors instead of learning to support one another.
I once heard a woman say, “a woman shouldn’t compete with a man for work. If both the man and woman are working, who will take care of the children? That is why there are so many wayward children in the world today.”
Clearly, this woman believes that a woman’s ultimate and only career is taking care of her home and family and as such she would hardly support any woman making strides in the corporate, business or political world.
There are also women who wouldn’t support a woman over a certain age without a husband or children, since an elderly unmarried woman is considered a disgrace to her family even if she excels in her business or academic work.
There are also women who do not believe in the sexual liberation of women and constantly slut-shame women who embrace their sexuality.
The list can go on and on.
Professor Mojubaolu Okome (City University of New York – Brooklyn College, Dept. of Political Science) says, “I’m a professor of women’s studies and can’t help commenting based on both theory and praxis. It’s simple but also complicated. Here’s my brief response:
Do you know that the reason women are against other women is that we live in a male dominant patriarchal world, and in order to be super-successful in it, you need to demonstrate that you’re on the side of the power structure?
The forces that ought to be fought have all the advantages and women can only get ahead if they sell out on other women. Until women realize that the struggle is on multiple fronts: home, workplace, the society at large and the institutions thereof; and they decide to unite to fight the male dominant patriarchal system (which is not easy, because one might have to stand alone sometimes), we will not have any change.
Just think about it: what incentives are there for women to support women? They are just labelled troublemakers/witch, etc.”
And I think she is totally on point! Patriarchy has such deep rooted hold and effect on the psyche of women that so many of them aren’t aware how seamlessly they have internalized it and the resultant misogyny.
But it’s about time we understood that empowered women empower, support and encourage each other and don’t pull others down. Because, believe me, there is enough space at the top!
Author’s note: CONFESSION: I am guilty of inadvertently falling into the trap of “pull her down” syndrome in the past. Thanks to the life long social conditioning. But lately, I have been constantly watching myself. I’m glad that I’m on my path of unlearning and transformation.
First published on the author’s Facebook wall.
Image source: a still from the film Badhaai Ho
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A full time professional based in Toronto, Canada. Takes keen interest in women issues. Bibliophile, cinephile, wanderer, seeker, nature addict, dreamer, a novice wordsmith and a hopeless romantic.
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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For International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, let's look at how we 'accept' mothers who avenge violence against their kids, but not wives who fight back.
The silver screen is replete with depictions of male rage and men engaging in violence, but when women engage in violence, even when it is reactionary violence, it doesn’t sit right with us. We allow mothers (as portrayed in Sridevi’s Mom and Raveena Tandon’s Maatr) to avenge their daughters and resort to violence when all else fails, but when the abuser is an intimate partner, the rules appear to be different.
Depictions of female rage on screen garner mixed reactions. We root for protagonists and films we agree with like Mom or Maatr, but there are also films like Darlings which drew flak for its depictions of reactionary violence.
This begs the question, which women on screen are allowed to fight back and why do we root for some of these characters while refusing to see where others come from?
This Generation To Generation Violence towards A Daughter-in-law Needs To Stop!
It is ironic how women in the same home do not think twice before harassing a woman who left her parents and family behind to live with her husband.
“My daughter needs a husband who listens to her. He should leave his family to stay with her after marriage. He should be well-off and not let her do chores.”
“I also need an obedient daughter-in-law, who will be an unpaid servant and a punching bag who shouldn’t have a life of her own.”
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