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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
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.
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