Recently, I shared the list of female speakers for an upcoming work luncheon with a group of friends. I jovially conveyed that each of the speakers had lived incredible lives, traveled the world extensively, and had many intriguing stories to share. “They are perfect for this event,” I said, “because you know how much women love to share their stories, find inspiration in one another and live vicariously through each another.”
A couple of the men laughed. “Are you sure about that?” they asked. “Aren’t women usually pretty competitive, jealous and spiteful of one another?”
As an editor of a woman’s magazine, I am (and have always been) intrigued by this notion. I admit I’ve been on one end or the other of the awkward relationship women sometimes share with one another. I was at an event just the other day where women were giving each other the hairy eyeball. Some of us just cannot resist even though we know what it’s like to be under the daunting gaze of a group of women.
My early-teenage daughter recently expressed her anger when she saw a photo of a girl her age standing at the ocean’s edge, surfboard tucked under her arm. “I hate her,” she said. Surprised, I asked her why on earth she would hate her when one of her dreams is to learn to surf. “That’s why I hate her,” she said. “She gets to and I don’t.” Although disturbing at first, it was the perfect opportunity to discuss how she relates to other girls, and how I relate to other women, even when perceived inequalities exist.
Each day I enjoy the great fortune of hearing stories from women of all sizes, shapes, backgrounds, and ages. Every woman, it seems, faces a different challenge. Louise Brown once wrote: “The young women in my classes are feisty and clever and believe, often with the passion of youthful optimism, that feminism is a battle already won. I worry for them—and for my daughters, too.” While we all have different strengths and weaknesses, it seems all too clear that many of the same struggles are shared in common. Victories are shared, as well, and we can share in one of the biggest victories by uniting for the greater good of all women. As each of us makes our own way, chooses our own destiny, my hope is that we can also find the time to work for the freedom of all women, while extending to them the same courtesies we hope to receive, so that they, too, have the option to make the choices they feel will fulfill them.