Women Supporting Women: Division By Design

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

-Albert Einstein

“Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the 'I' to be, not in order to be used, but in order to be creative. This is a difference between the passive be and the active being” (Lorde, 2007). Women are conditioned from a young age to look to a man for help, love, and approval. The constant theme in fairy tales to find one’s knight in shining armor, or a Prince Charming instills the idea that a woman needs a man to make it in the world. Fairy tales will pepper in a magical female being, like a Fairy or Fairy Godmother, to help the heroine reach the favor of the man who will save eventually save her. This often enforces the idea that a woman cannot even get a man without assistance.

If there is another woman in the Fairy tale, she is generally the antagonist who plans to harm the heroine in one fashion or another. These storylines strongly suggest that women can not count on other woman for support, that other women are always looking for ways to ruin the happiness of those around them for their own best interest. These fairy tale storylines make it clear that if a woman was to help another woman it would be an illusion or some sort of magic, it wouldn’t be real.

“Advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives.” (Lorde, 2007). Tolerance is an objectively non-judgmental viewpoint, that is different from one's own beliefs, in regards to beliefs, race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. In a sense, being free of bigotry. However, a “difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening” (Lorde, 2007).

Tolerance is the being able to live with someone else’s differences without judgement or persecution. However, acceptance takes it to the next level by being okay with the differences and not just being able to live with them. It is possible to never be accepting of something while being able to tolerate it. However, the reverse is not true, in order to be accepting of something, you must also be tolerant of it as well.

“Only within that interdependency of difference strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters” (Lorde, 2007). To take acceptance beyond just believing something is “okay” is to understand it. It is entirely possible to tolerate and to accept differences in other people without ever understanding these differences. The reverse here plays true as well, people can understand something however, that doesn’t mean they will tolerate or accept it.

“As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change” (Lorde, 2007). Instead of embracing each other as individuals’ women are conditioned to fear those differences in other woman, to see them as a threat. “Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression” (Lorde, 2007). By woman separating and isolating themselves from one another they will never be able to rise up against their self-inflicted oppression through separation in their likenesses. “But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist” (Lorde, 2007). In order for women to form a supportive “community” their differences are not to be overlooked or merely tolerated, they are to be accepted, when possible, and understood for their strengths.

Social conditioning clearly pushes to keep woman with the belief men are necessary for any type of success in life. “Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educated men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master's concerns” (Lorde, 2007)

If women are constantly trapped in a cycle of meeting a man’s needs for education or importance, they are not left with time to foster any other meaningful relationships. Social conditioning also pushes the agenda that other women and their differences are to be feared, avoided, and not trusted. Women are repeatedly taught to turn to a man and not to each other. Women are conditioned to believe they are inferior to men, in doing so it further isolates women from seeking support of other woman.

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” is another way of saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” For women to break free of this conditioning they must first find a new way of thinking. Woman must break the stereotypes, reject the status quo, and accept the unacceptable. To create sustainable change woman must embrace each other with more than just tolerance and acceptance, there must to be understanding.

“We’re better together. As Madeleine Albright said, ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.’ As Shelly Zalis of Forbes would say from personal experience, ‘There is a special place in heaven for women who support other women’” (Zalis, 2019). Consider what Kim Drew Wright had to say in this TED Talk https://youtu.be/GVC2oDNLySs.


References:

Baker, D. (2006). What We Found on Our Journey through Fantasy Land. Children’s

Literature in Education, 37(3), 237–251. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-006-9009-1

Fish, J. (2014, February 25) Tolerance, Acceptance, Understand; How They Differ in

Everyday and Research. Psychology Today.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/looking-in-the-cultural-

mirror/201402/tolerance-acceptance-understanding

Lorde, A. (2007). Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. “The Master’s Tools Will Never

Dismantle the Master’s House.” Crossing Press.

Zalis, S. (2019, March 6). Power of the Pack: Women who Support Woman are More

Successful. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleyzalis/2019/03/06/power-

of-the-pack-women-who-support-women-are-more-successful/?

sh=56989dc81771

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