Women Supporting Women (Even When It’s Hard)

Women should always support other women. If not your fellow woman to advocate for you in a male-driven space, then who? But sometimes, that isn’t as cut and dried as we’d like it to be. It’s one thing to want to support women, but in spaces where women are set up to fail and pitted against one another, it gets tricky.

The best example that comes to mind is in a comedic context. It’s fun to be the funny girl who makes everyone laugh. There’s a power to it. Then suddenly, you meet another funny girl. It should be a hoot, but always in the back of your mind is a twinge of “is she funnier than me?” as if there can’t be two funny girls. There can always be two funny guys. In fact, there’s a whole genre of movies and television devoted to buddy comedy where two men are just bumbling around, and people love it. But for women, not so much. (Broad City being the one glaring exception to that trope.) It’s always a group of funny guys or the funny girl. Singular.

It’s been really difficult for me to find my own in places, especially creative ones where it seems like there are so few opportunities. You have to covet whatever fraction of the pie has been left for you. I find myself being intimidated by other powerful women, not because I don’t want them to succeed, but because I’m afraid that there won’t be enough room for the two of us at the top. It’s ridiculous but because of the society that has historically pitted women against each other, it’s not unfounded. There is an incredible sense of competition surrounding everything women do as if we can’t exist together.

Courtesy: The New Yorker

 

I’ve worked in environments where it’s been all men and then little old me. The atmosphere was friendly, but it would be impossible to ignore the inequity in power dynamics with me being the only woman and the only one that didn’t get all the inside jokes from being best guy pals. A literal boy’s club. I had to hold my chin high while keeping my head down. It was kind of miserable and really hardened me up in all the wrong ways. It strengthened my resolve and work ethic, but definitely changed the person I had to be when I stepped into that ring.

The next semester rolled around and to my surprise, there was a handful of other women sitting at the table. It was new and exciting but made me nervous. Being the only woman made me feel like a little bit of a novelty so to suddenly be in female company made me feel like I wasn’t anything special anymore. I wanted to be happy and excited for them, but I couldn’t help but feel worried. Fighting so hard for a space in the male-only sphere made it hard for me to see them being so warmly received when I had been left so defeated paving their path. I wanted them to succeed but having spent so long trying to get my voice heard, I feared that my voice was being replaced with a newer, shinier one.

I’ve had to actively remind myself that it is not the women that I should feel nervous about, but the men and society who have planted that seed in my head that there is even a need for nervousness. For even suggesting the notion that we’re fighting one another for a spot when really we need to be punching up. I feel a sense of growth has come about me when I instead choose to see the positive that has come from my experiences. I am proud to have made way for other women in my once all-male environment. I want them to do well and for us to be close and to never have to feel like we have to prove ourselves beyond who we are. I feel lucky to be able to have women in spaces where I can now be more of myself and less of the stone-faced person working over-overtime for respect. I love to hang out with funny girls. It’s so much funnier to riff then to ride solo. I go to their shows, I laugh at their jokes, I write with them. It is infinitely more enjoyable than holding on to that resentment and worry.

It has brought me so much more joy to celebrate the company of women supporting and uplifting one another than it ever has been. It hasn’t been easy and there is still a lot more self-exploration to go, but the power that has come from women, all kinds of women, giving each other platforms and letting us be ourselves is undeniable. The strength is there and you just have to be brave enough to let it in.