A few months ago, I read The Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett. In it, she describes the various difficulties and biases women face in the workplace and provides strategies to help women effectively navigate and overcome these challenges. If you haven’t read it, it’s a quick, yet informative read. And it helps that it’s funny.
The first (and, incidentally, second) rule of the Feminist Fight Club is that you have to talk about the fight club. But the third rule, is that you fight patriarchy, not each other. And this to me, is one of the most valuable rules in the whole book. Too many times, women feel that in order to win, other women have to lose. This isn’t entirely surprising. After all, when you look at how few women make it to the top of their respective industries, it makes sense to think that the spots are limited and you need to be cutthroat if you want to occupy one of them. The result? Women throwing other women under the bus, reinforcing the stereotype that women are catty and not suited for serious leadership roles.
But the truth is, we aren’t playing a zero sum game. When one woman wins, others don’t lose. And it goes without saying that men don’t lose when women succeed either. If we take the view that we are simply “expanding the pie,” we can leverage each other’s talents so that everyone can have a chance at succeeding. Our efforts are much better spent on developing our own skills and competencies and on creating important systemic changes than they are on tearing others down.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a group of girlfriends who enthusiastically celebrate my successes and offer me support and guidance in my failures. Last year, we set up a Slack account where we group chat about everything. Initially, I imagined we would use this to talk about nonsense things – celebrity gossip, television shows, restaurants we wanted to try. We definitely talk about those things, but we also talk about work and our professional ambition. We talk about instances where we’ve been passed over for promotions, offered inadequate parental leave, and denied deserved pay raises. And in each of these instances, we’ve had each other’s backs. We’ve shared tips, articles, advice, and encouragement. Because of that, we have all at different points in time felt empowered to take action. To speak up. To ask for what we want.
This collective surge of “girl power” has made all the difference in my life. I can only imagine how powerful we could be if we took Rule 3 to heart and fought the real barriers to our advancement instead of one another.