I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up in a place where equality and diversity were considered imperative and crucial to the progress, success and, quite frankly, the continuation of society. It was also made very clear to me that no one was better than me and I was no better than anyone else. And I believed that and took this to heart. Still do to this day.
Part of this had to do with the fact that where I grew up, diversity was unavoidable. My street had people who were white, black, brown, yellow…you name it. My family had a brownstone and we had a gay couple living on the top floor for a while. There was a Palestinian family that lived down the block from us. In fact, my sister was good friends with one of the young girls from this family and I was in grade school with her cousin. I even had a Muslim girl who went to my Catholic middle school! Can you believe it!?
I could go on and on about the rainbow of souls that made up my childhood. The point is, that because I was surrounded by all different types of people, I have never been afraid of them. I knew that most were well-meaning, kind folks just like me and my family. We had similar struggles and successes. Every family was trying to survive and take care of one another.
I have been very naive in thinking that this is how everyone thought. That all men and women are created equal, deserve equal treatment and that progress is necessary for survival. It has been made glaringly apparent the past few years that this is not the case. And many who undermine one another and treat people who are different as less than they are, often don’t even realize they are doing it.
Women are Sexist against Each Other
As far as being a women in Brooklyn goes, the city was, and is, chalk full of women in power suits battling their way in the rush hour crowd to work their asses off every morning. I know because as a college student on Summer “break”, I would commute with these women. I didn’t have a powerful job yet, but I was determined to have one some day. I didn’t know anything other than educating myself, working hard and knowing I was just as good as a man.
My father worked very hard for our family and was not around a lot. My mom also worked. She did not have a college education when she got to NYC but was determined to get one. She worked, took care of us kids and got her degree at the same time. It was made glaringly clear to me by my mother’s hard work, determination, unwillingness to give up on getting her bachelors degree, not only how important it is to educate ourselves, but that it is a privelege to be able to do so and is something to be very proud of.
Having this background of powerful women in my life with the courage and gumption to be just as good as a man, has made recent events very hard for me to digest. I have taken a lot of what’s happened recently in the political arena very seriously and am pondering the question, why has there not been a female president yet?
Women are hardest on one another. If a woman is prettier, smarter, funnier or more talented in any way, we cut each other down. I know this because I am a woman and have experienced it, over and over again. I often keep women at arm’s length because of this.
I admit to cutting other women down in the past, even if subconsciously. I realize that when a woman is better than me at something, the temptation is there to want to belittle her in some way. “There must be something wrong with her?!” I think to myself.
The first time I really noticed I was doing it and acknowledged it to myself was in college. There was this gorgeous girl all the guys were talking about and I got a bit of gossip from someone who painted her in a not so nice light. I went to repeat this gossip to someone who commented on how beautiful this girl was.
Afterward I felt terrible. I had no idea if this story was even true. And even if it was, why I am spreading it to others? Obviously to give this girl a bad reputation which she did not deserve. I did not even know her personally and even if I did, spreading rumors about someone who are negative and possibly not true, just for the sake of tainting their image, is a terrible thing to do.
I learned this lesson, in part, because this type of thing happened to me all the time back then (it even happens to me now as a middle-aged woman). I would hear from someone, probably not the brightest person, gossip about me that was not true. That was so untrue that it often involved people I had never met, places I had never been and things I had no involvement with. These stories incensed, frustrated, infuriated me and most of all, made me sad. Often the stories were told by women I thought were my friends.
Since I had experienced this negativity, when I caught myself doing it to this beautiful and innocent girl in college, and to this day, I stop myself. I try to understand why I’m doing it. Am I jealous? Am I mad at this person for some reason? Am I just trying to entertain myself at another’s expense?
Gossiping is human nature but when it comes at the expense of someone’s reputation, as it often does, I feel that it is not only in very poor taste, but can have negative effects beyond hurting that person. It can affect a whole family, community and as we’ve seen recently, country.
I’m going to challenge myself and you to do something nice for another woman everyday this week. It will probably make her day and you may be surprised at how good it makes you feel.
Thanks for reading!