Ladies, listen up.
After careful consideration, I’ve decided that we women are failing each other.
Let me explain.
Yes, there are millions of women around the world who do a wonderful job motivating the female kind—and for those boss-ladies, I’m eternally grateful.
Your mom might even be one such woman, acting as a source of great support and guidance. She may even be someone after whom you’ve modeled much of your life.
I’m sure you can provide me with a list of coworkers who inspire you on the daily with the way they kick ass in the boardroom and in life.
Yes, your best friends are likely the ladies who encourage you to continue chasing your dreams despite the setbacks that leave you feeling like the only answer is to put on your yoga pants and drink a liter of wine by yourself. (Let’s be real, if they were really your best friends they would toss on their best lulus, stick two straws in the bottle, and call it emotional support—but maybe that’s just how my best friends roll.)
I want to be clear: These aforementioned examples of female solidarity are not the scenarios against which I have a particularly sharp axe to grind.
It’s everything else.
I’m talking about the countless moments in our daily lives when we have the opportunity to leave a positive mark on the life of another woman—and we don’t take it. We don’t take it because we’re caught up in a tornado of our own making: mentally comparing ourselves to one another, feeding into a false sense a competition, and judging every life, career, wardrobe, and makeup decision we see.
We lean too quickly toward criticism instead of toward love, encouragement, and acceptance.
I learned this the hard way.
I recently attended a wedding shower that started off simple enough: a group of well-dressed women, lively chatter filling the room, perfectly concocted signature drinks held in one hand while the other pointed at funny and adorable photos of the guest of honor—how old was she in each of these snapshots?
I’m a seasoned professional at these shindigs—I play the games, I eat the cookies, I listen to the speeches. For the most part, I enjoy taking the time to celebrate an important milestone in the lives of my closest friends. I was happy to be a part of this moment, to see my friend surrounded by her loved ones, looking forward to what the future held for her life. Most importantly, I was happy to see how truly happy she was.
Overall, it was a lovely afternoon. But then the shower took a drastic turn for me.
Amongst the chatter, a woman seated across the table from me leaned over, and in what I can only assume was an attempt to get to know me better, decided to open her line of questioning with, “So are you married as well?”
Now to be fair, I was sitting among a group of married or engaged women (which is my reality 99.9% of the time), so I can understand why one might have asked that particular question. As one of the only remaining single girls in my group of friends, trust me when I say that I’m extremely familiar with this territory.
So just as I have so many times before, I let the married/relationship question quickly slide off my back. I answered the nice lady’s question by explaining to her that no, I was, in fact, single and not married.
It was her response that flipped my switch from “happily sipping on my cocktail” to “annoyed as fuck.”
What happened next can only be described as the atomic bomb of responses—it was merciless and destroyed everything in its path in a matter of mere seconds. After hearing of my singleness, the woman tilted her head to the side ever so slightly, crinkled up her nose a wee bit, shot me a “poor single girl” smile, and said, “Ohhh, well that’s okay too.”
She side-head tilted me into a heaping pile of single shame.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
What followed were the toughest 30 seconds of my life, because instead of flashing her a fake smile and responding with, “Thanks, it’s been working out pretty well for me so far,” what I really wanted to do was jump across the table and throat punch her.
As the afternoon continued and I replayed the incident that will from this moment forward be referred to as the “side-head tilt heard round the world,” my rage grew. Here I was, an intelligent, strong, creative, and successful woman who has built a life for herself that she’s actually rather proud of—and the only piece of intel this lady was interested in was my marital status.
She didn’t ask me if I had a place of my own in the city, if I had traveled anywhere recently, or if I had any hobbies. God forbid she’d even think about asking me what I do for a living.
All she wanted to know was whether she could place me into a tiny box labeled “figured out” that society dictates women of a certain age are supposed to be in: married, with a house and 2.5 children.
The fact is that every woman has her own struggles, her own daily battles, her own set of circumstances that can sometimes feel overwhelming. The lenses through which we view the world might be different, but I think that with some effort, we can begin to look through our own more clearly.
How do we do that?
I believe it begins with empathy—recognizing, appreciating, and celebrating one another for exactly who we are.
While I’m a single woman, my world is filled with couples and babies and families. It would be the understatement of the century to say that my friends who are married with children amaze me. These are women who work, who make time for their friends, who hit the gym every day, who accomplish the millions of items on their to-do lists, all the while taking care of and shaping the lives of tiny little humans.
While I can’t personally understand the amount of energy, dedication, and sheer will that it takes for them to do what they do on a daily basis, what I can do is empathize.
Empathize with the young girl who decides to wear only a sports bra to the gym instead of a shirt. What we might be quick to judge as a shallow attempt to garner attention from the opposite sex could simply be a manifestation of a young girl’s struggle of striving toward the image society has told her she should look like in order to be viewed as attractive. She might just be in need of a better role model.
That role model could be you.
Empathize with the single girl who is constantly bombarded with questions about her relationship status. What we might perceive as a polite answer to a harmless question could really be an attempt to hide her rage—because in her mind, we’ve insinuated that her accomplishments to date aren’t valid because they’re not accompanied by a man. She might just be in need of someone to tell her “fuck what society thinks and keep being your badass self.”
That someone could be you.
Empathize with the mother who spends all day taking care of and reasoning with tiny humans who have the capability of exploding into outbursts of epic proportions simply because you gave them the wrong color sippy cup. What you might view as a life filled with cute baby smiles and adorable outfits that never get dirty most definitely includes moments of frustration and utter exhaustion. She might just need someone to let her vent—or even better, to watch her children for an hour while she takes some time for herself.
That babysitter could be you.
Whatever the case may be, let’s save the judgment, the analysis, and the scrutiny. Instead, let’s celebrate each other. For as far as we have come, these are still not easy times for women. We have glass ceilings, pressures to conform to unrealistic body image standards, and wage gaps to deal with—not to mention leaders of the free world thinking it’s okay to run around grabbing us by our lady parts. Need I say more?
We women have serious issues to battle against in modern society, and “other women” should not be an action item on that list.
I don’t have all of the answers, but I know that we need to start somewhere. Take the time to inspire the women around you. Help to build their self-confidence instead of tearing them down to boost your own.
Recognize, appreciate, and celebrate one another for exactly who we are.
Do it fiercely and without question, because only a woman knows what it’s like to walk in a woman’s shoes.
I believe I speak for more than just myself in saying that I would love to know that I have a tribe of sisters in my corner as I step out the front door each morning in my pursuit of taking over the world.
Empathy ladies—let’s try it on for size.
Author: Nicole Grosel
Editor: Callie Rushton
Supervising Editor 1: Taia Butler
Supervising Editor 2: Yoli Ramazzina