What women's rights look like when the two sides come together as one.
What women's rights are when women are no longer manipulated by party rhetoric.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trouble in the Sisterhood

Cynthia Ruccia

As we 21st century feminists continue to redefine what feminism is and what we need to do to finish breaking all of those glass ceilings, I am continually confronted by one ugly truism----------and that is that we women are often our own worst enemy. How we got to be this way can be difficult to define, but I'm going to take a stab at it.

First and most importantly, we women often have a very hard time celebrating other women's success. We just get flat out jealous. I consider this jealousy thing partly to be human nature. However, the bigger part is that women have to share a smaller piece of the power pie. By this I mean that since men run practically everything, they hold most of the power pie. They get to choose which women they will give a small slice to, and as a result lots of great women don't get a chance to partake. As a result it leaves us in the position of fighting over what little share we get and resenting the "chosen" female. It seems to me that if we women worked together to gain parity, many of our problems would just go away. In truth, if the pie equals 100 parts, and women have 50 parts of it, we wouldn't be fighting over the 1 or 2 pieces of it. We'd have absorbed the fact that since lots of us can participate, we would have much more room to maneuver and lots fewer reasons to be jealous. Seems simple to me. But it is a huge problem.  

And it's a huge problem for the chosen woman as well. If only one or two women get to participate, pressure is put on these women to bring in other women. The thing is, although the chosen women end up possessing some power, most of the time that power doesn't include bringing other women in. So these chosen women are pressured from both sides. One side assumes that the chosen woman will help other women. The other side assumes that since they let one woman into the power structure, that was enough and that woman needs to prove herself to keep her position. Guess which position will win out? It will be the survival position-----the one the chosen person must choose to keep her job. 

Another deep problem in the sisterhood is a remnant from our adolescent days of girls bullying other girls. There has been alot of awareness in recent years of the girl on girl bullying problem. As a society we are only now beginning to grasp it and address it. How that leaves us as adults is that we can still fall into this behavior paradigm more often than we'd like to admit. When it comes to politics, we women can easily form into "packs" and bully people who we don't agree with. Part of it again may be human nature, but it becomes a big problem when women are trying to gain real power for the first time. You can read my list of bad stats for women here. These stats show how little women actually run in our country. We rank #70 in the world in female representation in government, and the stats get even worse from there. 

The problems begin when we are subliminally encouraged to form into groups to go after women we don't agree with. Both parties do it, and often we women fall into that pack mentality without even realizing we are doing it. When we go after each other, it not only slows our progress, it can stop it altogether. 

One other thing we women do is to stereotype each other into the same negative roles that are used to minimize us. You know, witch, bitch, nut, and slut. Now I've been told that we shouldn't be telling people what to say or do, and I totally agree with that. However, what sense does it make to use these stereotypes when they have been proven to be very successful in sinking women's chances to win an election? 

I think that the best thing we can do to counter our problems is until we gain the kind of power equality we should have, we need to just stop calling each other names and start encouraging women to run and to have their back when these problems come up. Just like I said in this piece, we need to stop the stereotyping dead in its tracks. We might as well stop it in the sisterhood first and get on the same page.

One other issue that we women are guilty of is that we expect a female candidate to be perfect. Why in the world do we do that? After all, we have been lead by imperfect men since forever and we seem to have built up a tolerance for that. Why are we more comfortable with an imperfect man than an imperfect woman? I have read that there are more women (12%) than men (8%) who would never vote for another woman for president under any circumstance. Hmmm. Well then, that leaves 88% of us willing to vote for a woman. Let's cut our women some slack. Just because she isn't perfect and may let us down in some way, that doesn't mean she won't be a great leader. Heck, I have lived with my husband for 39 wonderful years, and as harmonious as our life is, we don't agree on everything. Why should we expect our women candidates to agree with us on everything?

There are certainly other issues that come to mind as to why we women are often our own worst enemy. I hope that as you read this if you think of other problems in the sisterhood you will comment on them and we can have a great discussion. We need to get our act together so we can join together and use our strength in numbers to force those glass ceilings to shatter. We can do it because we must!!!


  1. Good article. I like your analyzing skills. You also do well with good ole fashioned persuasive rhetoric (something in seriously short supply these days).

    One thing I wanted to point out:

    "Now I've been told that we shouldn't be telling people what to say or do..."

    That's highly ironic, so if it were me I'd immediately inspect it to see if were accurate. I don't think it is. Men derive a lot of their power from telling people what to say or do. Your power as a parent came from telling your children what to say or do. Do you really think that's the only or one of the few acceptable roles in which women can do that? I don't.

  2. Anna Belle---I know you're right about that--LOL!!

    The problem with telling people what to do is that 1) they won't listen 2) playing that role brings the worst female stereotypes to emerge (remember that guy who said that Hillary hectoring them reminded him of everyone ex-wife in divorce court?)and 3) it works with children when they are under 10 years old but not so much with adults. However I really believe that alot of our critics who don't want women to hold power have the brainpower of an 8 year old--no offense to 8 year olds!!

  3. Amazingly, women demonstrate that they are capable of forming into "packs" when they assemble themselves as minority groups to fight for civil rights , yet notice as the majority they don't pull together to fight for the human rights due us as women?

    Instead, women seem to prefer to be associated in smaller groups of lets say, gays, Latinos, blacks, anything but the 52% of the population that deserves equal rights. Within these smaller groups, women have been at the forefront of winning rights for every minority group they ever fought for from the beginning.

    It seems we fight for civil rights for minorities (woman inc.) but never human rights for womankind as a whole. Alice Paul and her sisters fought for the vote, NOW once fought for the ERA but when they did – all women were involved and worked together to make it happen. Personally, I believe the powers (men) used religious issues and political ideology to successfully split women into two groups in order to retain their perceived majority status and we have come to believe that we are at war with half of our sisters.

    This is not natural for females so to compensate we fight for rights of those in minority groups whose religious or political ideology we can tolerate and ignore or treat the other females as second-class citizens. Women are either all valuable or we are all invaluable.

    We need to stop diminishing ourselves as less than a very powerful group by acting only within our minority groups i.e. political, racial, sexual, and/or ideological and instead empower ourselves as the major force we are. WOMEN! As Women we are the 52% who hold up more than half the population and who by the way are being brutalized and annihilated in staggering numbers and as sheep are being led to slaughter.

    In her eye-opening book, "Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men," journalist Mara Hvistendahl estimates that ultrasound and abortion have "claimed over 160 million potential women and girls -- in Asia alone." That's more than the entire female population of the United States.

    It starts with me—if each of us will utter these words- it starts with me – we can end The Trouble in Sisterhood”

    BJ- Founder: The Majority United- WOMEN

  4. By the way - the book I referred to was not about the abortion issue it was about aborting only girls. The book explains in some countries the men outnumber females 10 to 1 and it is beginning to spread here when they immigate. Asian wives are forced to abort females in the US as well. Soon we will not be the majority in the US or worldwide.

  5. Let me digress to local organizations of women, or school or church orgs. We see the same sorts of behaviors. Women must conform to some sort of standard of behavior. If you speak out, you are "outspoken." So on a national level of politics, this women on women behavior is just a reflection of what and how women know how to behave. That's why it is important for women to be "professionalized," e.g. have careers or trades, run businesses, be their own person in a wider part of society.

    Women transmit the culture to their children with a lot of hands-on time. And girls have different behavior standards than boys.

  6. SantaFeK,

    I agree with you.

    Women appear to be brainwashed, given only two choices, Conservative or Liberal- Madonna or the whore. It’s only natural to fear the antithesis of the box we were forced into. If we break out of these boxes and stop fighting for the same booby prizes we can achieve the main goal. Why settle to be with a big wig who can at any time toss us aside when we can be the big wig ourselves? I would rather be in control than behind someone in control of me!

    That will change when we change it and how females are perceived by themselves and others.

  7. I just revised a piece earlier today that I originally wrote in 2009-

    Here's an excerpt:
    Female: What is she? Not easily defined even by herself.

    A Female is depicted by others everyday all day long all over the world. Does anyone anywhere even know who or what a female is anymore? Does a female even know who she is? Ask her – she will tell you who she is to someone else no doubt! Lately it has become vogue to brag about being a mother. ‘As a Mom’, ‘Proud to be a mom’, ‘A Million Moms’ ‘Just a Mom’.

    I am one of those and belong to every one of those online groups and darn happy to be a mom a grand mom and a great grand mom and proud to belong to all of the mom groups as well.

    I am also a US citizen and proud to be one – and a wife and proud to be one a daughter and proud to be one but I am ultimately a female and when I take away all the other labels –I remain far and away a female. I need to know that as one of 52% of civilization – and of all of the population, I am something unique unto myself as well as a part of something and someone else!

    How many of us unique females have no children, husband, siblings, or parents alive. What does that make us– nothings?

    The time is now! There is a war on woman all across this world and it is up to every woman to stand up and say NO! Sadly, we spend less time on the community of women and to helping each other, which would strengthen our causes then we do on fighting each other. Indeed, it takes a village and yet we fight against other never realizing we are our worse enemies when we should be our best warriors. Think again!

    It is up to women to teach our sons and daughters that females are to be highly respected and we are to be accepted just as we are! We are not second-class citizens- not here – not anywhere around the world – let us stand up and start acting like it! We are woman first – not black women – not Hispanic – not gay- not straight – not someone’s wife or daughter first – to our own selves we need to be true!

    Ask yourself — What is a female? Make sure you know your worth and be prepared to teach it to others – to your children!

    Look at your daughters – know what a female is. When you look at your little girl – do you airbrush her perfect? Doesn’t she deserve to be a first class human being or are you raising her to be someone’s something? When you see a report of a wife missing or found dead at the hand of her husband – do you realize that could be your daughter you gave to a husband in marriage? Did you give her as a piece of property? ...

    We are faced with two extremes regarding the treatment and condition of women right here in the US. There is a liberal or a conservative view – Sexualization or Religion both render her less than! Neither extreme is acceptable and we have no right to decide which box is right for your daughters! Human rights belong to every female and each of us is born with inalienable rights. These rights are being abrogated by man and government and it is being tolerated by the majority of our citizens in this the US an otherwise free country.

    We the women of the US are not subjects of the government- slaves to our husbands nor are we subject to the churches. We are free human beings, brainwashed into submission by men who we can simply out vote by uniting against them and demanding our civil and human rights!

    WHY? Because we women have not stood, up and said NO! We have hidden our eyes from the truth! Women in our society are disrespected and we can stop it now.

    Reported in the US http://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html

    4-5 women a day are murdered by their husbands in the US
    1 in 4 women a day are beaten – only half are reported so 1-2 are feared to be harmed
    1 in 4 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years.

  8. This is an interview with Gloria Steinem. I think she is still ahead of her time at age 77. Much wisdom here - some about the sisterhood. The interviewer is MArianne Schnall.

    Marianne Schnall: What do you see as the future of feminism?

    GS: I think of the future in two ways -- survival plus moving forward. Under survival, I would put all the efforts to save the female half of the world from violence directed at us specifically because we are female; what Diana Russell has called femicide.

    Under survival is everything from domestic violence, sex trafficking, rape and serial killing to aborting female fetuses, female genital mutilation, child marriage and denying female children protein, health care and education.

    Under moving forward, I would put all the efforts to humanize the "masculine" and "feminine" gender roles that are the beginning of a false human hierarchy and normalize race, class and other systems of domination to come -- even "Man's" dominion over nature. The deepest change begins with men raising children as much as women do and women being equal actors in the world outside the home. There are many ways of supporting that, from something as simple as paid sick leave and flexible work hours to attributing an economic value to all care-giving, and making that amount tax deductible. Until the masculine role is humanized, women will tend to be much better at solving dangerous conflicts. That's already happened in Ireland and Liberia, and is beginning in North and South Korea.

    And of course, allowing women the power to decide when and whether to have children is the only way to solve the 7 billion human load on this planet that threatens to destroy it. Women's equality is also men's survival.

    MS: The United States currently stands as 70th among countries in terms of women's representation in positions of political leadership. How do you feel about the current state of women in politics? What do you think is at the root of this imbalance and what can we do to change it?

    GS: Unequal access to money and media plus bias, external and internalized, and male-dominant religions and illegality at the polls -- all those are reasons for women's wildly unequal political power. All those are things we have to fight. Remember, at the beginning of this wave in the 1960s, the main way that a woman got into high political office was to marry a man who had it, wait for him to die, and then take over as a widow continuing his work! But the truth is that the voting booth is still the only place that a pauper equals a billionaire, and any woman equals any man. If we organized well from the bottom up -- and didn't fall for the idea that our vote doesn't count; an idea nurtured by those who don't want us to use it -- we could elect feminists, women of all races and some diverse men, too -- who actually represent the female half of the country equally. It's up to us. We need to form Democracy Circles and do it ourselves.

    MS: When you were on Christiane Amanpour's show "This Week" she asked you about how you felt about all these conservative women rising stars, you answered that it was not about biology, but about the issues. Can you elaborate on that?

    GS: In the suffragist and abolitionist era, there were a lot of white women and some black men and women who argued for the old hierarchy and against universal adult suffrage -- often on religious grounds. It's no surprise that we still have people who look like us and behave like the establishment. I think most women know or sense this because candidates like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann get more male votes than female votes, also mostly white votes, while all the women in Congress who are fighting the good fight were elected by the Gender Gap and the Racial Gap. Obviously, the idea is not to get one woman a job, but to make life better for all women -- and for men who are being treated unfairly.

  9. Thanks for posting anonymous----much to ponder.....

  10. We also need to protect what is in place that helps females build their character and prepare them for leadership, such as Title IX. Girls and young women have benefited greatly from the skills they have acquired from school athletics. This alone has had a tremendous impact on females helping provide a “can do” attitude in the male dominated culture. It’s important to acknowledge, support and encourage young girls to participate in athletics and protect Title IX from losing its components. Sarah Palin herself benefited from Title IX.

    One measured impact of Title IX…“The number of women in high school sports had increased by a factor of nine, while the number of women in college sports had increased by more than 450%.” ((from: Linda Jean Carpenter and R. Vivian Acosta, Women in Intercollegiate Sport: A Longitudinal National Study Twenty-Nine Year Update 1977-2006 (2006)).

  11. Thanks for bringing that up Jen!! I work helping women set up businesses and the difference in attitude between the women who were able to participate in sports and the ones who weren't is like night and day. The ones who were in sports have more self-confidence and more ability to pick themselves up and keep going when things don't go the way they want them to.

  12. NOW brought us a lot- and we need to be thankful for all that we women through NOW achieved - when NOW stood up for all women, before they became a arm of the Democratic Party. Before they became a Liberal only women's abortion rights group, before they turned their backs on 60 % of America's women.

    As for Gloria S. and her interview- read it well she confesses much to those who care to read carefully.

    Pay attention to the discussion regaring the Armanpour interview on her feeling about Palin and Bachmann:

    Just because GS spits this out - does not mean it is true. Let us check the facts or dissect her words before we swallow this drivel.

    "It's no surprise that we still have people who look like us and behave like the establishment. I think most women know or sense this because candidates like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann get more male votes than female votes, also mostly white votes, while all the women in Congress who are fighting the good fight were elected by the Gender Gap and the Racial Gap. Obviously, the idea is not to get one woman a job, but to make life better for all women -- and for men who are being treated unfairly."

    Line 1- What a 60’s comment! If she thinks she is the anti-establishment – she sounds like the establishment – the DNC establishment -- and she clearly admitted it! When asked she felt about all these conservative women rising stars,she answered “ it is not about biology, but about the issues.” That makes her Democrat Party Moll and nothing more! Meowwwww! It is no surprise we still have women who claw at other women who have achieved so much more than she has via the conventional route. Has she a law degree, has she governed a state, has she attained state and or federal office, and at the same time raised a family?

    Line2: Naturally women like Sarah and Michelle get mostly white votes (doesn't everyone) inc. BO since the voting population is 80+% white?

    Line3: When discussing these two women – we are discussing two women running for the top Jobs, Sooooo - obviously the idea IS to get one woman A JOB and I will bet my ass if one of those women were a democrat - GS would be saying ‘Obviously, the idea is to get one woman THE TOP JOB’

    Breaking through the glass ceiling will make life better for all women and if she does not realize that- GS is either not as smart as I gave her credit for or she is just one more bought and paid for Party Gal. I really take umbrage at GS for double-talking to women as if we are dim-witted, as if we are not able to decipher her palpable politalk!

    Give it a rest GS- NOW membership has gone from millions in its heyday to just over a half million now while other women’s groups each outnumber NOW’s membership drives in their first year. Independent and conservative women’s groups are growing in leaps and bounds because many are not as radical about their ideology. Those that are dwindle. Women are wising up to the duopoly and want to be free of both party’s ideology constrictions.

    Go Ladies Go! GS is not out for the women – she is out for the party and her issues- abortion being the main one. GS is holding you hostage to your vagina. Does she speak for your biology- for women or does she speak for the party?

    Does she speak for the party that turned on Hillary and could care less about women?

    Neither party gives a damned about us- but the Dems... 2008 primaries should not go unanswered. If we be Bitches then let paybacks be from the Bitches- let it be a Bitch the Dems never forget.

    Do what Alice Paul did to gain the vote!