Anything she can do, I can do better

by scartabello

I had planned to write a long post on women’s rights and equality today, addressing criticisms of quotas and gender balance issues that have filled the (must-read) blogs of my friends Chaos Theory and Yozzman. That post will be written at some point but not today.

Today at the 11th hour of the international women’s day where we address the plight, big and small, of women all over the world, I would like to talk about solidarity. Solidarity among women to be precise. While it’s easy to sympathise with the plight of women less fortunate than us in countries far far away or with situations foreign to our own reality, it is less easy to show the same solidarity when it is closer to home. I would thus like to briefly talk about the wonders of female competition, the covert operations to reach the spotlight because there can only be one queen bee.

I received my combat training at an all-girls Catholic school and I can tell you while I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to get a fine education, some of the lessons learned were less optimistic than others. It was very similar to what author Rachael Oakes-Ash calls the  ‘skipping theory’.  “Imagine having two girls in the playground. Both girls on either end are completely passive, and the girl in the middle is jumping over a rope. If she’s good, she can keep skipping for a good half hour. And either girl on either end is completely passive. May only…well, they’ll definitely be standing there thinking, “I hope she stuffs up soon so I can get a turn.” In order to do that, they might push the rope faster in order to trip her up. I think this is what we carry with us as women for the rest of our lives. Most of us believe there is only one slice of the pie and only one spotlight, and only one woman can have that at a time. And if YOU have it, I’m standing passively trying to trip you up.”

The idea that there can only be one spotlight is suffocating and is one of the many reasons why women are less present in the higher ranks of the corporate and political world. We do have ourselves to blame here, the endless comparisons who’s the fairest of all only turns us into wicked stepmothers jealous of each others success. There is not one way of life and it’s up to the women to choose what life they want and not be judged for it. To have a career or not, to have kids or not and to raise them how they see fit. Some women accused Rashida Dati for going back to work too soon after giving birth and other women blamed Freya Vandenbossche (Flemish Minister) for taking too much time off after the birth of her third child.

We need to stop this petty fight because it gets us nowhere. It’s counterproductive to our own plight for more equality and equity. I would thus like to suggest we behave more like worker bees who share the spotlight and while competitive help each other out to advance their own needs. Maybe we could take lessons from our male counterparts in that respect. At least give it a shot. That is the reasoning behind the whole EU girl geek gatherings we’re trying to set up. A group of EU girls that work in and around the institutions gathering once a month for lunch or drinks and help each other out. We’re all competitive and we all want to win but the difference is that there is no queen bee nor 10 around her trying to push her off the throne.