One of my favorite quotes is from Madeleine Albright, first female Secretary of State. She said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” I love it because it’s fierce; it’s accurate; and it’s at the heart of why women are still struggling for equality.
When we are young girls we have friendships that very few things can disrupt. Enter puberty and boys. I wonder how many friendships have been destroyed by competing for a young man’s eye. How many times have we taken the boyfriend’s side over our friends’? How many times have we completely dropped a friend to spend more time with a new beau, or because said beau wasn’t a fan of our girlfriends. I’m not lecturing; I’m legitimately wondering how many times I’ve done these very things. I guarantee my husband of 30 years would say, “Zero times” if he thinks of how fiercely I guard my friendships now. But it’s a lesson that has come with age. It was something I never thought of when I was the age when my friends needed my support the most or when I needed theirs.
I think one of the most outstanding examples of women not supporting other women is Phyllis Schlafly. In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment was within reach of having the 38 states needed to ratify it. They were 10 states shy of the goal. Schlafly mounted an anti-feminism campaign against the equal rights movement. Let that sink in. A woman campaigned to stop women from being treated as equals. It seems to me that this is the equivalent of a teacher campaigning AGAINST teachers getting a pay raise, basically by telling the world “We don’t need more money. We’re not that important; we’re only teachers.” Really? I struggle to look at this objectively, and to be honest, I can’t. My blood boils. Here is a white, middle-class, married, well-educated and very politically active woman who has almost every imaginable advantage at her fingertips, and she is so afraid of losing even the smallest privilege that she fights to make sure she keeps them to the detriment of women across the entire United States. How short-sighted and egocentric.
As much as I would like nothing more than to continue skewering her belief system and lack of empathy, I do have to admit that she did a great job in her mission, however misguided. Her campaign was in large part responsible for the ERA legislation to die by a lack of 3 states. As easy as it would be to stagnate in anger directed toward such a traitor, the smart thing to do would be to find the lesson in this setback. It’s time to teach our daughters to stand by other women instead of competing against them. Open our eyes to how women are treated in all situations. Be aware of the women who came before us and fought for our rights. In short: support each other.