“God, I can’t believe Janie got that promotion, she must be sleeping with the CEO.” When a women is successful, clouds of untrue allegations that she must have slept her way to the top and judgements about her appearance sometimes cast a dark, stormy shadow over the success she rightfully earned. This is part of the reason women earn 79 cents to every dollar men earn (USA Today), and only ¼ of chief executives at Fortune 500 companies are women (Women on Business).
Who is responsible for casting this storm cloud over successful women? It seems logical to blame men, because why would women sabotage themselves? However, the comment at the beginning of this paragraph along with 4 similar ones were made to my female friend by 5 of her female coworkers. All 5 comments were made before noon the day Janie’s promotion was announced. Not one comment contained even an ounce of evidence. All were assumptions alluding to their opinions that there is no way that Janie could have gotten the promotion as a result of her skill, competence, or work ethic.
Gossip swarms women with a higher intensity, and more frequency than it does men. Labels like “slut” stick. Whispers of “her top is WAY too low”, “she is too fat to wear those shorts”, or “why is she so skinny, I think she is anorexic” are passed around, exaggerated, and sometimes changed altogether like in a game of telephone. Common knowledge is that this is men’s fault, but common knowledge also once said that mental illness could be cured by jamming an ice pick into someone’s eye socket. How often do you hear a man call a girl fat? How often do you hear a man call another man fat? I am not a man therefore I do not know what men say to other men, but I seldom hear a man call another man a slut, fat, or make a different negative comment about another man’s appearance. Women more harshly judge themselves and others.
What does this mean, if women are partially to blame for the reality we face? Women have the power. Through negativity we have the power to hurt each other, but through positivity we have the power to help each other. We have the power to stop spreading rumors and passing judgements about each other. We have the power to celebrate each other’s successes. We have the power to recognize each other’s intellectual, athletic, artistic, and professional abilities.
If 1 crab is put into a bucket with a 4 inch rim, it will climb up the side of the bucket and escape without much trouble. If 10 crabs are put into a bucket with a 4 inch rim, none will escape. When one crab begins to climb out, the others will come together and pull the crab back down. All 10 crabs will die of starvation instead of escaping together. When women make untrue comments about another woman sleeping with the boss to get a promotion, they are yanking her from the rim of the bucket back to the bottom.
If women want to close the pay gap, hold professional positions of power, and stop judgements from flying every which way, we need to empower each other to climb out of the bucket.