A pride of lions claws up a mountain. As the lions tread further up the rock, the boulders that had built the hill tumble down. The higher the lions move, the farther they are from their foundation, and they lose sight of the moments they had spent creating their home. The mountain itself is dwindling. It once was stolidly strong, nature's backbone, but the lions’ clawing is tearing it apart. The pride rock is reshaped; it's thinner and weaker. Under the impression only one of them can reach the top, the cats throw their companions down the hill. The tearing has reduced the top of the mountain to a low, insignificant point. Two final lions fight to scratch the other down. One falls and the victor moves to stand in its place on the mountain’s top, but it is not wide enough. The final lion descends from the mass and crashes to the ground. A tall, skinny pile of pebbles is all that remains. Its tip is far above the clouds and is impossible for any lion to reach again. Women have been reduced to lions. The past has created a foundation for opportunity in the present; however, women are under the impression that union is no longer necessary for individual success. As a result, they tear each other down and claw at the pillars that were built by past feminist unions. From youth, girls are innately competitive and their behaviors develop and grow over time and are present in the modern workplace. Although women have greatly progressed in their struggle for equality, the natural female urge to compete is hindering and disrupting further progression.
Feminism is the advocacy for women’s rights. Since the beginning of time, women have been mistreated by society, and without reproduction, most likely would have been viewed as entirely valueless. Instigated by the subjection of women, three waves of feminism were born. Tom Head, in his article, “Feminism in the United States,” attributed English philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft’s publication, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792 as representing, “the beginning of first-wave American feminism…philosophy.” Her book signified the modification of female ideals, and women like Abigail Adams supported her. However, it was not until 1848 that the feminist movement began at the Seneca Falls Convention. There, abolitionists and feminists of the era, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, authored a Declaration of Sentiments modeled after the Declaration of Independence, which asserted fundamental rights often denied to women, including the right to vote. As a group, women were able to voice their grievances and monument the foundation of a union. It is important to recognize female abolitionists were prepared to support feminism as well. Throughout all of history, feminism protestation was largely based on paralleling liberations. Thus, during the beginning of the 20th century, women suffrage movement resurged during the progressive era, and as millions of men served as U.S. troops in World War I, women were employed in jobs that were once held by men. As a result, through female unification, 72 years after the Seneca Falls Convention, the United States government ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. Women were granted suffrage in 1920.
World War II gave birth to the second wave of American feminism. When 16 million men were shipped away to fight, women proved capable of maintaining the United States economy. “Rosie the Riveter” thrived within six million American women as they worked in military factories. The clarity of female capacity had become too crystal to continue to be ignored post-war, and the women’s liberation movement gained clout. Feminism no longer revolved around gaining suffrage, but gaining respect. In 1963, Betty Friedan wrote, The Feminine Mystique, and addressed ‘the problem that has no name’. Friedan wrote about the cultural gender roles, workforce regulations, government discrimination, and everyday sexism that had left women overpowered at home, at church, in the workforce, in educational institutions, and in the eyes of their government. Prior to the second wave of feminism, the movement had only dealt with the public sphere, but as it expanded and the union grew stronger, women were able to tackle domestic problems—ones that were hidden behind closed doors. Friedan co-founded the National Organization for Women in 1966. NOW is the embodiment of women unity, and as a result has accomplished the most significant successes for females all over the country.
The third wave of feminism has existed since the 1970’s and initiated the breakdown of female unity. The division was first instigated during Roe v. Wade, when abortion rights were challenged. Abortion laws had been under state legislature, and feminists urged each state to legalize it. However, in most of the country, abortion had remained illegal, until the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional during the Roe v. Wade. As a result, “the national press began to perceive the entire feminist movement as being concerned primarily with abortion,” and feminists gained numerous enemies, including women themselves. Moreover, in 1923, Alice Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, “as a logical successor to the Nineteenth Amendment…[and it] would have prohibited all gender-based discrimination at the federal level” if congress had not ignored it until 1972, when it was finally ratified by 35 of the 38 states necessary. However, an opposing group consisting of women, the Religious Right, had resisted the ratification of the amendment because they had opposed abortion and women involvement in the military. Consequently, “five states rescinded ratification, and in 1982 the amendment officially died.” Because women had personal value disagreements, their opportunity for political equality was entirely lost.
Furthermore, women are continuing to evade opportunities for progression as the third wave lingers in the 21st century. In her article, “Why Women Aren’t Voting for Women,” Dr. Peggy Drexler acknowledges that, “many reports still show that female voters remain reluctant to vote for a woman” (Drexler par 1). The president of the White House Project, Tiffany Dufu, “has said that female voters are indeed tougher on female candidates, and that, in fact, ‘any individual who does not fit the leadership status quo – a man, and usually privileged, white – one has to meet a higher bar’” (Drexler par 3). Therefore, a woman will not be considered a contender against a male candidate, unless her credentials exceed his excessively, and this is because “women are notoriously harsh toward other women” (Drexler par 4). The Workplace Bullying Institute’ studies suggest, “women bully other women at work—verbal abuse, job sabotage, misuse of authority, and destroying of relationships—more than 70 percent of the time…another study by Business Environment found 72 percent of women judged female coworkers based on what they wore to the office” (Drexler par 4). Therefore, it is not just in distant politics, but in the personal workplace where female encouragement is lacking, which can be attributed to behaviors developed throughout childhood.
Young female friendships are not supportive, and therefore girls will see the people closest to them as threats to them. When Rosalind Wiseman questioned a group of teenaged girls on the negatives of a friendship, they suggested, “she can: talk behind your back, gossip about you, be two-faced…be competitive…betray you” (Wiseman 114). Wiseman recognized, “the negative list…[is] all about competition, about looks, style, friends, popularity, and boys – things girls think they need to secure a place in the life raft,” as if there is only one place (Wiseman 114). The reason girls undermine each other is the basis of their beliefs on success; they are under the impression there is only room for one to survive. This is evident in their behavior in the office. The 70 percent of women belittling their peers believe by doing so there is more room for them in that “life raft.” Therefore, they will compete solely with women, and not both sexes because they believe the success of one woman hinges on the failure of another.
This behavior is emphasized in the teenaged social structure. Students of both genders bully to secure popularity in the social hierarchy. Robert Faris conducted a study on student bullying and realized “‘most victimization is occurring in the middle to upper ranges of status’” (Parker-Pope par 6). The middle statuses will bully the most, and within their own ranks because their only competition for social superiority are their equals. The entire female gender encompasses this dynamic. A study done by Sally Kuykendall proved, “girls, unlike boys, bully within their friendships and acquaintanceships” (Kuykendall par 6). Girls will bully their friends because they are in direct competition with them for social status. Their friends are their peers, their equals. They feel they need to defeat their equal in order to move forward and excel.
Moreover, as teenagers, girls will develop exclusive friendships. Dyads and cliques are the most common forms of female relationships. “The clique has the most power to exploit…insecurities,” although it is a group of girl friends, the clique is not used as a power union, but an abusive cult (Wiseman 118). Rosalind Wiseman, the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes attributed herself to being part of “a powerful clique. From the outside [she] looked like [she] was popular. From the inside—[she] felt anything but…the girls in [her] clique teased [her] all the time…[and she] lived in terror that any minute [she’d] be expelled from [her] group” (Wiseman 115). Wiseman was one of many girls that did not have any friends within her group of friends, and therefore developed a feeling of singularity and distrust. Within the “best friend dyad,” two girls share a powerful union; however, it proves to be very fragile. “There is an exclusive, almost claustrophobic atmosphere” in these relationships, and therefore girls will feel trapped in their position (Kuykendall par 7). Both dyads and cliques develop the foundation for female disunion and static development. The clique isolates its members and dyads trap them, while both are fueling the exclusive ideals that women will use in the work place, politics, and everyday adult life.
Furthermore, derogatory terms for women are used everyday, giving young girls a negative image for all females. As teenagers, disrespectful words are used daily to describe women. Girls will use these words, in fact, more often than boys do, “this means [girls] constantly [say] or [hear] words that describe women as either sexual objects or as aggressors who need to be put in their places” (Wiseman 117). Daily recognition of female inferiority survives childhood, and although a woman may be self-assure, she does not trust other women were as capable as she is. While Wiseman was studying a group of high school students, a student, Kate, had told her, “I hate girls. You can’t trust them. Girls are petty, stupid, and jealous. Like in this grade, the girls are just jealous because I get more attention from the boys…” (Wiseman 132-133). Kate stated she hated all girls, except herself, because she had alluded to her being superior to her classmates. Kate is similar to the 70 percent of women who had judged their coworkers. They are under the impression women are substandard from the consistent recognition of negative words throughout childhood, and therefore they treat their peers with disrespect.
The rivalry between Ms. Elizabeth Arden and Madame Helena Rubinstein is epitome of female competition and the effect it has on their success. Arden and Rubinstein were the “originators of the global, luxury, beauty industry as it exists today” (Woodhead 1). The two women, “exercised autonomous control as sole owners and operators of their companies,” which developed evolutionary cosmetics during “a time when women could expect little, if any financial support from husband, family, or banks, and even less from the male-dominated pharmaceutical industry from which they purchased supplies” (Woodhead 1). In the early twentieth century, suffrage had not yet been granted to women, and feminism had only been an ideal without reality. These women were able to break down barriers men had not ever attempted to understand.
Not only were Madame and Ms. Arden overwhelmingly successful, but their success had been bread from similar backgrounds. Both were “born into poverty…both were daughters of failed fathers, [both] felt family rejection keenly,” both were hardly five feet tall, and both “were recognized at the height of their fames as the richest, most powerful, self-made women in the world” (Woodhead 4). Despite their significant likenesses and similar success, the women hated and sabotaged each other’s careers, “Madame rarely increased an employee’s salary…except when she was poaching staff from Arden,” and the two had referred to each other as “that woman” or “the other one” (Woodhead 3). Moreover, they worked as rivals in the same field and in the same New York City, and the pair had never even met. Therefore, the two most successful women the world had ever seen did not support each other, did not trust each other, and in fact, worked to directly undermine the other for no other reason than they were each other's only female competition.
Meanwhile, Revlon, a man, was developing a strong corporation as Madame and Ms. Arden struggled to keep up. Grace Gilbert had worked for Revlon in 1950 and recalls, “those years [as being] the most creative, competitive and exciting – Revlon was creating unforgettable ads and the competition was busily engaged in nervous energy, and trying to ‘best’ the other” (Woodhead 336). Arden and Rubenstein’s incessant conflict prevented them from fulfilling their entire potentials and possibly stopping Revlon, instead of each other. If the two had focused their competitive energy on all of the people in their field, a woman may have been reigning as cosmetic queen, rather than a king. Ultimately, Revlon had been the most successful. Rubenstein and Arden may have pioneered the industry but their conflict had mad them inferior to a man who had no competition.
Females’ innate tendency toward competition is disrupting potential feminine progression. Throughout history, women have accomplished major successes by means of a union. The contemporary wave of feminism is proving to be the disintegration of progression as female competition is becoming more and more evident. Women lack support for each other in both the public and domestic spheres, and feminism has been mostly static since 1960’s. Studies have proven that the cynical and competitive nature of women can be attributed to their childhood environment and the dynamics of friendships between young females. Teenaged girls exploit each other within friendships in hopes to be the only ones to survive them. Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, the two most powerful businesswomen of their era, parallel the cattiness of teenaged girls. They had only competed with each other because they were the only women in the industry, and a man was most successful as a result.
A bull carries a boulder between his massive horns. The emaciated corpse of the lion is limp and meager in front of him, and he doesn’t notice as he rolls the rock on top of her. The boulder is heavy and the lion feels its bones being crushed under the weight of the bull. She opens her mouth to let out one last cry, but her roar had been silenced forever.