October 19, 2018

Everyone is Saying we Should “Trust Women”—but I’m Not so Sure that’s True.

Can I talk to you for a moment about a sticker?

It says, “Trust Women.” Maybe you’ve seen it.

Before I understood what that sticker was about, I had to think for a moment about what it said.

Do I trust women?

I am a woman, and so are a good share of the people I love and care deeply about. I am also a feminist. I really should trust women.

Without hesitation, I trust women’s intelligence and competence. I trust our wisdom and amazing strength, our powers to discern and to lead, our passion and ability to love deeply and fight for our loved ones and our ideas and our beliefs.

Unlike myself, the current Congress apparently doesn’t think women can be trusted to make decisions about our own reproductive health, our bodies, or our well-being. I find it sublimely ridiculous that anyone would agree with them.

In this, too, I trust women—I trust us.

But I am also smarting from pain inflicted by various women on me and on women I love. The intentional flirting with my boyfriend while I’m standing right there. The female boss or coworker who throws a blameless woman under the bus to save her own ass. The mean girl behaviors toward women who aren’t seen as cool or appealing (or who are seen as more cool or appealing). The discovery of other women’s hot buttons, followed by the relentless pushing of them until they respond with pain. The judgment of our sisters for being bad mothers, bad partners, bad money managers, bad at yoga, bad at spirituality, bad at life—you get the picture.

So, back to that sticker. It was created to show solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford—and with all women.

In the past year, and even more intensely since Ford courageously recounted her gut-wrenching experience from years ago before a tribunal of smug, skeptical white men, “trust women” is a phrase that we must take to heart.

I trust Christine Blasey Ford.

Without hesitation, we need to trust the stories women tell about their mistreatment, sexual abuse, and other abuse. I, too, have a story.

We’ve got to trust women’s stories.

But on an interpersonal, everyday basis? What I don’t always trust is how we as women treat each other sometimes—the women we see every day at work, run into when we’re out somewhere, or meet socially. What about the women who clean our hotel room or care for our children, who got the job we wanted or who date a man (or woman) we’re attracted to?

We don’t all have to be best friends and hang out, but all of the righteous public statements of support in the world mean nothing if, in our personal lives, we’re betraying each other—undermining each other at work or among friends, gossiping about each other, hitting on each other’s boyfriends or partners, or experiencing schadenfreude when something bad happens to a woman we know. I am saying “we” because I am as guilty of some of these things as anyone else.

We teach our daughters to shout “girl power,” but louder than the things we shout are the examples we set for our children.

Do we show our daughters how to uplift each other and be kind to one another? A small demonstration of respect or support for the woman next to us can be even more meaningful than a loud proclamation of newsworthy support.

Our real strength doesn’t come from holding up signs or chanting loudly, though we need to keep doing those things. We don’t need to be docile, silent, mannerly, or ladylike all the time. Or ever.

But until we all build up and support each other in our everyday encounters (and not just shout “girl power!” in a political context), until we can stop undermining and competing with each other, then “girl power” is sadly lacking in power.

Our real strength is in our solidarity. And our solidarity starts with how we as women treat each other in even the small things.

All of us having each other’s backs, beyond just a headline statement of solidarity on social media—now that is a formidable force.

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Heidi Tran

author: Heidi Tran

Image: Mean Girls (2004)

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