For years, women have protested the stereotypes men use to limit us with no thought to the stereotypes women inflict on each other. While both forms of stereotyping are regrettable, we only have the power to change our own attitudes. This begins by no longer believing you are different from other women.
Admittedly, this is an attitude even I have been guilty of at times. However, after learning about Cheryl Dellasega’s research on nurses and the creation of “lateral violence,” I have become aware of just how wrong I this way of thinking is.
In her research, Dellasega noticed a clear hierarchy between nurses and doctors, establishing nurses as inferior despite the difficulty of their work and leaving them with a need to prove their worth. However, instead of doing so as a collective, Dellasega noted that many nurses tried to negotiate to a higher social standing as an individual by detaching themselves from the other nurses and trying to seem more “doctor-like.” This resulted in brutal relationship among the nurses, which Dellasega labeled more broadly as “lateral violence.”
Though I cannot speak to the validity of that study, I can speak to the truth of these findings in everyday life. Many women feel a need to distinguish themselves from one another, as if they fit into some hybrid category somehow superior to ordinary woman. While I understand a hybrid category of man and woman from a gender identity standpoint, it does not make sense for women who do categorize themselves as women. No matter what rationale you can conjure up to establish yourself as better than other women, more than likely, you will not realize any social movement. Instead, it is better to own your womanhood.
Every category is flawed, and gender is no exception. There will always be diversity that will not be accounted for in any given category. Being a woman does not dictate how you dress, act, or think. It is only a label, requiring social participants to give it meaning. Since women make-up at least half of society, we have significant clout in controlling that meaning. So why not make “woman” a label to be proud of?
Reference: Dellasega, C. (2009). Bullying among nurses. American Journal of Nursing, 109 (1), 52-58.