Madeleine Albright mentioned in her public lecture last week that “there’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help each other.” And I think there’s truth to that.
In the 1970s, the term “queen bee” was coined to describe a certain kind of woman who inhibits the professional advancement of other women so that she will remain the most successful woman in the room. According to Albright, “The queen bee does not want other women around.”
Even though women are slowly advancing past the gender gap, we’re still holding ourselves back through two means: transforming into the queen bee and identifying ourselves through race.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a woman becomes the queen bee “because the patriarchal culture of work encouraged the few women who rose to the top to become obsessed with maintaining their authority.”
It’s certainly a great accomplishment when a woman can establish herself in a male-dominated field, such as engineering or philosophy, two fields that have the lowest amount of women in them. But being prideful in being the only woman surrounded by men only further aligns the success of women with men, not other women.
When talking with SPU professor Kathleen Braden about the struggles she endured while being considered for secretary of state, Albright mentioned, “I now know that the reason it happened was because of Hillary Clinton.” Apparently, Hillary said to Bill, “Why wouldn’t you name Madeleine? She is most in-tune with your views, she expresses them better than anybody else, and it would make your mother happy.” Albright mentioned that she and Hillary became a great “tag team” during the administration, most especially because they were of the very few women in government.
Even though Albright faced sexism within our government, she was fortunate to have Hillary there so that they could combat sexism together. Hillary wasn’t threatened by Albright’s well-deserved success. In fact, she helped her through it, and together, they helped make history for women. (And will hopefully continue to make history if Hillary decides to run again for the presidency.)
Successful women need to concern themselves with the advancement of other women who are also attempting to achieve professional success. This is especially true for women of differing races. It’s been rare to see women not of the same race unite with one another under the problem of gender inequality. We identify ourselves through race first and gender second.
Simone de Beauvoir touched upon this point in The Second Sex, writing that women have historically connected with the men of their own race or class, as opposed to connecting with other women.
De Beauvoir wrote, “As bourgeois women, they are in solidarity with bourgeois men and not with women proletarians; as white women, they are in solidarity with white men and not with black women.”
Women have mainly shown allegiance to the men in their own group. Alan Bennett, in his play The History Boys, commented on this when he wrote that “History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”
It wasn’t until 1971 when Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes were featured in an iconic photograph of them giving the raised-fist salute. This allowed our country to see women of different races uniting under the feminist ideal. But we haven’t seen much unity amongst the races since.
The racial divide amongst women even reaches SPU. For V-Day last year, a monologue called “Respect” unfortunately further divided people racially, contrary to the purpose of the monologues, which was to unite women under the feminine struggle. The dialogue vehemently reiterated that the speakers were “black vaginas.”
The actresses emphatically told the audience that it was neither white men nor the “white vaginas” that built this country. Rather, “black vaginas” founded America’s lands because the African slaves gave birth to more slaves. The actresses rhetorically asked, “Is the black vagina respected?” They demanded, “You will respect the black vagina.”
Performances like this one do little to unite women as a whole because its method operates under the exclusion of all other women.
It is beyond immeasurable importance that women communicate and organize themselves under a common understanding of what they want from society, what they want from each other and what they define feminism as.
De Beauvoir further mentioned that women “lack the concrete means to organize themselves into a unit… They have no past, no history, no religion of their own.”
Women of all races and all professions have undergone and continue to undergo almost identical problems that concern being a woman. Women everywhere share similar experiences because of our position in societies, the unique features of our bodies and even our thoughts.
When a large group forms, it often separates into factions guided by self-interest. Within those continuing divisions, women would cease to empathize with one another because we would no longer associate another’s struggle with our own. Feminism isn’t just for the individual woman — it’s for the entire gender.
Opinion Editor Alley Jordan is a senior political science and classics major.