Shah: Less competition, more female empowerment

February 27, 2019

Chelsea Handler put it perfectly when she said, “Don’t believe that because someone got something, that you’re not going to get something else. There’s room for everybody.”


In an interview with Elle magazine, the famous comedian shared her experience of struggling with jealousy after learning that one of her female friends had received a call from an agency she wanted to work with.


“I never blow out someone else’s candle to make mine brighter,” Handler said.


It’s taken me two decades to get to this place of recognizing how important female empowerment is. It’s taken me this long to strip away the false notion that there’s limited room available for women to succeed.


The only force more powerful than two women determined to lift each other up is more women working together to better one another.


From the time a boy pushed me on the playground and my friend threatened to take him down to another friend dispelling a rumor about me in middle school, I’ve grown to value my bonds with women more than any other relationship.  


There’s a certain sense of comfort I find in these friendships that I can’t find anywhere else. Maybe it’s the meaningful conversations, the life-changing advice, the pep talks or even my girl friends’ ability to believe in me—pushing me to be the best version of myself—that I’m deeply grateful for.


From my personal experiences, I’ve learned that female friendships play a strong role in helping women succeed.


Even research suggests that strong social ties are an important factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


According to an article in the Oncology Times, breast cancer patients with close social and emotional ties have better chances of survival within the first six months of their diagnosis.  


The study reported that “women who felt satisfied in their friendships had a 38 percent reduced risk of mortality and a 48 percent lower risk of recurrence, when compared with those with poor social ties.”


More of us need to invest in our relationships with women so we can take on challenges together and dismantle a system that’s built to keep us from succeeding.


As young girls, we’re constantly fed the false idea that competing with each other for attention from men is fundamental in helping us exceed socially.


We’re raised in a culture in which toxic behavior among women is promoted in mainstream media.


We witness this in popular movies like “Mean Girls,” “Clueless” and “I, Tonya” in which strong, powerful women are more concerned with tearing each other down to build themselves up, rather than working together.


Online, the same behavior persists with celebrities like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry feuding over Twitter, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B fighting each other at New York Fashion Week and Martha Stewart and Gwyneth Paltrow going after each other’s careers.


Competitiveness in which women try to one-up each other is a learned behavior and we all know that when something is learned, it can also be unlearned.


There’s nothing like having a strong network of women who you can rely on to have your back, friends you can go to when struggling with low-self-esteem. Even discussing problems, you have in common help you recognize you’re not alone in your struggles as a woman.


I am amazed and inspired by all the women in my life. The women who have paved the way for other women to take their roles and serve in leadership positions. The women who have stood up for their rights and pushed the line just enough to let other women stand beside them.


I attribute so much of my own success to all the strong female role models in my life. From all the strong women in my family who’ve served as my idols, to my mentors who have always given me the best advice, to all the female professors who have encouraged me to take on more challenging work, to all my exceptionally intelligent female friends, I’m inspired by all the hard work and dedication I’ve witnessed as a woman by other women.


I understand now that it’s my job to give back and mentor other girls who share the same passions as me. Now more than ever, we need to continue supporting each other, be bold together and pave the way for more women to do exceptional things.


When there isn’t enough room at the table for one of us, we need to form a bigger table to fit all of us. The more we recognize that we have the potential to be great together, the more others will recognize that we are a force to be reckoned with.


Areeba Shah is a fourth-year communication major.


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