“We have to get better at being there for each other,” said Chelsea Handler.
That was the central message of the famed comedienne to women everywhere in a recent video by Harper’s Bazaar as part of their 2017 Women Who Dare Issue. Handler packs the entire video with valuable words of wisdom when it comes to the treatment of women by other women.
And – from what I have seen in recent years – many women could use the PSA. At a time when females should unite more than ever, it seems that many may support the notion of doing so more in theory – by posting positive, “girl power” social media updates or by collecting a growing group of fremenies – than they do in practice.
While I’m lucky enough to have many amazing, inspiring girlfriends, I’m no stranger to being treated like trash by other females. When I started grade nine at a Toronto high school – wide-eyed and perfectly innocent, having not so much as kissed a boy – an army of older girls decided they hated me before the first few weeks of school were even in the books. I had never said a word to any of them (I was so shy, I could barely speak to kids in my own grade other than my girlfriends). In fact, I went out of my way to mind my own business. But that didn’t start the writing on the bathroom wall to surface by one older girl after another (“They all hate you because their boyfriends think you’re hot,” a friend informed me, which didn’t make me feel any better). Deep sadness defined that first year of high school.
Perhaps even sadder, however, is that such behaviour isn’t reserved to high school.
Fast-forward more years than I care to share. In my years in the media industry, I’ve felt the sting of the flashback a few times from fellow peers at work events and even in the workplace. There’s the one woman who meets my kill-her-with-kindness smile with a dark glare each time. There’s another who seems to specialize in the up-and-down once over through a set of stink eyes. Another only talks to me if I’m in the company of a mutual friend of ours. While most women have more inherent respect than the aforementioned ones, one thing we could all be better at – in any industry – is actively supporting one another. This involves everything from showing up at an event or panel hosted by a female friend or acquaintance, to “liking” their work activity and proud status updates on social media. Of course, when we’re all so consumed with our own careers and lives, this requires an active effort, but one that’s worth it. We should want other women to succeed: it helps our overall cause as a gender that continues to fight for equal rights.
“It’s so important to have women around you who will show up for you. Not once, not twice, not when they’re in the mood, not when they’re in a good mood. You have to show up for people because it makes you a better person,” says Handler. She’s quick to point out, however, that you don’t have to like everyone; there’s a big difference between not liking someone and being disrespectful. “As my best friend Mary says, you don’t have to be best friends with everybody. You don’t have to be best friends with people you don’t like. But you have to be a sister to them,” says Handler. “You have to think of women in the way that you would think of your niece or sister or your daughter or your mother. If it’s not good enough for my niece, it’s not good enough for me and it’s not good enough for a stranger I don’t know who is standing next to me.”
I will be the first to admit that my industry – media, arts and entertainment – runs rampant with gossip. I know things about other people I have no business knowing (or, frankly, no desire to either), thanks to the loose lips of others. Think of how much more value-added the conversation would be if we talked more about the places we want to go, the things we want to create and collaborations that are waiting to happen. It’s easy to gossip about someone, though, and Handler admits that she’s been guilty of it (she’s also been guilty of publicly slamming some women, namely, Angelina Jolie). “But it feels good not to. It feels good not to leave someone’s house and not to make a dig about something they did or what they were wearing,” says Handler. “We all do it. It’s good to get good at not doing that. Not even giving it that negative energy.”
At a time of such turmoil and challenge in the world, one thing nobody needs is more negativity (and, frankly, it’s exhausting).