If you have ever attended Laimani Bidali’s Alabastron session, there’s a term you walk away with that should be every woman’s mantra: “cover each other’s nakedness with love”. It’s another way of saying don’t throw another woman under the bus and for heaven’s sake, if you see her walking down the street battered, bruised and naked, don’t point and stare, take off your shirt and give it to her. Literally. I think the only person who I can say has done that for real is Tegla Loroupe. When she visited the Tana Delta last year after the savage massacre, I’m told by those who were there that she and her team left there in their bare necessities. She took off what she was wearing to cover another woman who had nothing.
Speaking to Sara Mitaru last Monday on the Big Breakfast, it was refreshing to know that she understands that she has gotten where she is by standing on the shoulders of women who were more than happy to say “hop on my back, I’ll take you there”. She tells the story of the first time she ever got paid for her work. Betty Murungi paid her for her work with the words, “let me pay you like a professional”. She told me that story months after I had first interviewed her, telling me that I was the first radio host to ever give her an interview. Jive!
I’m not going to make this a piece about the nasty things some women do to other women, because that’s not the true picture. I want to make it about the real story of women who pick up other women and cover them. Those stories are legion, but they are rarely told. Why? Well duh, it’s so much easier to get a buzz from telling tales of the bitchiness and back-stabbing that women do to each other.
Are there small, needy, insecure women all around us who are more than happy to step on another for no other reason than they are miserable? Yes, but they are not the norm and the sooner we all start reminding them that they are the exception to the rule the better.
As I said to Sara Mitaru on the show, the number of women who have stood by me, held me, pushed me and prodded me to do more, be more, achieve more, outnumber, outweigh and ever outsmart the small-minded ones are many. I cannot pinpoint an issue, a situation, a moment where I had a “breakthrough” and there wasn’t a woman, or a group of women on the other end cheering me on at the top of their lungs.
So is the phenomenon of women sabotaging other women real? Yes, it’s real but it is also overblown. The acts of minorities are more likely to be generalised to their group than members of the group in power. Minorities get painted with the same brush as group members who behave badly. In terms of power in the world, women are minorities. One would never say, “I had a bad male boss so men are bad bosses.” But we observe a woman undermining another woman and conclude that women undermine other women.
The problem with that is the myth takes on a life of its on and when encountered with a woman who couldn’t care for that sort of thing, some women are shocked, suspicious and even confused. What they fail to understand is those of us who totally refuse to throw another woman under the bus understand that we are women too and the minute one goes down, the rest of us stumble. There is a ripple effect.
Here’s the deal, we can all pay lip service to the gender rule in the constitution and keep looking elsewhere for the people who will make it possible for women to excel, or we can take it upon overselves to make it happen. The men, real men (not the small shivering ones who can’t even pass for girls) have no beef with women advancing. They love it and if given a chance, roll out the army to carry them across the river. The problem is, they also can’t be seen to be too eager before someone ask “what’s up?”
So, once again, all we ladies have is each other.
Let me put it this way, the women who have gone through the jungle and earned their stripes are more than happy to help another woman leapfrog. The ones who can’t really tell you the way and won’t offer directions are the ones who didn’t do the journey. Learn to filter the noise and seek out the real deal. You see it’s not that she doesn’t want to help you, it’s that she doesn’t know how to.
I’m putting this issue out there now, as we wait to see how the number of women appointed to public office across the country fare. If you are the sort of woman who sits back and says “let’s see if she’ll make it” shame on you, give us back our chromosomes.
If you are the woman who says “I really hope she does well” then please, let her know you are there for her. There’s a misconception that they will become all high and mighty and important. That’s not true. It’s just armour to shield her from the bullets she’s afraid may be coming her way. She needs and wants your help and support. However you need to reach out first and tell her you are available.
Here’s the deal, as long as women are minorities at the leadership levels, we will be subject to the “same paintbrush” effect. The very under-representation of women in the upper ranks of leadership whether in public office or business is a reason the behavior of senior women is watched so closely. However, as the numbers increase, and they must, the scrutiny on just one becomes less of a burden to bare.
Given the under-representation of women in the upper ranks of business, it is natural that we tend to think of leadership spots as scarce. It’s a zero sum game; if another woman gets a spot, that’s one less spot for me! Rubbish! Women must recognise that the promotion of another woman can increase acceptance of women leaders generally; celebrate it! In fact here’s something for all of us to consider. If you want it, celebrate it. You cannot attract to yourself what you resent in another. Don’t look at the woman who is finally at the top of her game and hate her yet at the same time wish the same for yourself. It doesn’t work. You cannot attract what you resent. If you want it, celebrate it.