A Case for Womankind
In economics, game theory is the formal study of decision-making where players must make choices that potentially affect the interests of the other players. It suggests that if any player puts his/her self-interest before the team, the entire team loses. This theory not only applies to economics but to many real-life situations like marriages and sports. It got me thinking about how it affects womankind. Specifically, why 52% of women voted against a woman for President, why some women are only interested in married men, and the conflicts that inspired Tina Fey to create a movie about Mean Girls. They all go to show that when one woman puts her own interests or insecurities first, it came at an expense of another woman. There's no one single Band-Aid given how lofty this issue is, but I can't help but think womankind as a collective has a long way to go despite coming so far.
In looking back at my mistakes, I failed to consider which team I was playing for. It was every "man" for himself. Over time, namely my twenties, my inner mean girl developed. I never quite knew why she showed up but suspect it was some type of defense mechanism. Not being able to manage her has been a toxic cycle: wearing the Scarlett letter, inflicting abuse, or remaining neutral instead of helping friends resolve issues . Heartaches from negative interactions with females leave significant scars that affect future interactions and often inhibit growth. How can we move the systemic needle in making women equal to men if we don't acknowledge and manage our internal battles that potentially hold females back?
If there's any one being who can empathize with all the bullshit women have to deal with —beauty, aging, fertility, motherhood, the gender pay gap, or domestic abuse, wouldn't it be every woman? Imagine if women went to bat for all women or simply learned to forgive for the best of the team. Game theory would work in favor of all of us.
Together, we could silence catcalling the minute a pervert made a woman feel uncomfortable or help women heal from rape or harassment by validating, believing in their pain. We'd collectively support policies that improve conditions for future generations. We could salvage a few friendships, prevent mental health issues, and we might even elect a female President. It's a tough ask to demand equality from systems if we don't know how our actions play against our very own team.
I punted these questions to you on Instagram and found the results and side discussions surprising.
76% of respondents said they don't generally trust other women while 61% said they believe women protect each other but 74% admitted they've been both the mean girl and the victim of mean girls.
Turns out, I viewed womankind negatively as responses showed more positive than expected. While experiences were negative during times of conflict, perspectives on friendships and womanhood became more positive with age. Moreover, those who admitted to being a mean girl or were a victim of mean girls still see the best in women and want better for all women.
This data show we all want the same things. The challenge is existing strategically because someone else wins or we all lose when we pit ourselves against each other. Statements like "women are catty, they can't get along" or "women are too emotional" aren't entirely untrue. However, we have to navigate the ongoing conflict with the team in mind.
I've decided to be fiercely protective of all women. It's not sexist; it's a duty. I don't mean we all have to be best friends or only exchange pleasantries. It means putting aside differences so the entire team lives with some peace of mind. More importantly, it means I will no longer take part in bringing my team down. —Juley Le, Founder
*While our womanhood won't magically heal overnight, we can continue the conversation and implement changes in our actions.
First, recognize how far you've come and help yourself heal.
Check your inner mean girl. She lives inside each of us and needs to be managed and nurtured until one day she disappears completely.
Treat young girls with the same respect and love you would show your own daughter or younger sister. They need good examples.
Make all women you come in contact with feel safe. If someone is putting her down, don't add fuel to the fire but help simmer it.
Be understanding to any female who isn't overly nice. We've all been through a lot. Tell her you hope she'll be ok.
Forgive yourself, your mom, any woman who's hurt you, the stressed out waitress, and other women as much as you can for the sake of the team.
Apply empathy, see the best, and be on guard for all women.
Praise women who are ambitious, thought leaders, innovators, artists, or wallflowers for their courage.
Vote for a woman during the mid-term elections.
Remind older women they are more beautiful in wisdom and grace than any one age range or their former selves.
Refuse to degrade or hold judgment about another woman as best as you can, both online and offline.