A personal story on female competition vs. empowerment

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

“We have been shark to one another, but also lifeboat. That counts for something.”

- Margaret Atwood in Cat's Eye


When it comes to relationships between two women, I sadly experience these short

lines to be quite fitting way to often. It sometimes feels like we’re making it

unnecessarily harder for each other, and to be honest, growing up I generally felt more

discouraged by other women then by men. That’s probably one of the reasons why

Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye deeply resonated with me. In the novel, the protagonist

Elaine experiences times in her adult life when she still feels haunted by thoughts of a

toxic childhood friendship that was both manipulating and engaging. Her putative

friend Cordelia seemed to keep her close only to let her down over and over again.

The story threw me back to my days in elementary school when I experienced hostile

behaviour from other girls. In hindsight I know that a lot of the bullying back then can

be edited down to envy - to always comparing and competing.

Yet, actively reflecting on it, I came to realize that I was subconsciously feeding into

that narrative myself later on.


My own cat’s eye.

In the early years of my studies - I studied art history which is in itself very women

dominated - I was in this weird state between wanting to be someone’s friend, but also

being deeply jealous of her professional experiences, and what she had achieved so far.

I felt weirdly threatened. I also felt pretty stupid. She was never anything but nice and

kind and supportive of me, and I did in fact like her a lot.


So at one point I stopped to ask myself: What exactly was it that I was trying to achieve

here by being rashly envious, and in doing so blight every chance for a real connection?

That her accomplishments would magically disappear? Why not learn from each other

and encourage each other? Why invest all that energy into something negative when

instead I could put it into establishing an actual friendship with someone who has

similar ideas, hopes and fears? We don’t rise by putting down others. Who even came

up with this?! Especially as women I feel it’s even more important to stick together and

support each other.


More lifeboat. Less shark.

When I meet people now who work in the same field as I do, and who have similar

interests and ambitions, I feel inspired by these women, I want to get to know them

and their story. I feel enriched by our conversations, love to visit exhibitions with

them, and talk about art and photography for hours. I’d like to help and support them

wherever I can. This feels so much more empowering. I want to stand with other

women, not against them.


For those who haven‘t read Margaret Atwood‘s Cat‘s Eye, check here


Text by Stefanie Regina Dietzel

Preview Photo by Majdi Laktinah


 #women #femaleempowerment #literature #atwood #feminism #empowerment

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