“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