Several celebrity news articles I’ve read in the last week – I’ll admit, many of them in the Daily Fail – have reminded me of Tina Fey’s idea of ‘The Myth of Not Enough’. For those of you unfamiliar with her hilarious and beautiful book Bossypants (read it. Just go, run and get it and read it NOW), The Myth of Not Enough is a situation which arises when two or more women are involved with pretty much anything. A project, a TV show, a promotion… at some point someone, usually a man, will say something like ‘There won’t be enough parts for all the girls’ or ‘If they go for a woman for the job, it’s between you and X’, thus encouraging women to view each other as rivals and generally get a bit nervous about other ladies stealing their thunder. Fey gives the example of only two women being allowed in any one comedy sketch during her time working in improv theatre, on the basis that there wouldn’t be enough parts to go around for the female cast members. In improv. Where they write all their own parts. The logic there is astounding.
Whenever women are seen working together in the public eye, there will invariably be stories in the media about this supposed competition between them. Women can’t be panellists on a talent show, co-presenters of daytime television, even politicians, without some idiot pitting them against each other and this is very rarely the case with men. We never hear about Louis Walsh not wanting Gary Barlow on the X Factor because he feels threatened by the prospect of another man on the panel, or Ant kicking off because, OMG, Dec gets more screen time! The likelihood is that most or all of this cattiness is totally imaginary on the part of the papers, but unfortunately it filters down into the brains of the impressionable population and is then repeated in our everyday lives to the detriment of professional, and occasionally personal, relationships between women.
I’ve met several women who have, at one time or another in their life, worked with a boss who is reluctant to promote them because they are female and she is therefore wary of giving them a step up the ladder lest they usurp her. This is screwed up, people! Women in positions of influence should be the best people to help girls further their careers. We should be mentoring each other and congratulating each other on professional achievements, not desperately getting rid of the new blood with a level of fervour previously seen only in Snow White’s evil stepmother.
As Fey says, ‘Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone.’ If you work against members of your own sex, you’re essentially sabotaging yourself. There are enough obstacles for women’s equality in the working world – we could really do without adding ‘other women’ to the list. So please, do us all a favour and, if you’re in a position to do so, help a sister out.