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Female Envy Sucks

4 October 2009

Patriarchy Getting in the Way of Sisterly Love

Why does it seem so hard for women to be happy for one another?

Put differently: When was the last time that you felt genuinely happy for one of your sister peers when she had accomplished something noteworthy?

As some of you know, I’m in the process of opening a bakery in San Francisco. Part of my research process involves telling every single person I meet that I’m doing this, and asking for their feedback and suggestions. People who don’t cook much themselves, or who don’t think of themselves as chefs or foodies have, in general, provided really positive feedback. They give me ideas for new markets, different recipes, and creative solutions to my most pressing business issues.

People who cook extensively themselves, or have their own food-related aspirations, however, tend to be extremely negative about my business idea. They ask me –

Isn’t it really hard to open your own food business? I read that over 90% of food businesses fail within their first year. Here, what’s your email address? I’ll send you the article.

How are you going to distinguish yourself from the competition? There are a lot of good bakeries in San Francisco. (There aren’t, by the way. There aren’t nearly enough good bakeries in San Francisco.)

*Really skeptical look* Yeah, a lot of people want to start their own bakeries. Good luck with that.

And on, and on, and on.

Yes, I know that most food businesses fail within their first year, that there is stiff competition, and that I must distinguish myself from other existing bakeries. After all, if this business fails, it is my ass (& credit, & money, & emotional sanity, & self-esteem) on the line. I understand exactly how precarious & difficult this process will be. Trust me, I do.

Given that I’m not stupid or irresponsible, when I tell you that I’m starting my own business, is that really¬†all you can find to say?

I have also been on the other side of this, shelling out negativity in small, passive-aggressive doses when it was my friends & sometimes complete strangers with the accomplishments. When I hear of someone actually doing something that I wish I was doing if I had more discipline & commitment, it gets really hard to be happy for them.

And that sucks, because that’s not what a good friend does. Good friends are supposed to share your drama & issues (without being secretly glad that you’re so messed up), & celebrate your successes (without secretly trying to undermine you at every turn). How do I be a better friend & a better feminist?

Kind of wish I was more of a grown-up.

– Shiyuan

4 Comments leave one →
  1. shavedhead permalink
    8 October 2009 3:03 pm

    I would take everything with a grain of salt and looking at things on a double edged sword. The nay-sayers may be looking out for you. We all know how hard the economy is right now so the chances of starting a fledgling bakery on your own is, well, daunting. The yay-sayers may be cheering you on to show good support but don’t really care if you’re going to fail or succeed.

    Also, success or ambition isn’t always well received. People who don’t have the guts to do something (the good bakers you talked about) don’t like to see other deemed less qualified people attempt it (starting a bakery). It’s natural to get mixed reactions from people. Just goes to show you’re idea’s got potential. Everyone roots for the underdog ya know. It’s better to face criticism than apathy.

    I say do your thing and prove the nay-sayers WRONG.


    • Shiyuan permalink*
      8 October 2009 4:40 pm

      Your characterization of the nay-sayers reminds me of my drama with my mom.

      “I’m only trying to BE REALISTIC!,” she says, “Why are you getting SO UPSET?”

  2. Dayna permalink
    5 October 2009 8:20 am

    I wonder if it has something to do with the mentality of a historically oppressed group. I mean, really, kind of like social dominance theory. For a woman fighting for success in a world that is still a man’s, instead of finding support from other women, she finds negativity and friction. It’s still so tough to get ahead that we hold each other back, both in outright forms and passive-aggressively. The paternalistic myth is ingrained, so much that we, as women, often don’t realize that we are perpetuating the problem by not supporting each other. We’ve bought into the myth. I don’t disbelieve the myth enough to do my own thing in this man’s world, so what makes you think you can. Does that make sense?

    Or maybe we’ve taken the tactics that would historically be used, or for some still are, in finding the best man to take care of us and securing his as our provider/protector/whatever, and apply it to everything else now too. But again, it does back to the paternalistic myth. Hmmm…

    Or maybe, we just need to grow up. I don’t know. And yes, I’m guilty too.

    But your right, it needs to change.

    • Shiyuan permalink*
      5 October 2009 12:22 pm

      I think that’s exactly the problem. I’ve never had a relationship with another woman that was just about the two of us. Either we were competing for the attentions of a specific guy, a group or kind of guys, or a metaphorical guy. It sucks! And it’s so freaking hard to break out of. There have been a lot of times where I’ve met a woman and thought, I really like you, I wish we could be closer, but we CAN’T, because of this thing that we don’t/can’t talk about.

      It’s like being friends with white women. No matter how close you are, or how much you like each other, or how closely your political sensibilities line up, at the end of the day, there’s still something to work through. Again: it sucks!

      Another (maybe?) unrelated problem: I’m having a really hard time meeting women, now that I’m out of college. I don’t mean romantically – I mean, strictly platonically. If I want to get know a guy better, I know exactly what to do. And there’s a social framework for those kinds of interactions. What if I want to get to know a woman better? Although guys probably have friend-envy, too, I think it’s a lot harder to form solid, real relationships with other women.

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