Discourse is an important element to understanding other people’s perspectives and moving towards resolution, but it’s important that it does not cloud the reality that we can accomplish much more by teaming up. Rather than standing our ground and opposing others who likely share at least some of our objectives.
Take the native Americans. White Europeans would not have easily taken over region by region in the new world if they did not overcome the natives, who actually outnumbered them. Because each Indian tribe had its own language, customs and rulers, they often battled against other tribes in addition to the new threat from invaders. If they all had a commitment to one Indian nation initially and fought the white man together, their power to resist and negotiate would have been greatly enhanced.
The opposite is generally true with modern Americans. No matter how much Republicans and Democrats argue about the direction of the country, they are both so passionate about their beliefs because they want America to remain the leader in the world. We realize this when terrorists attempt to divide and conquer us through fear, because attacks often make political differences melt away as we all realize that our collective commitment to a safe and free homeland takes priority over our differing opinions about the best way to maintain that.
But when it comes to women and all of the issues that affect us uniquely, are we united as one voice or easily divided to be conquered by others?
Women have not yet fully embraced the concept that many of the hurdles we face could finally be overcome if we attacked them together with one common effort.
We don’t generally do that now. We often hear childless women criticize mothers for leaving work early to pick up kids at school. We see single women insult married women for compromising their values by putting up with a man who isn’t perfect. We hear stay-at-home mothers criticize working mothers for putting their kids in daycare. We see career moms insult moms who left the workforce to raise kids by implying that they have it easy. An ongoing, vicious online debate has created an entire range of Mommy Wars: breastfeeding moms vs. formula moms, helicopter mothers vs. free range mothers, over scheduled moms vs. laissez-faire moms, public school mothers vs. home school mothers, and on and on.
The reason we wage these wars is because we care so deeply about the opportunities for women, the happiness of ourselves and the nurturing of our children.
If we focused on those common goals — rather than the disputes over the best way to achieve them — we could accomplish so much more.
What would happen if ALL mothers teamed up to fight for these?
Affordable, quality daycare AND Tax breaks for stay-at-home moms
Mandated, paid family leave AND Incentives for corporate flex time
Affordable health care for children AND Tax breaks for small business
Public preschool AND Moral guidance from teachers
Aggressive child support enforcement AND Affordable marriage counseling
Universal college scholarships AND Accessible small business loans
Affordable prenatal care AND Teen sex education counseling
I already know what would happen. The 157 million women in the United States — combined with the estimated 3.5 billion women in the rest of the world – would be the most powerful force on the planet – shaping political will, public opinion, corporate policies and our future generations.
It may seem implausible that women from so many diverse backgrounds and beliefs could team up, but it could happen if we stop competing and start conspiring. It can start with you. The next time you are about to raise an eyebrow over the way another woman is dressed, or shake your head at a mother who doesn’t seem to have control over her kid, or whisper insults about an aging women who never married – stop yourself. Remind yourself that this woman may not want all the same things you do in life, but if you get to know her, I guarantee you will find some common goals.
But you’ll only find out what you share in common with that woman if you send a smile, rather than a smirk, in her direction. Try it. It just might work!