Why are women so ungenerous to other women? Is it because we have been tokens for so long? Or is there a deeper animosity we owe it to ourselves to explore?A publisher...couldn't understand why women were so loath to help each other.... The notion flitted through my mind that somehow, by helping..., I might be hurting my own chances for something or other -- what I did not know. If there was room for only one woman poet, another space would be filled....If I still feel I am in competition with other women, how do less well-known women feel? Terrible, I have to assume.I have had to train myself to pay as much attention to women at parties as to men.... I have had to force myself not to be dismissive of other women's creativity. We have been semi-slaves for so long (as Doris Lessing says) that we must cultivate freedom within ourselves. It doesn't come naturally. Not yet.In her writing about the drama of childhood developments, Alice Miller has created, among other things, a theory of freedom. in order to embrace freedom, a child must be sufficiently nurtured, sufficiently loved. Security and abundance are the grounds for freedom. She shows how abusive child-rearing is communicated from one generation to the next and how fascism profits from generations of abused children. Women have been abused for centuries, so it should surprise no one that we are so good at abusing each other. Until we learn how to stop doing that, we cannot make our revolution stick.Many women are damaged in childhood -- unprotected, unrespected and treated with dishonesty. Is it any wonder that we build up vast defences against other women since the perpetrators of childhood abuse have so often been women? Is it any wonder that we return intimidation with intimidation, or that we reserve our greatest fury for others who remind us of our own weaknesses -- namely other women?Men, on the other hand, however intellectually condescending, clubbish, loutishly lewd, are rarely as calculatingly cruel as women. They tend, rather, to advance us when we are young and cute (and look like darling daughters) and ignore us when we are older and more sure of our opinions (and look like scary mothers), but they don't really know what they're doing. They are too busy bonding with other men and creating male pecking orders, to pay attention to us.If we were skilled at compromise and alliance-building, we could transform society. The trouble is: we are not yet good at this. We are still quarrelling among ourselves. This is the crisis feminism faces today.
Erica Jong