Actor Jesse Williams got the internet (and beyond) buzzing last night after his moving speech during the BET Awards.
We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though, the thing is that just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.
Sheryl Sandberg, along with Adam Grant, penned a piece for the NY Times called The Myth of the Catty Woman.
Queen bees exist, but they’re far less common than we think. Women aren’t any meaner to women than men are to one another. Women are just expected to be nicer. We stereotype men as aggressive and women as kind. When women violate those stereotypes, we judge them harshly. “A man has to be Joe McCarthy to be called ruthless,” Marlo Thomas once lamented. “All a woman has to do is put you on hold.”
Queen bees aren’t a reason for inequality but rather a result of inequality. In the past, structural disadvantages forced women to protect their fragile turf. Some of those disadvantages persist. Research shows that in male-dominated settings, token women are more likely to worry about their standing, so they’re reluctant to advocate for other women. A talented woman presents a threat if there’s only one seat for a woman at the table. A marginally qualified woman poses a different type of threat: “Hiring you will make me look bad.”
This behavior isn’t inherently female. It’s a natural way we react to discrimination when we belong to a non dominant group. Fearing that their group isn’t valued, some members distance themselves from their own kind. They internalize cultural biases and avoid affiliating with groups that are seen as having low status.
Yet women can still pay a price when they advocate for other women. In a recent study of more than 300 executives, when men promoted diversity, they received slightly higher performance ratings. They were good guys who cared about breaking down the old boys’ network. When female executives promoted diversity, they were punished with significantly lower performance ratings. They were perceived as nepotistic — trying to advantage their own group.
The same findings held true for race. White leaders got credit for championing diversity, while nonwhite leaders were penalized for it. And in a controlled experiment on hiring decisions, male leaders were not penalized for choosing a woman or nonwhite candidate over an equally qualified white man. But when female and nonwhite leaders chose the same diversity candidate, they were rated as 10 percent less effective.
When a woman helps another woman, they both benefit. And when women celebrate one another’s accomplishments, we’re all lifted up.