‘Cause Girls Should Stick Together*

As this is posted, it’s International Women’s Day. It’s no secret that women still have a long way to go to achieve equity. I could list all sorts of examples to show that, but I won’t. You know them, I’m sure, already. One of the ways that we can do something about that inequity is for women to support each other. When women support one another instead of competing, this makes all the difference. Case in point: I have a friend who writes quality crime fiction. Instead of competing (because what’s the point?), we serve as beta readers for one another. Her success helps me, and I hope mine helps her. That’s the sort of support I mean. It’s there in real life, and there are some interesting examples in crime fiction, too.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit, Anne Bedingfield is drawn into a case of international intrigue, stolen jewels, and murder. After her father’s death, Anne is left at loose ends. She knows she doesn’t want to stay in London, but she’s not sure what else to do. She spontaneously books passage on a ship bound for Cape Town, and that decision gets her in quite a lot of danger. On the ship, she meets Suzanne Blair, a very independent older woman who befriends Anne. She supports Anne, gets her out of trouble, and becomes a trusted ally. And, in the end, it’s clear that they are going to be lifelong friends. Suzanne reaches out to Anne, and that makes all the difference for both women.

Lisa Scottoline’s Mary DiNunzio is a skilled attorney. Benny Rosato is the owner of a Philadelphia law firm. Together they get involved in several different mysteries as they take on different legal cases. Benny is in the position of authority, but rather than undermining or running down the other attorneys (including Mary), she supports them. She helps them get the resources they need, she takes an interest in them, and she brings her own expertise to the firm. These lawyers don’t compete; instead, they work together and help each other. In that way, the whole firm does better.

Fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs will know that she started life as a maid. And in the pre-WW I society in which she lived, she’d have been likely to stay in that position for the rest of her life. As it happened, though, she worked in the home of Lady Rowan Compton, who took an interest in her. Lady Rowan saw Maisie’s intelligence and promise and decided to sponsor her. She arranged for Maisie to be educated and supported her idea to become a private detective. And Lady Rowan has been very helpful in getting Maisie’s career going. She’s referred clients, and otherwise makes sure that the ‘right’ people know about Maisie. Instead of keeping Maisie ‘in her place,’ Lady Rowan has boosted her.

Leigh Redhead’s Simone Kirsch is a Melbourne-based former stripper who’s started a career as a private investigator. She originally wanted to be a police detective, but wasn’t able to make that happen. Still, she’s making progress as a PI. Her best friend Chloe Wozniak is also a former stripper who now owns her own escort business. The two find ways to help each other, and it ends up boosting both of them. Chloe has background information on a lot of people in the industry; for her part, Simone is able to find answers that Chloe sometimes needs. Together they do better than either would separately, particularly in an industry that can be hard on women.

And then there’s Lauren Roche’s Mila and the Bone Man. Mila has always had the instincts of a healer. Her mother and, especially, her Aunty Cath, have done what they could to teach her the skills she needs to know. But tragedy leaves the family devastated. When Mila is a child, her younger sister tragically dies. Everyone is torn apart, but the family members do try to help each other. Then, a few years later, another tragedy strikes, and this time, Mila leaves. She makes her way to Auckland, where she begins to train as a nurse. But she is eventually drawn back to her hometown at the northernmost part of New Zealand’s North Island. As she puts the pieces of her life back together, we see how Aunty Cath supports her and helps her get started. Mila’s mother has her own issues, but Mila stands by her and helps. And all three of them teach and support the next generation.

And that’s the thing about women supporting other women. We all do better if we boost each other and help each other, and together, we do more than any of us could alone. So, if you have the chance, look behind you and help younger women making the ‘career climb.’ Lend an ear (or a shoulder) to those who need it. Other women don’t have to be competition – they are allies.

ps. The ’photo is of Nikki Hamblin (NZ)(L) and Abby D’Agostino (US) (R) who were competing in the women’s 5,000 m race at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. During the qualifying run, D’Agostino accidentally bumped into Hamblin from behind. Both women fell, and D’Agostino hurt her ankle. Instead of leaving Hamblin on the ground, D’Agostino stayed until Hamblin got up. Instead of abandoning her injured fellow runner, Hamblin helped D’Agostino across the finish line. They might not have won that race, but both made it to the finals. That’s women supporting each other.

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Candy Dulfer’s Girls Should Stick Together (For Nada).