Round One: Ballerina VS Ballerina.

Girls fighting girls

 AKA : Why Ballerinas continue to try to steal  

the magical tiara from the kingdom . 

How ironic it is that the May 9. 2009 The NY Times article talks of women in all types of work forces that are facing  exactly the same predicament the dance profession faces.

Backlash Women Bullying Woman at Work

By Mickey Meece

It’s probably no surprise that most of these bullies are men, as a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, an advocacy group, makes clear. But a good 40 percent of bullies are women. And at least the male bullies take an egalitarian approach, mowing down men and women pretty much in equal measure. The women appear to prefer their own kind, choosing other women as targets more than 70 percent of the time.

Just the mention of women treating other women badly on the job seemingly shakes the women’s movement to its core. It is what Peggy Klaus, an executive coach in Berkeley, Calif., has called “the pink elephant” in the room. How can women break through the glass ceiling if they are ducking verbal blows from other women in cubicles, hallways and conference rooms?

Women don’t like to talk about it because it is “so antithetical to the way that we are supposed to behave to other women,” Ms. Klaus said. “We are supposed to be the nurturers and the supporters.” Ask women about run-ins with other women at work and some will point out that people of both sexes can misbehave. Others will nod in instant recognition and recount examples of how women — more so than men — have mistreated them.

Same story… different setting

The Dance Studio

Artistic Directors have always experienced the “shadow side” of sisterhood: women treating each other badly. From Bette Davis, the modern century Mommie Dearest, to Shirley MacLaine contentiousness with Anne Bancroft in The Turning Pointe, –  The 1977 movie with the most Oscar nominations (11 without a win) is the story of two women whose lives are dedicated to ballet. Deedee left her promising dance career to become a wife and mother and now runs a ballet school in Oklahoma. Emma stayed with a company and became a star though her time is nearly past. Both want what the other has and reflects back on missed chances as they are brought together again through Deedee’s daughter who joins the company.  Turning Pointe exploited those human frailties than by a modern tale of two close friends bond together for life in the face of roads torn apart.

It was a movie… but it is also a day to day reality sometimes.

Secret conversations in the dancers lounge, conniving and indirectly sabotaging alliances over martinis: all are the betraying secret language of an intimidator at work. They noiselessly manipulate traps for other dancer victims at every pass. Each May I ask myself why this has to happen.   Why is female friendship so important to women, despite the prevalence of female betrayals? Women depend upon each other for emotional intimacy and bonding, but their power to form cliques, gossip about, and shun one another enforces conformity and discourages self-confidence and psychological clarity from girlhood on.  And this season is like so many others, though probably much more devastating, surfing this current glib economic slump. As the end of a season approaches, stress levels rise, it never fails workmates are likely to narrow their stare and ratchet up their attacks.

I recently asked the question to three ballerina victims ….

“ Over the last 12 months, have you regularly: been glared at in a hostile manner, been given the silent treatment, been treated in a rude or disrespectful manner, or had others fail to deny false rumors about you? All three answered

Yes ….with tears in their eyes. 

And now pushing 25+ years in the business I have to say. .. I continue to experience year after year, this phenomenon while watching from afar as many ballerinas who are still in the work force are hesitant to speak out publicly for fear of making matters worse or of jeopardizing their careers.

“Man’s inhumanity to man”–the phrase is all too familiar. But until Phyllis Chesler’s Woman’s “Inhumanity to Woman “, now a classic book, a profound silence prevailed about woman’s inhumanity to woman. Women’s aggression may not take the same form as men’s, but girls and women are indeed aggressive, often indirectly and mainly toward one another. They judge harshly, hold grudges, gossip, exclude, and disconnect from other women.

Like men, women are exposed to the messages of misogyny and sexism that permeate cultures worldwide. Like men, women unconsciously buy into negative images that can trigger abuse and mistreatment of other women. But like other social victims, many do not realize stereotyping affects members within the victimized group as well as those outside the group. They do not realize their behavior reflects society’s biases.

My ballerinas  feel a  bit exasperated when I have cohobated their experienced back to The Feminine Mystique by Betty  Friedan’s suburban wives, their low-level depression and seething dissatisfactions, their “problem that had no name.” If they were so unhappy, why didn’t they, you know, do something about it? I know none of my ballerina planned to spend their days waxing the kitchen floor; even their mothers hadn’t done that. But if they did, it would be–the magic word–their choice.

Now I have to say personally,   The Feminine Mystique didn’t change my life; I was only 6 when it came out . The book I loved was Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics, which was about literature. Still, whenever I open Friedan’s manifesto I’m carried away by its directness and pungency, its moral seriousness, its Emersonian call to women to use their best energies and be true to their best selves. It is so contrary to the caricature of feminism put forward in today media down to this day-. – Friedan doesn’t disparage love or motherhood (in fact, for women’s liberationists, she was far too devoted to conventional domestic arrangements); she doesn’t insist you get up from the delivery table and go straight back to your desk; she doesn’t, like Hirshman, belittle majoring in English or art history as a ticket to nowhere. On the contrary.  all she every wanted was for each female to be true their self.

Its 2008 census found, only 15.7 percent of Fortune 500 officers and 15.2 percent of directors were women.  I sit in that 15% but I agonize over the way I see my fellow sisters, colleagues, dancers and friends continue on the devastating path that shows no future except that of hurting each other at work.

I think it goes back to the core issue that if you through the many levels of thinking goes into this eternal problem … The Feminine Mystique had a larger and deeper vision: Women, like men, have a duty to their minds and talents and selves that cannot be fulfilled by living vicariously through someone else.. An equal cannot live a happy subordinate life; an adult cannot thrive in a culture that infantilizes her.

At this point, do I have a solution? 

 I don’t .

All I know it is such a waste of energy that only holds down the growth of everyone who succumbs to the sin of bullying.


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