There is a lot of talk out there about the challenges of being a woman in law enforcement. I realize I’m fortunate, but it has never come up as an issue for me. This may be perhaps because I live in my own little reality and have that “sunny brain.”
Yes, it is a male-dominated profession, and many women have struggled to overcome obstacles. Those women blazed a trail for women like me. It is because of their hard work that my life is what it is today. They deserve my respect and will always have it.
But as we fight to be treated equally, we need to consider whether we’re making it more difficult for each other because of what seem to be inherently feminine tendencies.
Are Women Too Competitive?
I spoke to a commander from the Houston area who had so many examples of “fighters” and other “tough” women he couldn’t come up with one to highlight. He then asked me, “Why do women hate each other?”
I laughed out loud at this and we engaged in a wonderful discussion. I began to explain nature to him — starting with how animals act in the wild and a female’s need to wipe out her competition in order to find the best suitor to procreate. I explained that this was spread across the species and we are just, through no fault of our own, competitive with one another. I then told him the following: every time a male dog walks into a room, my female Labrador lies down in front of him and rolls over. I always say to her, “Sugarwookie, you are better than that.”
We then began to discuss instances where he had observed women be cruel to one another for no apparent reason — and with true interest, with a bit of Texas drawl, “Why are you all so mean to each other?”
In the end I told him, “We are crazy because of you — you guys.” But it made me think. Are we?
A Special Place in Hell
More specifically, I considered the moments where I have failed to help another woman on the force. Have I predetermined how I felt about someone when they walked in based solely on a self-comparison between us? Have I looked at another woman as competition, and then not supported her in order to elevate myself? It would be completely untrue to deny that I did any of the above in one situation or another in my lifetime.
I like hanging out with cops, but you should experience what some female cops will do to one another. We are far more critical of each other. There are a myriad of reasons for this, from fear to jealousy, or a legitimate desire to train and help the next generation be “tougher.”
Madeleine Albright once said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” She may be right. We should try harder to support our sisters in blue.
Here’s what you can do to break the cycle of negative interactions with your fellow female law enforcer:
1. Focus on what really matters: I don’t care if you wear lipstick or don’t wear lipstick, date men or date women. I don’t care if you have a college degree or you don’t. I care if you will have my back and will rush through that door with me. Will I expect more of you? That all depends on your perspective — I will expect of you what I expect of myself.
2. Help others fit in: Maybe it’s because I like drinking beer and watching football, and that I appreciate “old school cop humor” and inappropriate jokes. But not everyone is wired that way, and there is a certain practicality to making room for people who don’t enjoy fart jokes (believe it or not, those people exist!).
3. Celebrate successes: For example, there is a tiny — in stature — woman who works in D.C.; she trained young officers in the most dangerous parts of the city, with passion and without hesitation, did the job she was expected to do, and runs that agency today. How about that Chief Cathy Lanier?
4. Appreciate those who came before us: Those amazing women who came before me have worked too hard for us to let them down.
Well, that’s where I guess I would prefer to reside: a real pain that someone would take through a door any day, at any time.
Thank you to the men out there who support and mentor women to become leaders — to those of you who see us as “cops.” Thank you to all of you who are out there doing the job, kicking tail and making a name for yourself in all the right ways. Thank you to the women out there spreading the stories of success and the clearly defined “badassery” performed by women.
Keep it up, ladies.