As the early days of feminist consciousness-raising made clear, when we look more closely at a problem, we can feel relieved just by acknowledging it. Although everyone I spoke to had encountered jealousy, envy, and competition in some form, most women hadn't been able to talk about these issues. They felt pressured by traditional views of women, and by feminist platitudes. Many women expressed a sense of obligation to focus on the positive, to stress how important their mothers, sisters, and friends were to them, to tell only good stories about the other women they knew. To many of my subjects, women's rivalry seemed like a dirty little secret, and they were afraid of how they might look if they were honest about it. One of my hopes for this book is that it will help women start talking freely about the full range of their experiences, including the negative aspects of female bonding.
More important, I believe that if we confront this problem honestly, we can create some new alternatives for ourselves. But the first step in solving a problem is understanding it. So Parts 1 and 2 of this book are a mirror of what female rivalry looks like. Then, once we have faced the dark side, we can look forward to better days. Thus, in Part 3, "Revolutionizing Rivalry," I explore how awareness of this problem and the willingness to confront it can help us create richer and more nourishing bonds. If we can learn to make competition, envy, and even jealousy work for us rather than against us, and if we can resist the "urge to merge" by accepting our differences as well as our similarities, we can look forward to a new world of healthy and productive female bonding, free at last of the rivalry and destructiveness that have characterized our relationships for too long.