Women V. Women

04.04.132:32 PM ET

Sisterhood Under Siege

When will we stop fighting with each other in the name of feminism?

In the wake of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In—and, more important, its backlash—sisterhood is in a sorry state. Critics have raised eyebrows at Sandberg for all manner of reasons, from her financial success to her perfect coiffure. Emma Brockes at The Guardian hearkens back to famous words from Madeleine Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.” The quote has been bandied about in many circumstances (most recently, by Taylor Swift in response to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Golden Globes jab at her dating life). While Brockes acknowledges that this dictum does not require women to make nice no matter what, she does lament the competition feminists feel with each other. “It is odd, and regrettable,” she says, “that the most vehement feminists are never moved to greater anger than when faced with another woman's definition of the cause.” With lightning rods from Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem to Anita Hill and Sarah Palin, we seem most convinced of our own definition of feminism when we are casting stones at other women. It’s a problem even the most aggressive “leaning in” may not solve.