Marilena Fallaris says that in life, “You cannot destroy the enemy you cannot see. In order to eliminate the enemy, the existence of the enemy must be acknowledged.”
This was why she wrote the part self-help book, part female manifesto Womenemies: And How To Eliminate Them.
Fallaris, a southern California-based attorney, comes from a large knit Greek-American family and is a self-described “crazy Greek who wants to help others.”
Fallaris is most proud of the long-lasting connections she has cultivated with family, friends and colleagues. She believes that having parents who sent her to Greece every summer to be with her Greek family and friends taught her life lessons in the overall healing way of life that encompass Greek island summers.
Fallaris coined the term “womenemies” and believes it has universal appeal as the book highlights issues many women experience with each other (gossip, the other women, mother-in-laws, etc.) all over the world. She says you should read the book for yourself, your mother, your wife, your friend, your daughter, your female colleague and for that woman you haven’t met yet who will need your uplifting, support and friendship.
Fallaris spoke to The Pappas Post in the midst of these challenging times about why her book is more relevant now than ever.
Q: What was your main impetus for writing Womenemies?
It started with the other woman to my ex-fiancé. She contacted me via email a year after I had left my ex — the reason being he was having an affair with her for two years. Her email was not one of an apology, instead she was writing me out of the blue to tell me to back off her man. I had not been after my ex since I left him, and had moved on. I was so angered by her email that I exchanged words with her where I belittled and mocked her. The emails are displayed in my book. One of my friends said the email was the equivalent of a “drop kick to the stomach/” My responses to her gained popularity within my friends’ circle as they read them out loud at social gatherings and even bachelorette parties. It was clear I had won the written battle.
But when I took a step back from that experience I realized I was a womenemy too — as I was getting joy out of inflicting insults, and therefore pain, on another woman. I needed to rise above.
This experience made me think of the bigger question — why do some women feel joy when seeing another woman’s pain? Why do we put a guard up when meeting a new woman? There are so many instances where I would hear “women just need to treat each other better” but the conversation ended there. I realized there were many examples of womenemies in all aspects of life – work, family, friends, romantic relationships – and I had experience in all these aspects of life. Yet, other than the occasional venting session amongst friends or colleagues, these issues were not talked about.
I have always been a believer in acknowledging the enemy in order to eradicate it. I wrote this book to highlight the different areas in which women are enemies to each other because, by giving detailed examples, two things happen: (1) Women relate to it and know they are not alone in experiencing being womenemies and (2) Women can see how their actions, whether intentionally trying to be a womenemy or not, can have hurtful and sometimes damaging effects on another woman.
Finally, a big part of the reason to write this book was to celebrate the examples of how I have been positively impacted and uplifted by other women. I use those examples to provide lessons on how to eliminate the instances of womenemies. If the energy spent on dealing with womenemy drama was eliminated, there would be more room for positive and productive relationships between women.
Q: There’s also a baseline that I recognize as being very familiar culturally, and that’s Greek, which is laden with contradictions that suggest passion, vigor, and honesty but also in some instances represses women and LGBT folks. It seems that a lot of the conflicts would resolve themselves by jettisoning some of the “values” of the old country yet you argue the opposite in the book.
I would disagree that my book argues the old school “values” will fix the issues between women. In fact, my book promotes the message that some of the values of Old School Greece need to be cast away in order to resolve some of the instances of womenemies. Specifically it challenges others to be more open minded and accepting of change and difference. In addition to my own struggles with my conservative mother-in-law, my book highlights my Greek grandmother who at first embraced the old school ways and was not approving of my mother, who was American, pregnant and unwed. When my grandmother embraced my mother, she was able to see the kind, loving and intelligent woman that is my mom. For the remainder of my grandmother’s life she provided praise verbally, and in letters, on how my mother raised me, asked to be seated next to her and my step-father at my wedding, and even hosted my father, step-father and mother under the same roof one summer. Did she care what others thought?
She loved her family, and didn’t care about divorce, unwed pregnancies, or the Greek-American mixed household. All she cared about was love.
I do believe there are areas where the old school Greek way of life fixes modern issues. Better diets, less stress, and more time enjoying family and life are perfect examples. However, with regards to women and LGBT community, the old school values will not work.
Because the old school values didn’t make room at the table for women and the LGBT community.
In old school Greece, and many other areas of the world, women did a lot of the cooking, cleaning, raising children, sewing, and social organizing. In modern society, the majority of women go to school and work. But what happens to the housework? There are still expectations the women will do the housework and child rearing, while trying to have a career as well. My late father would even say women were “biologically better” at those duties. Well, I call bull bullshit on that. Men can do just as much as women, absent the breastfeeding and caring a child in the womb for 40 weeks. Our society just has to normalize it and expect it. Enough of the “daddy is babysitting”, “my husband helps so much”, or “bravo to your hubby for making sure to attend all the doctor’s appointments.” Housework and childcare are just as much of a man’s responsibility than a woman’s. We as a society just need to stop being shocked when a man is just doing his job at home. Just as much as father’s get kudos, mamas deserve it too!
As women are now expected, and a lot of the times necessitated, to work while still be tasked with majority of the house and child duties, the scarcity of female leadership positions continue. Women then perpetuate this belief of there being only one seat at the table by competing against the other woman at the job, rather than helping her. And so the cycle continues.
I have been a part of companies where women mentor each other and celebrate each other on success.
There have been studies which show that companies who have women in leadership positions do better than all male-led companies. Diverse experiences, backgrounds and ways of thinking are the catalyst for creativity and productivity. Therefore, it shouldn’t just stop at women but include diversity in race, sexual orientation, religion and many more aspects of human life.
While I focus on work in this example, the scarcity notion extends to other relationships. I highlight in the book how mothers feel replaced by their son’s spouse. In old school Greek families, the mother was the best cook. It was a huge offense to say the daughter-in-law was a better cook. In the house, there could only be one matriarch who handled the kitchen. But why can’t there be two amazing cooks? Or three? That would spread the wealth and allow a day off for poor yiayia (grandma in Greek).
My book does not talk about LGBT issues, but the same inclusiveness needs to be applied to this community as well. Unfortunately, the old school ways didn’t even allow a seat at the table for this community as they were just ignored. Therefore, modern society needs to create many seats at the table and show the country this inclusiveness. As I stated above, embracing diversity is beautiful and key for the success of any business, culture, or country.
Q: Conflicts between women don’t happen in a vacuum and often seem profoundly informed by toxic masculinity that’s embedded culturally. You offer a solution to the patriarchal system that is creating much of the enmity, can you speak to that?
For women, the patriarchal society sends them a message of scarcity – specifically, there is only one seat at the table. This is true in work, in friendships and families (i.e. mother not wanting to be replaced by her son’s spouse). Right now, the patriarchal society causes us to think “Dang, she took my spot.” When we think someone takes our spot, what do we do? We want to take them down in order to claim our spot. Thus, instances of womenemies will continue to exist.
If we flip the script and view there being an abundance of opportunity for women to succeed in all areas of life, what would that look like? Fewer women would say “Why can’t that be me?” Instead, they would think “That is so awesome for her” and “I will get there too.” Seeing a woman succeed will be a symbol of inspiration that another woman can and will succeed.
Q: If you had to distill the book to one underlying principal that encapsulates your philosophy what would it be?
We, as a society, need to have an honest conversation and examination about the existence of womenemies in different aspects of life. Only by having these difficult conversations can we begin to change our ways and put effort towards supporting and uplifting another woman. As I mentioned above, if the energy spent on dealing with womenemy drama were eliminated, there would be more room for positive, productive, meaningful and successful relationships.
The principal in a nutshell is we need to examine, self-evaluate and understand the instances of womenemies in everyday life and then take it a step further and break the cycle by making a conscious decision to uplift, support and inspire our fellow women. That includes supporting and being kind to ourselves, as a lot of instances of womenemies stem from insecurities and not being kind to one’s self. My book provides those necessary examples of womenemies to begin the open conversation and it offers specific lessons to positively impact another woman, and thus eliminate the existence of womenemies.
About Marilena Fallaris
Marilena Fallaris lives in Los Angeles, on the west side, with her husband and son. A graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law (magna cum laude), she loves being able to help others, whether in the workforce or in personal areas of their lives. In her everyday interactions, she aspires to coach, uplift and be a resource to others who are trying to be the best version of themselves. Visit her website.
About the author
Savas Abadsidis is a writer and editor who lives in New York.
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