Yesterday I got some very disturbing news. A doctor who used to be my teacher sent a letter (via her lawyers) ordering me to stop using the phrase “What’s Up Down There” -- which just happens to be the title of my upcoming book. This doctor claims that she has trademarked this phrase, although her name never popped up on Google when former Editor-in-Pink Joy coined the catchy book title (after my publishers nixed the title I wanted to use -- Coochie Confidential). In fact, if you Google search “What’s Up Down There,” Owning Pink comes up on the first page, and this doctor doesn’t appear at all.
My heart stopped when I read this letter. And not just because I’ve been marketing this book for the past six months and people already know it by name. Sure, part of me was shaken up by the whole notion that I might have to change my book title. Doing so would mean that my book publication will be delayed, the book tour events I’ve scheduled will have to changed, the publisher will have to redo the book cover, I’ll have to recraft my whole website… the logistics are daunting.
But that’s not what upset me the most. What I found most disturbing is that this doctor was my teacher. She knows me. We’ve delivered babies together. We’ve operated together. We worked together for four years, and yet, she’s coming after me with lawyers.
I just don’t understand. Why didn’t she call me? If she feels connected to the phrase “What’s Up Down There?” (which I never once heard her utter in the whole four years I worked with her), why can’t we collaborate? Why does she have to see this as some sort of competition? Why is she trying to dim my star?
When I was in fourth grade, Tonya was my best friend, and we were gonna be maid of honor in each other’s weddings. Tonya and I used to meet every day after school. She loved Melissa Gilbert from Little House On the Prairie as much as I did, and we collected photographs from Teen Beat magazine and clipped articles anywhere we could find them. I would tape record Little House on a cassette tape, and then I would write out the words from the show, so I could read them every night before bed, until the next Monday night, when Little House came on again. I would write stories about Melissa Gilbert, imagining what it must be like to live with her, talk to her, sleep in the same bed with her. I loved Melissa Gilbert like only a nine year old girl can love another.
I collected all of my Melissa Gilbert stories into a black and white college composition notebook, where I taped in all the photos and wrote all the stories I collected. After three years, I had almost 100 pages about Melissa Gilbert. I kept the book in my desk at school, and when Mrs. Madrigal wasn’t watching, I’d scribble in my book or draw a portrait of me and Melissa. But one day, Tonya sat at my desk during math class. She must have found the Elmer’s glue in my desk, because she glued every last page of my Melissa Gilbert book together. She didn’t tell me, and I didn’t know until the next morning, when I was so excited to add a photo I found in the TV Guide underneath the couch. It was an old photo of Melissa, but it was one of the few I didn’t have.
When I pulled my Melissa Gilbert book out of my desk, I noticed that it stuck to the cover of my earth studies book, and when I tried to open to page 103, I couldn’t open it. Tonya had glued every single page together. I pulled at my book and the page tore, and with it, another page tore. I thought Tonya loved me as much as I loved Melissa Gilbert, but I was wrong.
I was devastated. She later told me she was just jealous. I got better grades. She thought I was prettier. I had more friends. She just didn’t know what else to do.
But I don’t think it has to be that way. Why can’t we as women collaborate, rather than compete? Why do we feel inclined to destroy a woman we admire, rather than recognizing our own desires in what she has that we want? Collaboration is so much more powerful than competition. What if my old professor had come to me and said, “How cool! You and I both have a professional identity under the phrase What’s Up Down There, so why don’t we do an event together and both of us can speak?” I’d have been so all over that, and I would have been so flattered that my teacher wanted to share the limelight with me. We could have both lifted each other up higher.
Owning Pink is ALL about collaboration. I get about 20 people approaching me every week asking if Owning Pink can support their dreams. And it's win-win! They write for us. We promote them. We list their events and workshops. We tweet on their behalf and post things on Facebook for the members of our community. And WHY NOT? It benefits us all!
Writing my books was the same way. My first book Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax is an art book about painting with beeswax. I learned everything the hard way and figured I'd share all my secret tips so other artists wouldn't have to learn the hard way like I did. Others (including my mom) thought I was crazy. "Why would you tell everyone the proprietary techniques you spent a decade developing?"
Uh... because there's room for all of us to express ourselves without competition.
So I had this brilliant idea. What if it wasn't just my proprietary techniques but also those of the famous artists who work with beeswax? So I started approaching them. And it was contagious. After the first few were brave enough to spill the beans, others wanted to be included. And I got to learn SO much by doing studio visits with the 60+ artists who are my heroes!
Then on my second book, many of the questions women asked were out of my league -- like questions about coochie tattoos and piercings. So I decided to go to the experts. Elayne Angel, author of The Piercing Bible, was happy to help out. And then sexpert Lou Paget. And then Mama Gena. And Sheila Kelley... and on and on.
By going to other women for answers instead of pretending to know it all myself, I opened the channel for all of us to support each other. They made my book SO much better! Just like the art book, it's now the wisdom of so many awesome people -- not just me.
I was just having this conversation with Christine Bronstein, founder of the women’s community A Band of Wives. You might argue that Christine’s website competes with our Owning Pink Posse community. But Chris and I don’t see it that way. We see shared vision, similar mission, and the desire to unite our communities. So we’re brainstorming about how to collaborate. It’s not about ego. It’s about service, mission, and passion, and we’ve both got plenty of that to spare!
As women, we are natural collaborators. The more we lift each other up, the more we raise the vibration of this whole planet.
So let’s band together, dear ones. Who can you collaborate with? How can you open your heart to help another who you might consider your competition? How can we support each other, and in doing so, receive support for ourselves? To start with, let’s share some Link Love. And please feel free to join our Networking Pinkies posse. What else can we do to serve you? How can you help us?
Have you struggled with this? Has someone treated you badly because they felt like you were their competition? Share your stories and let’s all heal.
Cheering for collaboration,
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