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Let's Collaborate, Not Compete

Lissa Rankin's picture

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.

She knows me

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?

Not the first time

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.

More powerful than competition

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!

Contagious collboration

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.

It's not about ego

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,




Lissa Rankin's picture

I get to keep my title!!!

I totally hear you- and I'm so sorry for what you had to go through. Just think how cool it would be if those of us branding under similar names could link arms and sing Hallelujah!

I believe in all of us.
But I"m still relieved I get to keep my title!

Concerned reader's picture

A big picture

Thinking about this situation has brought me to a broader thinking point on the feminist movement. How years ago it stood for something but the recent feminist movement has degraded to "if you got it flaunt it" and bachelorette parties involving males strippers and promiscuity. It's as if we looked at men and said "why do they get all the fun"?

It's a complete disgrace and in the name of equality and liberation we give them exactly what they want. Since when did going around almost bare chested become more preferable to a nice good looking gown and why is it that sexuality is valued higher than beauty? It's as if we said "well if you can't beat 'em join 'em!"

In many ways we have created our own versions of that which we fought to end for so long.

RookieMommy's picture

Whatever happened to 'Sisterhood'?

Oh how sad. I completely agree that your teacher should have felt proud of your achievement and offered to collaborate or support your efforts rather than backstab - so disappointing.
As you know Lissa we had a similar experience with the writers of another parenting book who had a similar book title to ours. We weren't copying - why would we? It was merely bad luck that we had both chosen the same phrase to use in a book title. We named our book years ago, but because they got to print before us they had the upper hand. We got a similar letter threatening legal action which left me cold. We didn't know these girls, but they were also moms in a similar situation to us - just trying to do succeed in a new and exciting venture. Since our books were by no means competing from a topic point of view we offered to collaborate with them - market together, two head are better than one etc, but they were intent on pressing for legal action. It almost resulted in us losing our contract with our publisher which would have been crushing.
The experience was saddening, but it forced us to work even harder to prove to our publisher that they had made the right decision to stick by us and it's made us even more determined to make a success story from our book. And we've met so many supportive and friendly people on our journey so far (you being a prime example Lissa) that it more than makes up for the few bad eggs :)

Lissa Rankin's picture

Caren, thank you

for your sweet words and your transparency.

We are all in this journey together, and I feel so blessed to know that awesome women like you have got my back.


Caren's picture

I feel saddened....

I wish I could say I am surprised by what this Doctor is doing to you, but sadly I am not. I had read your tweets and didn't understand until I read this post. A post by the way that I read and could hear in your voice these words you wrote.

I say that I am not surprised because I was not always the woman I am today. It is because of you and Owning Pink that I have only begun to realize who I am. You do so many amazing things. I am truly blessed to know you and be apart of this community. I can honestly say that it is because of the work you do that I have finally found myself.

I am glad not to be the woman I was, fractured and un-authentic. (Truth hurts). This woman is displaying a jealousy in such an ugly way. To involve lawyers because of a phrase she never used is unbelievable. It shows the lack of sisterhood and unwillingness to want to collaborate.

How painful it must be for you to find that someone you trusted to be friends with could treat you this way. I am sorry for this. Just know that you are deeply loved and many women would jump at the opportunity to collaborate with you. You are an inspiration on so many levels. Keep doing what you do. I know how much I personally have benefited from your presence in my life.

Deep bow and love, Namaste.

Lissa Rankin's picture

patenting yoga poses?

Jennifer, you're kidding me!!! Seriously? Now that's just sad. Let's take an ancient Indian spiritual practice and patent it so we can have financial gain from it at the expense of other people who might benefit from it? NO! That's just wrong.

Seriously, there's room for us all-especially when we keep our hearts open and our intentions in the right place.
(doing an asana now!)

Stacey Curnow's picture

Inspired to stretch and grow and dream and live bigger, too!

Hello dear Lissa!

My heart went out to you with this story! Thank you for sharing your news and offering and *living* another view of how our world looks when we co-create, not compete.

I hope you resolve this conflict quickly and amicably with your former teacher. Is it possible to reach out to her with the scenario that you wished she had presented to you: "We can do an event together and we both can speak..."? I would love to hear that story!

As Ruthie said, your bold and courageous life is creating a lot of "contrast" and from it we are being inspired to stretch and grow and dream and live bigger, too. So, thank you again, dear Lissa, for sharing! Much love, s

Stacey is a purpose and success coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your purpose and passion, check out her FREE eBook, The Purpose and Passion Guidebook.

Jennifer Shelton's picture

speaking of competiing...

First, Lissa, I want to wish you the best in dealing with this. My stomach contracted when I read it. Hopefully, you'll be able to forge a collaboration that doesn't involve lawyers. And how wonderful that you dealt with it by writing this inspiring post!

I thought of your situation this morning when I heard a story on NPR. There are people in the US who are trying to patent yoga poses! http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/07/13/am-yogis-bent-...


Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 

Ali Davies's picture

It's not about you!!

These sorts of situations can be very upsetting and difficult to deal with. However, I think it is important, to remember that someone elses behaviour is never about you - no matter how personal it may seem. It is always about them - e.g. their insecurities, their scarcity mentality, their fears, their views of themselves, their standards, character etc. But their behaviour is never about you. I great resource linked to this subject is the book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. The chapter called "Don't Take Anything Personally" is particularly relevant. If you haven't read it I highly recommend it.

Sukie Baxter's picture

That's so terrible! What a

That's so terrible! What a heart stopper to get a letter like that.

Last year a woman ripped me apart on Yelp, attacking me personally, my business, and my profession. I don't know who she is because she used three fake names, but it was heart wrenching to have someone clearly hate me so much. What did I say or do to make her angry? I'll never know because she didn't approach me personally to let me know her concerns, which is unfortunate. What could have been a growing experience for both of us turned into an ugly memory and a little hitch in my breath every time I get an email from Yelp.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Such lovely support

Thank you all so much. I really appreciate this community and how we've all got each other's backs! And Kasey- don't be afraid! You'd be amazed at the kind of magic that takes over when you believe in yourself and reach out to others with an open heart. Trust me on this- if I hadn't done so, Owning Pink would just be my blog...and now it's something infinitely more beautiful!

Lakenda Wallace's picture

Collaboration Builds a Bigger Spark

One idea is great. A second idea that can riff and grow the first idea is amazing. Together we can add our various perspectives, creativity and natural inclinations to create something that more people can hear, see, understand and enjoy. Inclusion.

I left a friend who from our days in college always seemed to dislike my achievements. She was upset because I got a better grade on a paper, dated someone anyone else found attractive, even that I had other friends. Fast-forward years later in deep ritual and meditation space, she yells at me. I mean, waiting till I'm open and vulnerable and yells at how I don't deserve the attention. The quote I remember, "Why do I always have to be the ugly step-sister?"

She made herself ugly by looking to wound rather than heal, by looking to over-shadow and suppress rather than shine together and allow. We learn from these people (not just women...that's why I'm divorced). But I am so happy to have found this Pink community and You Lissa. Much love, prayers of cooperation, love and non-judgment to all those who have ever tried to hold us back.

Shine, Pinkies, Shine bright!

Love & Blessings,
Lakenda, a.k.a. Good Witch
GoodWitch BadWitch.com
StillSitting.NET, Less Stress, More

kasey's picture

This is great


Thank you so much for this post. It's very timely for me as I've started working on two projects, both of which I think could be improved by collaboration, but have been afraid in a way. What if the other women take over? Will my idea be lost? But you are right about adding to the richness of any endeavor through collaboration.

Donna's picture


I am forwarding this link to several women that I know right now, because this isays it all! Well said Lissa!!!

Erin's picture

Wow, WELL SAID, Lissa! I

Wow, WELL SAID, Lissa! I don't have much to add, but I feel grateful for the authentic women in my life who are supportive and encouraging... and this post has me thinking about ways I can better collaborate with them! Thanks for continuing to lead by example. :)


Lissa Rankin's picture

Yeah for us!

Oh, thank you Ann for buying the books! We'll see what happens. Maybe I'll have to change the book title and it will be even more fabulous. I'm not attached. Like I said, I was mostly upset at the way this has all come about.

And Ruthie- I'm so glad I inspired a blog post! I love the story about the kids building bridges. Isn't that what we're all doing here? We're just building bridges...

Ruthie's picture

The Next Generation

Your article shows how we are clearly changing the world in this area. Ten years ago, I may have reacted with, "Man, why do women do this to each other!". In nursing school, there was a saying that "nurses eat their young"...and it seemed true to me at the time.

Yet somehow, little by little, a cadre of women have started to LIVE the dream of collaboration and support that we naturally have within us. Your work here at Owning Pink exemplifies that perfectly. Sure, every once in a while that old school "I am going to tear you down" attitude arises to show us the contrast!! But we are showing ourselves and each other and eventually the world how powerful and downright fun it is to lift each other up...and we are showing our children!

Every summer, my kids and I go to the Women's Herbal Symposium in Laytonville,CA for a weekend of teepee living and communing with women. Our first year, my daughter was five. We arrived and didn't know a soul. My daughter headed straight to the creek and started to clear the stream of branches and rocks to make it flow with another girl of 5 or 6. Some other girls of 6 or 7 were making structures in the creek and saw a place for collaboration. The salvaged pieces grew into bridges as these four kids who had never met intuitively worked together.

It blew me away! It reminded me that we are moving in the right direction and our children feel it (and in some cases are showing us the way). Thank you for all of your work to create a space where we (as adults) commune as beautifully as those children did!
Oooh...You have given me an idea!! I have always wanted to write about this story. What if I riff on your post today for my Thursday post at Midwife for Your Life telling the girls' story in detail?!! So fun! I will send folks here with my numerous links!!

You are changing the world, Lissa!!

Ann's picture

Whats Up? This is what!

I'm unsure as to why women act out in this way. The actions say one thing but they really are sending a very clear and unfortunately negative message which all of us can do without. It stems from jealousy, not knowing how or having the will to make your dreams come true. Instead of being inspired and seeing the potential and the possibilities, some people feel the need to douse your fire. Its a complement. It means you are on the right track, have people's attention and maybe just maybe you are ruffling some feathers. GOOD, no GREAT on ya! Losing people along the way or finding that they don't appreciate what you do and discount it is always hurtful. At the end of the day, all of that energy could have been used in such a great and positive capacity that would benefit all. We have seen on Owning Pink and other circles the power of the supportive crowd (virtual and "real") and the movement that women can create with the energy we all have within us. Sounds like its time to summon up that energy ;)

Oh and btw I just pre ordered 8 copies for my girly peeps and look forward to seeing the "Whats up DOWN THERE" title in BIG FONT on the cover :)

Lissa Rankin's picture

Well put, Suzanne

Yes- I love that. It IS about having faith. I think it also boils down to self-confidence, believing enough in who you are and what you're doing to trust that nobody else can really take away from the true value of who you are and what you're doing- and that there's room for all of us!

People are often competing with me- and my response is "Go ahead and try- but you'll never be me." Sure, they can try to do what I do, write what i write, teach what I teach, practice how I practice, etc. But there's only one me in the world, so it will never quite be the same. And that's great! It means we can do things that might seem similar and still retain our own individual style.

Collaboration is SO much more rich. And the power of women helping women is magical.

I'm so glad you get it Suzanne!
Cheers to unions, not divides,

Suzanne Bouffard's picture



Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for this. I think that women are brought up to compete with each other from the time we are little girls, and I have realized in my adulthood how much wasted time and energy I spent on that kind of competition when I was younger. I have learned that choosing collaboration over competition comes down to faith.

First, it's about having faith that in the end, it will all work out best for everyone - even if this sometimes means losing out on an opportunity or two in the short term. I've found that the positive energy and collaboration eventually comes back around, and sometimes it takes time and patience to see the benefits.

Second, it means having faith that, regardless of what "successes" or "opportunities" come to us, this is a much more pleasant, peaceful, meaningful way to live our lives.

I wish I had known all of this so much sooner in my life. May we all teach this to our children!


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