All of the women in my life consider themselves to be feminists, including myself, yet I realised that whilst we’ve been so busy pointing the blame at the patriarchy, we may have missed the ways we’re helping them. It’s like blaming Jeff Bezos for being a billionaire and not supporting his workers correctly, whilst continuing to order from Amazon. The patriarchy doesn’t do its own dirty work; we do it for them.
It’s painful to realise how often we tear women down and how naturally it comes to us. Every day we have at least one judgemental thought about another woman, and it’s time to end this. We can’t expect the world to change without playing a part in it ourselves. It’s time to recognise the moments in which we utilise another woman’s flaw to our advantage, as then we can shut it down right at the source.
That sounds like a fancy term, and I’m sure you honestly don’t think you are. You’re a woman, and you love fellow women, you’re not misogynistic. But even if we don’t intend to be, we all hold some of the misogynistic views that were imprinted on us. It’s like how we all have internalised racism through the society that formed us. By acknowledging these ugly parts of ourselves, we can work on them and change them. You can’t remove the lump until you admit that it exists.
If you do any of the following, you have internalised misogyny, just like the rest of us:
1. You find issues with successful women, perhaps labelling them as “bitchy” or “bossy”.
2. You judge other women for their promiscuity in ways you would never for a man. She’s a ‘slut’, and he’s a ‘legend’, right?
3. You’ve claimed that you’re “not like other girls”.
4. You think older women should dress their age.
5. You think that a woman who makes the first move is “desperate”.
6. You think larger women shouldn’t wear certain items of clothing, such as crop tops or shorts.
7. You make self-deprecating comments about your gender.
8. You consider it strange for a woman not to want children or marriage - “You’ll change your mind!”
9. You pity/judge divorced women.
10. Thinking that is weirder for a man to be a stay-at-home Dad than a woman to be a housewife.
11. Thinking that women are more responsible for the household and raising children.
12. Saying that being pregnant/ giving birth ‘ruins’ a woman’s body.
13. Saying that girls are too much drama.
14. Using the phrases “man up”, “like a girl” or “pussy” as insults.
15. You’ve judged women for spending a lot of time or money on their appearance or taken pride in not doing so.
16. You feel responsible for a partner climaxing during sex, but deem it acceptable if you don’t.
17. You consider periods to be embarrassing and not something to be discussed in public.
18. You think that men can talk about masturbation but not women.
19. You associate jobs to gender, e.g. thinking a nurse will be a woman and a doctor will be a man.
20. You’re never happy with how you look and hold yourself to standards that you shouldn’t.
By doing these things, we’re blaming women and ourselves for fitting standards that were forced upon us. It’s okay if you’re guilty of these things, I know I am too. The important part is to acknowledge and confront it. How can we hope for equality when we continue to participate in the patriarchy?
I recently wrote an article about how we can find insight in our negativity, and it applies here as well. There are many things that we dislike for a good reason, because of how it impacts us or the way it affects others. But then there are the things that bother us and don’t quite make sense. It’s often because we’re jealous, as simple as that. And if not envy, there is another emotion being stirred by the situation or individual. It’s not you, it’s me, no for real.
The first time I saw someone I know post a photo of herself in a swimsuit, and not be a tiny size 10, I was displeased. I thought that she was showing off or trying to make a point. I didn’t like the photo, and I didn’t comment. But then I took a moment to reflect, as I didn’t like the cruel person I was, the assumptions I had created about her smiling photo on a beach. I realised that I never felt like I could share such pictures of myself because I also wasn’t society’s preferred weight or size. I wanted to share photos like this, and I wanted to feel comfortable in doing so.
When something bothers you about a fellow woman, ask yourself why. Take a moment to access your emotions and consider what else is at play at this moment. Are you jealous that she feels comfortable enough to post selfies? Do you wish you could feel as good about your appearance as she appears to? If someone not shaving bothers you, consider why that is. We feel uncomfortable by people breaking the status quo because it feels like a threat to what we know. They’re doing things that are ‘not right’, does that mean everyone will? It’s hard to watch someone depart from the norm, and even harder to do it yourself. But we need to start breaking normalcy, because normal is what’s keeping women in check, and we shouldn’t have to be.
Just because she is doing this, it doesn’t mean that she’s judging you for not doing it. You’re the only person judging right now.
“First things first, “flaws” aren’t really there. Flaws are man-made. And yes, I mean man-made.” - Florence Given, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty.
Most often, we tear down other women for failing to conform to patriarchal rules. We claim that their armpit hair is ‘gross’, that they wear too much makeup or should wear some, that they’re fat and therefore unattractive, the list could go on. But stop and ask yourself why these things are actually wrong? What is the root of the problem in them?
For example, why can a man have armpit hair and not a woman? Why can a man who speaks up be driven whilst a woman is a bitch? These are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves. Because I don’t know the answer, and if you do, I’d love to hear it in the comments. We tear down fellow women because they are not following the holy rules the patriarchy have set in place, and by doing so, we become complicit. We are assisting our captors in belittling us. By fat-shaming, we assist in making women inhibit a smaller place in the world. By slut-shaming, we continue the facade that sex is for men and not women. That may not be your intention, but that is the effect of your judgement and cruel words.
You are further perpetuating these ideals by tearing women down for them. You’re acting like a misogynist when I truly doubt that you intend to.
This is the primary tool for keeping order by turning individuals against each other. We breed toxic competition between women to continue participation in ideals that only suit men. Take my examples from before: what do we get by shaving and waxing? We receive approval for conforming, and we get to fit the narrow ideal of ‘beautiful’. What do we get for wearing the right amount of makeup? Other people get to consider us beautiful; it isn’t even about what we believe ourselves. We dress ourselves for the view of others.
We compete with one another, we’ve been taught to do this since a young age. We look at the women around us and view it as a competition. That’s why we diet, excessively exercise, tweeze tiny hairs and more; it’s because we feel that we’re in this tense race. As long as we keep comparing, we work harder than have to and focus on the approval of men. Do you know many men who compare themselves to others, particularly in terms of appearance? They have their own insecurities, I don’t mean to deny that, but they often miss this need to compete with one another for approval.
That’s why you tear down another woman. Because you’re comparing yourself to her, and by lowering her ‘status’ you allow yourself to win. If you consider her to dress inappropriately, then you consider yourself to be dressing better. If she wears too much makeup, then you surely wear the right amount.
But here’s something that the world doesn’t want you to know. We’re not competing; there is plenty of space to accommodate every woman, man, non-binary and more. Someone else being bigger doesn’t steal your space; someone being brighter doesn’t steal your light. You can be everything you want to be, and so can she.
“There is enough room for all women to be whole without tearing each other down.” - Florence Given, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty.
And it’s true. There aren’t limited spots in the category of beautiful, interesting, intelligent or likeable. We can all be all of those things, and we don’t become them by conforming to what is expected of us. We become them by recognising who we want to be, or rather what we want to be. Because it’s your choice, you decide if you are beautiful, not airbrushed magazines or loud-mouthed men who whistle at you. You decide if you are smart, driven or kind. You have the power to be anything that you want to be, but tearing down other women is blocking yourself from reaching it. Don’t be these incredible things through comparison, as you don’t need to. You can be beautiful and so can she. You can be a talented writer, and so can she.
There is no choice. And by supporting one another, we both get there quicker. Tearing one another down merely distracts us from the finish line, whilst an underdog sneaks in to steal the race. Give another woman a leg up, help her reach confidence and success, and she will likely pull you along with her for the ride. Support fellow women through their writing, their goals, their interests and their needs. Comment on her photo, her article, or whatever it is. Don’t mock or belittle her, even in private; you’re better than that. So prove it.
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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