Be nicer to Women, Women!
“That girl’s face looks like the back of a Crunch bar.”
“She’s cool, but she’s kind of a slut.”
In my experience, growing up female means growing up surrounded by ugliness. I don’t mean ugly appearances, but ugly speech. As far as any of us can remember, growing up female means tearing down your fellow females for their appearance and/or sexuality, which is exactly what the patriarchy has always taught us and exactly why we’re attempting to dismantle it for good. However, when it comes to shaming women for sexual behavior and/or physical traits, it is so ingrained in us I’m afraid we’ll never be able to stop.
Depending on where you grew up, little girls got mean as early as preschool, but I personally started noticing a visceral change in almost all the females in my life when I was in middle school.
Middle school is when shit gets real - boys’ voices are cracking left and right, half of your class is in a training bra, and most mouths are full of metal and surrounded by pimples. This is enough trauma on its own, but to be female means it’s time to become either a slut or a prude, because once you hit puberty, there is no other option.
I went to private school from preschool to 8th grade, so you know I’ve seen my fair share of cattiness. However, the first time I experienced how mean girls can get when it comes to boys was at church camp in middle school. Yes, church camp.
At the time, I was really close with two best friends. Their names were Mia and Jenny. Mia and I got along because we both liked to prank people. We had a strange, mildly obnoxious sense of humor and loved to circle the cleft chins of teen heartthrobs in J-14 Magazine and laugh at how they looked like butts. Jenny shared a similar sense of humor, so when the three of us were together, we never stopped laughing.
When we turned 13 and went to church camp, though, things got a little weird.
Jenny was beginning to hang out with another group of girls at camp - the kind of girls who were already doing their makeup and hair. They had those 2007 side bangs we all miss so much. Their nails were acrylic and their capris were short shorts. Jenny was straightening her hair, wearing lacy bras. Mia and I didn’t really get it, so we stuck to our bunk and looked at our magazines.
Then I remember noticing something strange. Whenever our group would cross paths with a boy group, Jenny would treat Mia and me differently. She would get a little meaner when talking to us. Suddenly, our corny jokes weren’t funny to her anymore. The boys were funnier - hilarious. She couldn’t stop laughing, even when they weren’t necessarily telling a joke. She dumbed herself down for them, which always amazed me. How could a person sleep at night knowing they had acted naive about a subject in order to impress someone? In what world is cluelessness attractive?
Pretty soon, girls like Mia and I went from feeling betrayed by our friends for changing on us to becoming one of them. We all do at some point. The name-calling came soon after that. You like a boy, he likes you back, another girl likes him, he goes with her instead. In middle school, rather than understanding a boy picking someone over you has nothing to do with your own worth and everything to do with his personal preference and intentions, we called the girl he liked a bitch. We called her ugly, slutty, stupid, cunty, fat, sloppy, fake. Oh, and your friends hate her by default. While this may not be such a problem if it was just a middle school phase we all inevitably had to go through, the reality is that this is still our reality. We never outgrow the mean talk and the instinct to tear each other down. We just get better at it.
Something I’ve never understood is society’s need to place women into one of two categories: slut or prude. There is no in between; there is no other option, and if a woman is a slut, she is also uncredible, gullible, disgusting, and/or a slave to her needs (see: Marilyn, Monica, and most recently Stormy Daniels). These women are fetishized and attacked alike for their personal life choices. They are stripped of any chance to be credible or to be taken seriously. They’re just The Infamous Whore. Meanwhile, the men in question are anything from looked over to glorified.
As Olivia Munn asked the crowd at the 2018 LA Women’s March, “Why is it different for girls than it is for boys?” Because we let them be better. When we tear each other down, we allow ourselves to be the inferior sex. If an entire room calls a woman a whore and half of the room stood up and said, “No she isn’t, you are a sexist,” would things be different?
Another modern day example stems from the babe.net story about Aziz Ansari. I don’t need to tell you what happened: An anonymous woman who is referred to as “Grace” is approached by a tipped-off trash publication that is obviously out for money and attention. Grace agrees to tell her story. It’s reported in an irresponsible, sensationalist manner. Backlash follows. Grace is seen as the stupid loose girl who put herself in a bad situation, exaggerated it and tried to profit from it while simultaneously ruining a man’s career (which, by the way, is still perfectly intact). Poor Aziz, the man who chased a woman around his apartment so he could shove his fingers down her throat and then shove them inside her. The movement has gone too far.
Actually, it hasn’t gone far enough. The thing is, everyone keeps saying this movement will be a success when men no longer put us down. When we finally feel safe on the streets and even in our homes; when we know we won’t have to watch out for sexual coercion in our professional lives.
All of that is true, and it all sounds amazing, but we won’t consider this movement complete and successful until women no longer rip each other to shreds because of our own insecurities that men have projected on us. Personally, I know I will not be satisfied until I never hear a woman say to me, “Look at my ex’s new girlfriend. Isn’t she a cow?” ever again.
I don’t want to hate any women because I feel they are competition and I need to put them in their place, and I definitely don’t want a woman out there talking shit on me because she thinks her boyfriend likes me. I’m tired of calling people whores and sluts and bitches. I’m tired of letting men talk about how horrible their exes were as if it uplifts us women to hear that (and doesn’t it? Doesn’t it give you a thrill to know that his last girlfriend was a psycho and you are so much better?) and not jumping in to say it doesn’t matter.
Stop looking every woman you pass on the streets up and down and judging everything she’s doing incorrectly and everything you could be doing so much better than her. Start smiling at her, telling her she looks good with that haircut, demanding that she has a lovely day.