I am guilty of hating women who I’ve never met. I was never sure why I needed to dislike these women, or why I found myself envious of their pasts and wishing humility on their present. I did not hate them because they had offended me in anyway, I did not dislike them because they had hurt someone I loved. I hated them because I was not them. I hated them for having things I could not have. Whether it was moments with someone else, intelligence I was lacking or beauty I wished I had – I hated these women because I felt, and sometimes still feel, like I was competing with them.
Why is it that I find myself gossiping to another friend about someone I’ve never met in my life? I don’t find any satisfaction in these moments, so it’s not for pleasure. If anything it makes me feel worse as I continue to remember what they have that I don’t. A feeling of guilt and shame overcomes me as I can’t shake this contempt for people who have no influence over how today I live my life. Why do I find myself in a competition with other women, why have I found them to be the enemy when I have caught someone I am dating in a lie? Why do I feel jealousy and insecurity when a new, unknown woman enters my life in any capacity?
What is more frightening to me is perhaps that I, as a 21 year old adult woman, am only talking about these feelings now. For years I have experienced anxiety, jealousy, envy, distrust and hatred for other woman on a completely disproportionate level to men – men who have previously been angry at me after a complete stranger had groped me without consent, men who violated my trust by reading years’ worth of private conversations, men who did not believe me after my drink had been spiked, men who cheated and lied and manipulated. Yet, I am able to find myself with time able to forgive and forget, or much worse I am made to feel guilty and believe I am the one who did something wrong. Maybe I did lead the stranger on…Was my dress really too revealing…Perhaps it was my fault for using certain words that would be misinterpreted. “I should have known better”.
No, I should not have known better. I should definitely not have to be taught about how to avoid being harassed by men. Just last night I was waiting at a bus stop alone and a car with 3 men pulled over and offered me a lift. It was cold, dark and I was alone. I replied with a hesitant “My bus is due now actually, so no thank you,” trying not to be over aggressive because they not only outnumbered me, there was no one else on the street to see if anything happened. Thankfully, my bus did turn the corner and they hastily drove away, if my bus had been delayed I don’t want to think about what could have happened.
Why am I trained to be polite to men who have violated me on a physical or emotional level, yet I am trained to compete with other women – women who have literally done nothing to me? I sit here perplexed as to how I have let myself become so easily influenced by magazines telling me how to be beautiful, by televisions shows portraying countless versions of the ‘woman scorned’ who attacks the new woman regardless of the scenario. I have been programmed to be jealous, bitter and easily distracted.
When you grow up as a girl, the world tells you the things that you are supposed to be: emotional, loving, beautiful, wanted. And then when you are those things, the world tells you they are inferior: illogical, weak, vain, empty.
Open any women’s magazine today and you will find the same thing – we are told how we need to act. From grabbing headlines like “How to Give Him the Best BJ Ever” to being shoved constant comparisons down my throat along the lines of “Who is Better – Shailene Woodley or Jennifer Lawrence’. Does it honestly matter?
We as women are trained to see ourselves as cheap imitations of fashion photographs, rather than seeing fashion photographs as cheap imitations of women.
Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth
Why are we focusing our energy on trying to become an unattainable idea of perfection? Perfection is the enemy of greatness. It limits us, it divides us and it erases all individuality in our society. From today, I am going to embrace what makes me unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. For me that means knowing exactly who I am independent of competition from other women… I am aggressive and passive simultaneously, I am sick and hate that I can’t take care of myself so always push my limits, I am insecure about my stomach, thighs and teeth, I have this section of hair that can’t decide if it wants to be on the left or right side of my part, I will love you so fiercely and intensely if you let me, I am loyal until the moment I find out that you aren’t loyal back to me, I love the sound of vinyls because it takes me to a different time than now because I am aware how dark and bleak it is today. Most importantly, I am passionate about everything I love, and I refuse to quit.
I refuse to quit other women. Women have to protect each other, because in a world of tabloids, social media where everyone puts their best face forward and the taught socialisation of gossiping we are only hurting ourselves by stunting our personal growth. If we can’t even treat the members of our own sex, how can we push the idea of feminism forward? Having been on the receiving end of a lot of gossip – I know I am not alone in my judgement of fellow sisters. From today, there is no more contempt held in my heart for a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, for a friend of a friend that rubbed me the wrong way, for the stranger on the train pulling off a killer outfit I wish I could do. Instead I am going to celebrate the power of women and never, ever undervalue our strength because I have been brought up in a culture that does. We are all unique, and we are all fabulous. Please, let’s stop competing.
We are women, hear us roar.