Yes, ladies, I mean your
As much as we want to stick it to the men sticking things where they’re not welcome, there’s someone else we need to have words with first. We may be gripped by a fervent desire to right all sexist wrongs but, for this to be effective, it must be coupled with an equally fervent desire for personal change. Enemy number one is in our heads.
So let’s take men out of the picture for a moment, which is hard to do when they run the world, I know. It’s much easier to project our pain onto them. But our projection doesn’t stop at the men. Women are also hurting women.
Obviously we want a piece of the pie too, a taste of all that male privilege, so we shun our femininity in order to be taken seriously. We deride each other with fat shaming, slut shaming and judgement of whosoever dares
to choose babies over work or work over babies. All this bickering puts us on a back foot.
We’ve learnt to work against our womanhood rather than with it. And we’ve learnt to work against other women. Yes, #metoo may be a new rallying cry, but the bonds we’re forging are based on victimhood. Our entry point to relationship is shared experience of abuse and shared rejection of men. It’s reactive when what we really need is a proactive
point of entry founded on strength, not weakness. We must bond through acceptance of women, not rejection of men.
If we were to bond in spite of man, not because of him, we could take action without needing a permission slip from patriarchy. Great, you say, but can a sisterhood really cut it since we associate being female with being weak? And who can blame us when we’ve been conditioned by a culture of male domination
? It’s hardly surprising that we try to separate ourselves from our femininity. Call it a survival tactic, if you like, but I wonder if we resent being female and that’s why we attack other women? We reflect back to each other the weakness that makes us prey.
What’s more, other women represent the competition. It seems as though we’re still
fighting for the best husband since we’re still
fixated on Mr Right saving us
. Women keep putting men on pedestals then competing for their attention. Meanwhile the boys enjoy their bromance and a little friendly competition. When you’re already on top the threat isn’t quite so threatening. Plus you’re more likely to stay on top when you backslap rather than backstab. But when you’re down here, where the women watch each other
, shit gets nasty. Mean Girls
is our relational frame of reference.
We judge each other for being too drunk, too exposed, too loud, too much of anything a woman shouldn’t be. Our judgements come almost involuntarily, as if they’re second nature. Second nurture, more like. We may deny it, but denial doesn’t take away the fact of our Mean Girls
culture. And this goes hand in hand with Weinstein culture. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the things a woman endures in order to thrive in a patriarchal society. Nor can we deny that we’ve been complicit in this charade for centuries. Women buy into an
image of womanhood
that belongs to men.
So let’s take it back.
The parameters of our identity have been set by patriarchy. Femininity has become something that limits rather than liberates us, and it will remain that way so long as we look at it through the male lens – so long as we measure each other’s worth according to f**kability and subservience. The feminine, we’ve been taught, exists to service the masculine. But surely it’s up to a woman to determine what femininity means to her
? She decides how it looks and feels. It belongs to her. Femininity is a woman’s to define.
Why should anyone, man or woman, be threatened by this? If a man feels vulnerable when exposed to a woman’s sexuality, strength or success then we need to have a different conversation about the way we define masculinity. But if a woman feels vulnerable when exposed to the same it’s because she’s been taught to fear it. Our western way of life gives us an illusion of relative emancipation. But our western way of life also means we don’t have each other’s backs. We’ve been pitched against each other, which keeps us weak.
Say, for example, you know a woman who’s winning at work and
motherhood. She’s screwing with your frame of self-reference. If you can’t put her in a clearly labelled box, according to patriarchy’s image of womanhood, you can’t label yourself either. And that’s the problem. We only seem to know who we are as women by identifying who we’re not. She’s a slut; I’m not. She’s fat; I’m not. We're lost without the point of comparison
. And that’s why the mantle of victim resonates so deeply. We can all
identify with victimhood, our collective disadvantage. This is precisely what maintains the established power differentiation.
Wouldn’t you rather take action inspired by experience of empowerment and not the opposite? Wouldn’t you rather tap into shared strength and collective advantage? Our common ground can be our womanhood, not its violation. Let’s come together as woman, not victims.
Victim mentality doesn’t just make us the weaker sex; it’s the very thing that drives us to attack each other as overcompensation for our sense of powerlessness. We’ll never beat men so we might as well beat each other
. It’s what pulls us down to the level patriarchy would have us stay at. We demand respect from men without respecting each other. We demand support from men without supporting each other.
Take a close friend of mine who’s chosen to stay at home and raise her children. The working mothers in her community can barely conceal their judgement… until they need last minute childcare and then
they play nice. Or how about when cheaters get caught? All too often I’ve witnessed women get locked in a brawl and overlook the fact of it taking two to tango. The men escape unscathed, no responsibility taken. Boys will be boys. But a woman should know better, right?
Well, yes, so long as we buy into this image of a woman as someone who receives, holds, pleasures and comforts. She does whatever we need her to do. Like taking responsibility for another’s transgression
. And that’s why we resent each other because we resent the way our femininity is abused. It’s only natural that women aspire to become more masculine since it represents freedom and power and privilege.
We adopt the kind of behaviours we believe will tip the balance of power in our favour, employing the bullyboy tactics of patriarchy against each other. Projecting our pain is less painful than admitting to its cause. But our projection becomes protection from the truth. We’ve become so engrossed in the business of self-defence that we imagine attack where there is none
That’s why women shun the feminists who make it difficult for them to maintain the status quo. None of us wants to be the deserter since that’s what it feels like if we reject the status quo. Desertion
. But we don’t take this to mean that feminists are right and all other women are wrong. Instead we take it as a sign to help a sister out since all of us need all the help we can get. This shit runs deep
. Our mothers taught us. Their mothers taught them. Generations of women have taught each other the rules of engagement. We can become another link in the chain or we can break it.
Being coached by our own sex leads to the inner conflict that thwarts us. So let’s use the momentum of #metoo to expose and challenge everything
we’ve been raised to ignore, like our complicity in this abuse – not just at the hands of men, but women’s too. We’re calling on men to fix their part, so let’s fix ours.
Our advantage comes with celebrating our femininity, not as something fragile and prone to non-consensual probing, but something multi-dimensional, fierce and worthy of an equal footing. We can define our own standards of equality among women
first and foremost. No woman is an island.
If we want men to relate to our strength, we relate to it in each other. If we want men to respect our womanhood, we must respect each other’s. We can honour every woman however she shows up in the world. We can define our own standards of beauty since femininity comes in all shapes and sizes and colours. And this is why feminism calls for a shift in consciousness.
The shift from blame to responsibility where women hold each other (and themselves) accountable for actions that defy or deny their freedoms… #metoo has demonstrated how effectively we can hold space for each other’s pain, so now let’s hold space for each other, full stop. We can cultivate different frames of reference for relating to, and relying on, each other. We can cultivate trust and loyalty and acceptance. We can be comparison free. We can upgrade our relationships by upgrading our understanding and appreciation of womanhood beyond its patriarchal image. You are every woman inside one woman
and freedom belongs to all of us
If we fully express ourselves, and support other women in their own expression, then we reject this binary bullshit that puts us in a box below men. We are the threads weaving a new tapestry without Weinstein. We are the women who give a f**k about every woman’s freedom. Let that
be our culture.