Women have come so far. We march in the solidarity of feminism, drugs amid chants of “WOMEN SUPPORT WOMEN”, more about we preach about empowerment and encouragement, and we hold feminist icons like Beyoncé and Emma Watson on pedestals – the ultimate, strong, independent women who reach out to so many of us with their impassioned speeches on why we are stronger together, why we deserve to be taken seriously, and why no man can take away the very essence of ourselves as female.
But no amount of pop anthems, UN speeches or declarations of “YAS QUEEN” can gloss over how we, as women, can be our own worst enemies in tearing each other down. We cannot have gender equality while simultaneously ripping other women to pieces.
An example – we’re all champions of girl power until it comes to the former flames of the person we fell for – or worse, the ‘new girl’. “What did he ever see in her? How did that replace me?” We can’t help ourselves. A friend of mine recently described her feelings towards her boyfriend’s ex as a ‘pure hatred’ that she couldn’t even locate an origin for. I’m guilty myself; I’ve latched onto the differences between myself and the ‘new girl’ and needed to see them as ‘faults’. I needed to break her down to reassure myself that she could never take my place, never be me, and never be as good for him as I was.
The blame doesn’t entirely lay with us, though. We grew up with ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Devil Wears Prada’ making spite stylish while the ‘she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts’ mindset enabled divides, masquerading as messages of inclusivity. Don’t mistake the saccharine sweet bubblegum tone of pop songs for sisterhood; ‘All About That Bass’, ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Swish Swish’ just further the toxic ‘not like other girls’ mentality.
This personal judgement creeps from a place of insecurity and unhappiness that’s already taken root in us, in a darkness somewhere that simply cannot exist where positivity and kindness and confidence shed light. It’s not about calling out unkindness or injustice – that is human. It is about catching ourselves body- shaming, slut-shaming, victim-blaming and name-calling. It’s about women craving acceptance of our bodies from a partner whilst criticising the weight or shape of someone else. It’s about magazine pages with red circles of shame scrawled around acne and weight gain. It’s about sweeping statements like “real men like curves, only dogs go for bones” or “fat girls shouldn’t wear…”
I’ve been accused of bulimia by women I didn’t know, told to ‘eat a burger’ by girls I did. A friend, and fashion blogger Callie Thorpe was recently bombarded with comments from other women like ‘you’d be so pretty if you just lost some weight’ or ‘she shouldn’t have posed in a bikini while she’s that big – all it did was invite negativity, keep your clothes on’. Let her make her own decisions about her body. Let her feel beautiful. From a size 4, like myself, to a size 24, like Callie. Each ‘her’ has made her own choices, and these choices are ours as women to make. Let her be fat. Let her be thin. Let her be athletic. Let her be curvy. Let ‘her’ be her. Her collarbones cannot hurt you. Her cellulite does not concern you. Her clothing does not affect you.
We are all deserving of respect, love, kindness and freedom of expression in whichever identity we choose as a woman; that does not come with exceptions. It does not exclude the former flame or the ‘new girl’ – she’s just a girl who met a guy.
Let women be who they please. It does not matter if she seeks comfort in the arms of a long-term love or wakes up with different partners with the sun streaming through different windows each morning after the night before. We can bury our modesty in seas of woollen sleeves or high necklines, or stand and show with confidence the parts of us we’re proud of. Women can take many forms; we are shy, loud, and some crave motherhood, so let our minds dance into wanderlust. We strive for careers, we yearn for suburbia, we fight for independence. Treat ‘her’ and yourself with the same kindnesses, and allow both to be who you are.
There is no wrong way to be a woman, but this criticism cannot be defended as right.
Subconsciously, we react, that is the nature of the human mind – but spoken words cannot be taken back and the damage cannot always be undone. In being kinder to each other, as women, we strengthen. We love. We are happier in ourselves, and we are better.
Written by Faith Blumberger