One of the questions I ask myself very often is, “Have things improved for women?” It’s not a very clear question because it is very broad, lending itself to hundreds of discussions. Some things have definitely gotten better for us, but there are still many other struggles impeding us from total freedom. In the meantime, I believe that we can put in a lot of work into becoming better women.
I take into account every single situation in which I have witnessed or been a part of refining the way in which I relate to other women. For example, when I was younger, it was super easy to hate another girl if she pulled a man’s attention away from me. I would be overcome by jealousy and irrational anger would cloud my judgment. Now that I’m older, I’ve had to make myself conscious of these moments so that I can think things through carefully and determine the best course of action. For example:
I sat in my car one night gripping the steering wheel wondering why I let something so trivial make me angry, because I had watched the guy who was flirting with me turn his attention away to someone else and it punched my ego below the belt. After sleeping off the anger, I was embarrassed that something so unimportant would hurt me at all. I was even ashamed of myself for surrendering my support of another woman for the sake of a man’s attention.
It sounds ridiculous to side with another woman whom you believe to be consciously doing something to hurt you, but it’s not. Humans are capable of doing conniving, hurtful, ignorant things against each other. Even worse is that women have come to be known as the biggest culprits of this behavior when it comes to how they treat each other. The notion of “the other woman,” for example, has led to the foolish belief that attractive women are our enemies. I’ve been to parties where I’ve overheard women speak ill of other women in the room simply because they were attractive and engaged in conversations with certain men. It’s a terrible idea to make enemies of strangers, and yet, it happens.
A friend recently shared that she has a difficult time making friends with other women. My superficial response to that was, “Of course you do, but it’s not your fault. If I came in here with low self esteem, I’d be terrified of you. You’re tall, blonde, have big boobs, and legs for days. Maybe they think you’re a threat, but that’s a shame because they’re missing out on a great time with you.”
Perhaps I go into things with a bit of ignorance, but I’m glad that I do. I’d rather ignorantly engage in pleasant conversation with a new woman rather than pull back because I’m judging her appearance or reputation. Why should those things hold me back? Why should any self esteem issues prevent me from speaking to someone and being friendly? Besides, if that person should turn out to not be nice, it’s not entirely my problem.
I know that there is something too dreamy about imagining a world in which all women get along and support each other. In my wisdom lies the knowledge that you have got to balance out the good and the bad, so I make room for the people who will do bad things. I make room for them in my life and I prepare myself for dealing with heartache and lies, because even if it hurts, at least I don’t pretend to be surprised. Those who hurt us are necessary so that we can tell the difference between truth and treachery.
What I would like to get at with this is that I believe we can and should teach young women that we are not meant to be at odds with each other so that we can see even more progress in our society. If you look at everything that stands against us as women, we’re geared up to fight a good fight. We want many things such as access to affordable health exams and treatment, freedom and privacy to choose whether we want to be mothers, and to live our private lives free of judgment and admonition, to name a few.
I spent all of last year pondering the phrase “slut shaming” and holding back the urge to vomit after Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke several unsavory names. I’ve read the articles we’ve written, the concerns we’ve shared, and the one thing that stuck out the most was the fact that we’re still debating these issues.
I’m of the belief that our use of language is very powerful in shifting and reshaping ideas. For example, if we continue to argue that we all deserve to feel good about our appearance, it means that we still feel bad about our appearance. It means that someone out there is still doubting her own beauty and has to explore her feelings and perceptions. I think we owe it to the sisterhood to start a new dialogue, one in which we’ve finally outgrown the notion that there is something wrong with our bodies and finally write in a way in which all those things formerly believed to be flaws are normal.
I think we owe it to today’s young girls to pave out a better way for women to relate to each other, one in which every single kind of woman out there feels that she belongs and has the right to demand and receive what she needs for her own well-being. I think we owe it to every woman of any age to not judge her for wanting the things that she wants, whether it’s an education, a family, or a tummy tuck.
We could show each other that we’re finished with rolling our eyes at the girly girls. We could show each other that we are capable of forgiveness when we are hurt by other women and that we will judge carefully which ones will remain our friends and which ones we must let go.
This world isn’t perfect at all and it never will be, but that shouldn’t stop us from making small changes in how we relate to other women, to our human sisters. Even the ones who hurt us the most, the ones who betray our trust, they are acting out based on a pain we don’t understand and I can only ask that we try to be less dismissive of each other in a world that thinks it has us by our throats.
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