Why Lady-On-Lady Hate Makes Me Sad

| Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Today's Tune: Basket Case

There's a contest running right now to win a signed copy of Veronica Rossi's UNDER THE NEVER SKY, you know. Just BTW.

So I mentioned last week that I'd read a blog about how to be friends with another women, and it makes many good points. This is a topic I think about a lot, being both a woman and a former girl who at one point totally bought into the idea that girls are this monolith of vapidity and shallowness and anyone male is better by default.

I've since changed my mind. A lot.

You'll often hear some variation of the following come out of young women's mouths: "I just don't get along with other girls. They're catty/boring/airheads/attention-seeking/competitive/bitches/only want to go to the mall and talk about nail polish/et cetera ad nauseum. See, I like KUNG-FU MOVIES and VIDEO GAMES, not makeup and unicorns. I get along better with guys. They're so easy to hang out with and there's NO DRAMA EVER. Guy stuff is just more INTERESTING to me, you know? I just don't understaaaaand other girls."

First: there is absolutely nothing wrong with unicorns and anyone who hates on unicorns is NO FRIEND OF MINE SO STEP OFF. I mean, it's a freaking horse with a horn that can IMPALE YOU. If you don't find that impressive, you are clearly a fool.

Second: I couldn't see this for what it was when I was living it, but now that I'm more removed (and frankly way more involved in social issues and being a real live woman), I see this for what it is. It's internalized misogyny, ladies. Not only that, it's self-hatred. When you truly believe that ALL or MOST or even MANY other women are *insert all negative stereotypes about women here* and that you alone are unique because you are more "like a guy" and like more "guy" stuff, which is better and more interesting than "girl" stuff? You are hating your own sex/gender. You are divorcing yourself from anything that might be considered feminine and seeking approval from men in the context of maleness. You're saying "even though I identify as a woman, I'm not like a WOMAN-woman. I'm like a *cool* woman who likes non-womanly things."

At its core, this attitude is just one more way people and society tells us women are stupid, unnecessary, boring, frivolous, nasty, annoying, like meaningless things, etc. When young women buy into this line of thinking, they're buying into the idea that in order to be "better," they need to identify with guys and like "guy" things.

But what are "guy" things, exactly? Comic books, cars, anime? Video games, nerd culture, not wearing makeup? Science fiction and action movies? These are some of the most-cited preferences I hear from girls who state that they're "just more interested in guy stuff." The thing is... I know A LOT of women who enjoy this stuff. Girly women. Tomboyish women. Gay women. Straight women. Just women. They like this stuff. This is not "guy" stuff. But for some reason, it seems like everything that is deemed nerdy and/or "cool" (possibly both?) seems to be heavily implicated as a male interest. "Most girls" apparently only like things like makeup, gossip, boy chasing, going to the mall, etc.

It's like there's this set up dichotomy: either you're a super girly-girl who only cares about how she looks and who she's dating, or you're a "cool" girl who likes "interesting" (read: boy) things. This is not reality. When we start viewing a group of people, ANY group of people, as a lump of stereotypes with a few breakouts, we're ceasing to view them as individuals. And that's what women are. We are not a seething mass of perfume and pink with a few oh-so-daring guy's girls who deign to break away. We are people. We are individuals, with individual interests in a wide variety of topics.

Sure, some women are assholes. This is not news. You get any group of people together, and a certain percentage of them will be assholes. This is true of men, women, and aliens from outer space, probably. But when we buy into the idea that the assholes represent the entire (or "most of the") population, we're buying the party line of "this group is less than this other group." We're buying that men are just... better.

This is why I practically screech with joy when I see a positive female relationship represented in literature or film. Too often, the lives of female characters are centered around one or more males. Other female characters are peripheries or enemies. They either fade into the background in favor of male characters, or they're bad. Bad, bad, bad. This ties into the same idea -- it's just BETTER to be wanted and accepted by a dude. Ladies are just... into shopping and giggling. They're a fun decoration, but you don't want to focus on them.

It just makes me sad. I get so sad when I see yet another female protagonist who has no real female relationships beyond lip service. The "best friend" turns jealous or fades away completely. The mother is absent or cruel. The antagonist is the school's Queen Bee who hates the protagonist for existing. Any new girlfriends fade in and out with little significance or just want to buy things and paint nails.

There's nothing wrong with having boys or men in the lives of women. Brothers, fathers, boyfriends, guy friends... still important. But they shouldn't be the focus, the be-all and end-all. They shouldn't replace all female relationships. We shouldn't perpetuate this idea that "most" women are a monolith of snide remarks and mall shopping and clothes. If you are a unique woman with unique interests, you can bet there are dozens, hundreds, thousands, MILLIONS of women who are like you. Trust women. You don't have to trust the assholes, but you should still trust women. You are one, after all.

(P.S. - Every time I hear a woman say that they like hanging out with men more than women because there's "no drama," I laaaaaaaauuuugggghhhh. Oh. Four brothers and male friends all my life, dudes. No drama my girly butt.)



11 comments:

{ Mrs. Silverstein } at: September 12, 2012 at 6:19 AM said...

I had a guy bestie in HS. Well, I mean, I had a Dawson--an insufferably self-aware dude who ran hot and cold on me depending on his hormones that day and who once passed me a note explaining why he was spending more time with another girl that said, VERBATIM, "It's just that she had more friends and knows more gossip than you." I still have the note because it made my brain explode. Of course, I was also in love with him and told him all my secrets and had mini-heart-attacks when he signed onto AIM. AND FOR SOME REASON, this was the relationship that I totally elevated above all my girlfriends who just wanted to hang out and listen to obscure Sondheim and see Pixar movies and eat pizza or sushi. WHAT. Seriously, can you turn these blog posts into some super-fun and empowering workshops for tween/teen girls? Because THEY NEED TO HEAR THIS SHIZ.

{ linda } at: September 12, 2012 at 7:45 AM said...

Awesome post! (Except for the hating on the unicorn-haters. Let's be inclusive, yo.)

I've seen a lot of posts on this subject lately, but thankfully the only girls I've ever heard say this were some girls from freshman year that I overheard discussing why they didn't choose to live in the all-girl dorm. So I'm sure these people exist, I'm just not very familiar with them. 

That said, when I went to youth group as a teen, I disliked those specific girls because they really were drama queens who only talked about parties and gossip and we had very little in common. But at school, my crowd consisted of a close-knit group of girls, and they were into anime and video games (which is actually kinda strange because I'm not). So yeah, doesn't make sense at all to say "all girls/women are __________" -- you just need to find the ones that share your interests and values, and they ARE out there. 

{ Kristan Hoffman } at: September 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM said...

*slow clap*

Like you, I used to be one of those "Oh, I'm not a GIRLY girl" girls. Like you, I've matured. And like you, I am so damn glad about that.

(Hopefully, like you, I'm also doing work to stop perpetuating this myth among girls and women. I haven't blogged about it so directly, but I'm spreading the word, I'm talking amongst my female friends, and I'm writing a lot of stories that I hope are feminist in this way.)

{ prerna pickett } at: September 12, 2012 at 8:50 AM said...

agreed on all points! I think most girls think this at one point or another,but as you get older you appreciate your female friends more, you get that it's cool to like video games and doctor who while also enjoying the color pink. It's an immaturity factor. When you're younger and in HS girls are your rivals, you want all the attention, being self centered is a part of the teen years. I think most girls grow out of this phase and get a clue, but there are a few who never get it and continue on a self destructive path of anti-femalness, and they have no idea what they're missing out on. ANd yes, boys are also full of drama and BS.

{ Paula Jones } at: September 12, 2012 at 10:02 AM said...

I love your take on this topic!

It reminds me that to stereotype people is to take on a very elementary perception of life & society.

As children, we're taught to view things categorically (this is bad and this is good, that is white and this is black etc...) because this is the simplest way to learn.

But the more mature we get the more we should be able to see that life isn't actually separated into neat little boxes- we should see how much everything is connected, how much we relate to other people in society etc...

So, I agree with you in that girls and guys are both human, we're not all that different from each other. Therefore, it's pretty sad when a woman says she can't stand other women bec that pretty much means she doesn't like herself, or anyone & she's probably very unhappy.

{ Brooke R. Busse } at: September 12, 2012 at 10:16 AM said...

First, do you watch the YouTube channel Wigs? I think you would really enjoy it as it features many documentaries, short films, and web series based around women. The series going right now is very centered around a close female relationship.

Second, I think drama depends more on the type of person you are and what you do as well as who your friends are and what they do. Drama can be exciting I think because it gives you a certain liveliness, but overall I try to avoid it and the people who practically soak in it. I do not see it having anything to do with guy/girl mentality.

{ Andrew Leon } at: September 12, 2012 at 11:02 AM said...

See, none of those things are "guy things" anyway, because most guys are not into sci-fi or anime or, even, video games. Most guys are into sports, cars, and, well, girls. The nerd subset of sci-fi, etc shouldn't be viewed as more for guys, because, actually, I'm pretty sure more girls are into that stuff at this point. It's only viewed as "guy territory" because of Star Wars. And video games, but, hey, surveys show that, statistically, video games are no longer dominated by men; it's pretty much equal, and, in many cases, more female.
And, um, I like unicorns. I had a couple of unicorn posters on my wall during high school. They were given to me by girls, but they were cool.

{ Old Kitty } at: September 12, 2012 at 11:45 AM said...

My BF is a guy who is gay and between us we whip up some drama even in our old age! LOL!!

I think that's why I prefer my own company and that of cats! People of both genders come with such baggage (or rather I do!! LOL!! Let's be honest) that I can't handle any of it - seriously.

But speaking as a woman I'd scratch the eyes out of whomever thinks they can subjugate/oppress/humiliate and ridicule another solely because of their gender.

And speaking of female friendships as portrayed in art - I'm more inclined to cheer for Thelma and Louise and despair a little at First Wives Club solely because the "other woman" or "second wives" are portrayed as one dimensional characters.

Take care
x

{ thequietvoice18 } at: September 12, 2012 at 12:55 PM said...

This post it perfect! You've pretty much taken all of my thoughts and made them eloquent and alive on my computer screen. Everything you've said is so true, especially about female friendships in literature and movies. When anyone says something like "girls always start drama" or "I wish guys weren't always so hungry for sex" they are generalizing a gender and stereotyping in an unhealthy and shallow way. Once again, great job with this post!

{ thequietvoice18 } at: September 12, 2012 at 12:56 PM said...

Oops, I meant "is" perfect in my previous comment. Sorry!

{ Stephanie Ingrid Sarah Kristan } at: September 13, 2012 at 8:07 AM said...

(Psst, Kristan left a comment from her own account yesterday, but we don't see it here... Check your spam filter?)

All we can say is that we totally love and agree with this post. (But that's kind of the norm with your blog, isn't it? ;P) Hopefully raising awareness of this kind of self-internalized misogyny can help us, as writers and parents, guide the next generation away from it.

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