[Read: five things that I do that most women probably do but rarely own up to perhaps because of social conditioning and lack of media representation, plus how I intend to own them and thereby obliterate the misogynist in me.]
There, I said it. There's a bit of misogyny in me. As a feminist, I probably would have always denied that to the hilt, until a project I recently read about forced me to reflect on how I really see myself in relation to other women.
We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere is a book by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel, comprising a vision for how women could challenge the current societal narrative of competing with and trying to 'out-perfect' each other, and begin to relate to one another not as rivals, but as potential friends. The philosophy has it that we would move from the 'me' to the collective, sisterly 'we,' admitting our imperfections and accepting - rather than scorning - those of others.
At first, I thought this was nothing new; it simply reaffirmed my feminist world view. I don't judge other women for their life choices. I support and encourage other women. I despise the patriarchy, and regularly point out how it affects women and feel duty bound to draw people's attention to it.
And then I reflected, deeply, painfully and honestly, until I was able to admit to myself the things I do that play up to the current dynamic that we as women occupy.
It's a dynamic of contradictions and falsehoods. Most of us like to think we've got each other's backs, and yet - consciously or subconsciously - we size each other up, working out who is hotter, thinner, better dressed, more articulate, more confident, then quickly calculate how we're going to fit in, or perhaps work out how we're going to present ourselves in order that our egos don't have to suffer the shame of our being seen to be somehow less worthy. Either that, or we demonise ourselves, indulging that powerful and cruel internal voice as we fail to recognise that we're all different, yet equally wonderful.
I mean, I do both. And maybe I'm wrong; maybe other women don't do either, at all, ever. But while I'd never explicitly put another woman down, I'm loath to ever admit my weaknesses and flaws, those flaws for which I constantly berate myself in private. If you believed the social media version of me, you'd believe I was always happy, well groomed, passionate, witty, caring and philosophical. I ain't. And while I'm aware that social media has given everyone - men and women - a platform to express the evolutionary trait of outdoing one another (to compete for mates, essentially), I still feel that the warts-and-all woman that exists in all of us - all of us - is so seldom represented in society, and ergo we have to make do with unrealistic archetypes.
So in an attempt to change the narrative of comparison and competition, I hereby rescind my perfectionist wankery and admit some of my many faults. If we can be more open about our shortcomings, put them out there, even make light of them, this will surely weaken the stranglehold of society's attempt to pit us against one another.
#1 I'm a rubbish feminist sometimes
Often, my default, autopilot response to situations is that of a non-feminist. I'm careless. And if someone calls me out on it, I'll defend with 'yeah but, yeah but ...' like some indignant frog; ego defences again- I mean, how dare you criticise me for not being feminist enough?
I'd like to have thought through all the arguments, got my stance down to a T, in order never to be caught out; or else be able to accept a challenge humbly and reflectively, with the wisdom and grace of Sophie from Sophie's Choice (archetypes, again)!
But hey, I'm human, and I regularly fuck up. I'm not the only one; check out the Guilty Feminist podcast for more admissions of abject failure.
#2 I can be angry and jealous
The whole gamut of 'shameful' emotions, in actual fact. The ones that women, by warrant of upbringing and social norms, are talked out of showing, and henceforth admitting. I get angry at myself and others, and I get jealous of others, mostly women. That leads me to revisit all my personal inadequacies, hate myself, and look for even more people who I perceive to be better than me at life to complete the tortuous cycle.
I'm shaking my head as I write this, because this circuitous habit is preventing me from doing what I want to do, which is truly celebrating other women for who they are, the good bits and the bad bits, myself included. In a world where people seldom own up to their own flaws except in poetry and therapy, to be honest about how we really feel can be dangerous; yet it is surely the first step towards exploring what we think we lack, and daring to accept ourselves and others.
#3 I frequently look like shit
I post pictures of myself on social media sites where I look quite nice, probably for validation. In life itself I have fat days, ugly days, fat and ugly days, days when I spill coffee on my dressing gown and my hair's horrendous. The castigating tone is deliberate; it's our collective internal voice. Fat days shouldn't even exist; they derive from a lexicon of judgement and scorn that we, and the media, perpetuate. How fucking tedious. I can't believe I care.
#4 I believe in a patriarchal, monotheistic God
A random insertion, I know. I don't like this about me, because I can't own it with confidence. It defies the logical side of me, and is so socially conditioned and irrational that I can't win any argument in which I'm called upon to justify myself. And yet this conviction will always be a part of me, and I can't intellectualise it. It brings something to my life, and yet I'm so tentative around it.
#5 Some days, I just can't be arsed with it all
Compassion fatigue, lethargy, apathy ... call it what you will, sometimes I can't summon the caring side of me, and just want to crawl into a ravine.
Do other women feel like me, or is this article a load of farcical assumptions? Please share your thoughts below!