“How can she claim to be ageless, when her face is filled with more plastic than the sea?” That was the comment I saw on Facebook that really set my fury off.
I’ve also seen comments from women on other women’s makeup (too much, too little, too old/young/bright). On what they wear: “Sorry, no, I wouldn’t at your age”. And on weight: “Eurgh, how can she let herself get that way - it’s a choice and it shouldn’t be celebrated”.
Frankly, I’m furious.
Furious that as myself and others strive to make society more accepting of our right to look and live how we want, another contingent is determined on keeping us all down by perpetuating the stereotype that women are awful to one another. I wonder if women who feel it necessary to be so callous with their remarks online would have the same gumption in person?
In my experience, these remarks are usually delivered in a less direct manner: behind the back, muttered at the school gates, or in WhatsApp chats that can’t be proven. The only place that I see such brutality shared openly is on social media. Find me any female-fronted content and I’ll show you the bitter judgement we’re slinging at one another, usually justified with “I’m allowed my opinion”.
I’d ask “when did we get so cruel?” But, seeing the sheer prevalence of such remarks, I think the question has to be “how do we stop this now?”
It’s nothing less than bullying and we must look at why it is so rife, after all, social media is only a reflection of the society it serves. Sexism is part of it. For hundreds of years, our only true worth was measured by our looks, childbearing ability and class. Being prettier or more accepted meant less prospect of experiencing poverty, so a culture of women-against-women competition made sense.
But for the last 50 years, we’ve made huge strides into freedom. We work, manage our own money, buy our own homes and make our choice of spouse based on who we love, not whom our fathers manage to barter us for. So why are we still so itchingly keen to suppress each other so cruelly?
Hang out on forums or read comment sections for hours and you’ll read women tearing into each other for every aspect of their lives. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about shutting down free speech. I love discussion. Honest communication between us is vital to challenge the stereotypes that keep us all down.
I did a pro-age tour and wanted to promote “inclusive ageing”. Living the idea that we should be allowed to make our own choices about how we get older without anyone suggesting we’re doing it wrong.
We’ve had some amazing conversations with women who deeply disagree with one another, but disagreeing doesn’t mean hurting. “I don’t agree with how you’re choosing to look” is very different to “I think you look hideous and you’re disgusting to choose to look that way”.
There’s no excuse for it.
We must remember that at the end of our nasty comments are real women, with real insecurities, who experience real hurt at our words. When we get it right and treat each other with decency, it’s a thing to behold, but when we insist on being cruel, instead of compassionate, we not only let ourselves down, we hold back progress for everyone.
From this point on, I’m urging these women to think before they post. Before you share a nasty comment, ask yourself how you’d feel if it were delivered to you, or your daughter or your mum?