As a feminist, I believe that the misogynistic language and images which dominate our culture are powerful enough to influence the way that men think. That's why I hate Page 3, why I hate that you can watch violence against women on TV every night of the week, why I hate rape jokes and why I hate that nearly every product on every market is advertised by a woman in her pants sitting astride it. I hate misogyny, but it's part of the culture that I swim in and I cannot suppose myself immune to its effects merely because I am a woman. My culture tells me that women are vain, stupid, bitchy and that their value is tied up in how they look. This attitude is more insidious than we give it credit for; it's why I was able to do the following.
Once upon a time, I vaguely had my eye on a boy. One evening, up comes a photo of him with another girl on Facebook. I was surprised by how much this annoyed me. Putting the detective skills picked up from all those hours in front of Vera to good use, I thoroughly dissected the photo and then sat back to come to my conclusion. After more thought than I'd like to admit, I decided I actually wasn't that bothered. Because, basically, I didn't think this girl was attractive, so why would he be interested in going out with her?
Now, I'm not proud of this- but I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only person who has had the thought. I had decided that this girl wasn't a "threat" to any future relationship not because I was more interesting, or because I had more in common with the boy in question, but because I decided that I didn't like the way she looked. I had reduced both myself and a fellow human being to our cup sizes, facial symmetry and ability to not look cock-eyed in photographs. If someone ever does fall in love with me and turns to me in a romantic fervour whispering "darling, I love you because your face was the nicest one in the pool available to me" I will be livid. But seemingly, at some level, I think that's all other women deserve.
That women are figures of contempt is illustrated nowhere more clearly than in the gilded laurel of: "you're not like the other girls". Why is that a compliment? It's a compliment because we're told that the other girls are worthless. They're naggy, vain, selfish, and boring. Most of all, they're stupid and disposable. That's why I can be appalled that a stranger sent me a Facebook message saying: "yeh rape jokes are funny whereas bitches need to shut the fuck up and spread their legs" but happily dance to songs detailing what men are going to do to their "bitches" without thinking about it.
Our desire to distance ourselves from "other girls" is partly because there's only room for one cool girl in anything. Look at the posters of major movie releases this year and see how many of them have more than one woman on them. Think about the number of professional female relationships depicted on screen that contain no element of glaring and jealousy. There's one cool girl. One cool female police officer, one cool lawyer, one cool spy in the action movie, one cool CEO in the boardroom, one cool female superhero. We all want to be the one girl cool enough to ride with the boys, which means that there's no room for general female friendship or support because other women are our competition.
I know so many great women. I have incredible female mentors, friends, family members and role models. If you asked me to name 10 amazing women in my immediate acquaintance you'd have to stop me at 50 before I drew breath. By acknowledging the impact that our misogynistic culture has had on the way I think about women, I hope that I can one day be in some way worthy to count myself their friend, sister and student. Maybe one day there'll even be room for two cool girls on the movie poster.