This year, the conversations with my niece have become conversations with my nieces. I have nieces that span the ages of 4 to 20, and I thought why deprive the younger ones of my infinite wisdom (much to my eldest niece’s relief).
My niece, who we discussed last week, needed a babysitter for her party with her friends. This niece is 8, and everything an 8 year old should be; overly talkative, inquisitive, inhibited and finds the word ‘poo’ hilarious. She is also often seeped in more pink and Hello Kitty attire than I would prefer, but, those are her choices to make.
So, on this cold Saturday afternoon, I find myself with six 8 year old girls…What to do? What to do? Naturally, I got them into a circle on the floor and we played a game about women role models (If I was 8, I would hate me too), but then they got to watch movies and eat popcorn after, so back off.
During the afternoon, they talked about some of the other girls in school, apparently some of the other girls don’t like their little group, whilst talking, here’s what one of them said:
“Mum says it doesn’t matter because we are all friends, and she probably doesn’t like us because she’s just jealous”
First bit excellent, second bit not so much. But, at the tender age of 8, this little girl (and many like her) have decided that the fellow woman is jealous competition.
The idea of other women being competition made me think a lot this week. What are other women competition for? Male attention? Jobs? The last pair of size 6 shoes at a sale? Catching the last seat on the bus? If they really are prone to such jealousy and competition, I’m surprised we don’t all were headbands resembling the 118 dudes, constantly running to places before everyone else. HAHA! I made it to the end of the Asda aisle before you, sucka! Incidentally this has made me think of this from Mean Girls.
I’ve sat at dinner with actual friends whilst a monologue ran through my head “God she looks great, I could never wear something like that”. “Is she about to eat that burger? I just got fat looking at it” etc etc….that’s normal, I get that kind of competition, but it doesn’t stop me from having a relationship with these women.
One of my friends who works in the dirty corporate world, talks to me about this all the time. She recently went to a women’s networking event and was told “Only a few of the women in this room will make it to senior management, the women on your right is your biggest competition to get there, you have to make sure you are noticed from the herd.”
Wow. So let’s not talk about why only a few of them will be senior managers, lets instead focus on them climbing over each other to get to the top.
We are in world that encourages us to see fellow women as competition, rather than individuals who are dealing with the same crap we all are. This is one very BIG distraction from solidarity and a huge block in feminism’s path.
We need a little sisterhood. Now, by no means am I suggesting we should all hold hands, do each other’s hair and be besties forever. Aside from that making me want to vomit, it isn’t the meaning of sisterhood. You don’t have to like every woman (God knows, there are plenty I don’t, mainly the Kardashians, there’s a sisterhood that doesn’t need to exist). It’s not about liking, it’s not even about agreeing, it’s about common ground and creating a movement. If we see other women as a problem, how will we create a world that can see them as a solution? See them as around the table for the important decisions, the CEO of that company or the elected parliamentarian for that constituency?
And time and time again, I’ve had to witness this lack of sisterhood within the core of the feminist movement. How sad. We have a group of like-minded feminists there and another group of like minded feminists over there, and never the two shall meet. We have a whole society of patriarchy keep us from uniting and creating change.Why are we doing their work for them? I bet they are somewhere drinking champagne, smoking a cigar and laughing at the “little ladies, at it again”.
My psyche has decided that an image of patriarchy is some form of 1950’s gentleman’s club – which is probably about right.
Take the example of Suzanne Moore and her column which made a (yes, not very well thought through) comment about “Brazilian Transsexuals”. What she said wasn’t absolutely not ok, I believe the movement is for all self-defining women, but the attack wasn’t much better. The whole situation could have been somewhat remedied had it not been for Julie Burchill coming to Suzanne Moore’s defense. Though, this ‘defense’ felt more like bigotry and a way to increase her readership.
Twitter isn’t the place to go for solidarity at the best of times, but yesterday I saw this:
She is mocking the use of ‘trigger warning’. A term many people put ahead of posting something which may include vivid descriptions or graphic illustrations of violence against women. The people that do this are simply ensuring that those who read will be able to make an informed choice rather than clicking on something and it having a PTSD related symptom for them. It might seem a little odd or like people are being wrapped in cotton wool, especially given PTSD can be triggered by anything. But, what I saw in this tweet, was this need to mock and belittle what some people, genuinely, do as a means to create a safe and accessible movement for all. Think about the fact that many women who become activists, are doing so after experiencing violence themselves. But, rather than accepting that some feminists do this, maybe talking to them about it in a less crappy way, or deciding to not agree and not do it herself, Julie Bindel decides to mock it. Thanks sister.
Have I got the wrong end of the stick? Are we not all trying to create a world which respects and values women, a world free of gendered violence and world with an equal economical, political and societal platform as men? That is what we’re all doing you say? How exciting. (Stella Duffy has written and excellent piece on this).
So, how about we talk to each other, argue, debate and disagree, but remind ourselves of who we are actually fighting and why.
And in the mean time, if an impressionable young girl talks to you about some girl she isn’t getting along with, try not to tell her it’s because she’s jealous. It simply reinforces women against women. If you’re going to encourage them not to be friends (and decided to try questionable parenting skills), say something non gender related, like she smells. Ta very much.
In solidarity, sisters (vom)