One of the most crucial things to realize as a feminist is that ALL people-both male and female- are participants in our patriarchal society. This means that women contribute to their own oppression.
My Women’s Studies professor brought this to our attention the other week in class, and she couldn’t be more right. My initial reaction was, “why would women bring oppression on themselves? We don’t do that, we all hate oppression.” I had a hard time agreeing with this, which provoked my investigative mind.
Our class discussion was intended to introduce things like genital cutting and foot-binding in other parts of the world and how oftentimes, it is women, not men, who are committing these acts; rites of passage, as they might be in other cultures.
But I wanted to apply this concept on a more local level.
How do women contribute to the oppression of women? I’ll tell you how. We oppress ourselves and the women around us because we hate other women.
Admittedly, I am guilty of this. I intentionally avoided the entire female population in my high school. I’d never had more than one girl friend in my entire adolescent existence. To this day, there are very few women in my life that I could confidently call a “friend.” I had generalized that ALL girls were stuck up, back-stabbing snots, and I wanted no part in that.
Also, I’m really good at judging other women-unfeministically (yeah, it’s a word now) labeling girls who wear short shorts or low cut tops “sluts”, girls who make snarky comments or have a bit of an attitude a word-that-starts-with-B, and the like.
I know, it’s hypocritical of me. But, let’s face it, every last one of us is a hypocrite to some degree. So don’t go judging me just yet.
The beauty of it all is that now that I’ve realized my wrong-doings, I have the power to decide to change.
This morning, in the bathroom at the university, while I was washing my hands, a girl who was self-consciously examining herself in the mirror told me she liked my outfit, and it gave me quite the confidence boost. I don’t know if it’s because of the lack of female allies in my life, but I don’t receive compliments from my own gender very often. Perhaps it’s because we tend to see other women as competition or something.
What I’m trying to get at here is that if girls could learn to treat other girls with the respect and equality that we demand for ourselves, the entire female population would be substantially more empowered.
Instead of being individual “feminists” who are fighting the good fight against the patriarchy on our own, wouldn’t it be extremely helpful to have some allies on our side?
I’ve realized that my views on feminism were rather selfish. What I wanted was equality for myself. I wasn’t particularly interested in empowerment and equality for the rest of the women in this world. But that’s all changed now.
So what do you say, ladies? I think the majority of you will agree with me that we girls can be nasty and hostile toward one another. But what if we all realized that we’re in the same boat, at least in regards to gender inequality, and help each other out a little?
I’m not saying we should all be “besties” or whatever. But we don’t have to be enemies, either.
That way, we could be each others’ support system, and actually bring about some progress in eliminating our own oppression.
Now who’s with me?