This is a post trying to explain my thoughts on how I see a lot of women talk about what separates them from to social expectations of femininity. In other words, girls who brag about not being like “other girls”. I’ll touch upon person matters maybe once or twice but it’s not significant enough to warrant a duel category.
Content warnings include: Very infrequent use of sexist slurs (specifically the term “slut shame” as it has a slur in its name), binary viewpoint (as in, I’ll be talking almost exclusively in guy vs. girl terms as this is the easiest way to configure my thoughts on this matter. That isn’t to say I’m unaware that non-binary people may be affected by these dynamics, I just haven’t observed enough non-binary folk speak to this kind of thing to form ideas about it), and discussion of patriarchy.
I’ll be up front about using Tumblr on a very frequent basis, I like the site and I generally like the content I’m provided. But I’m far from being uncritical of the trends that circulate the website. One of which is the frequent ridicule of girls who try and separate themselves from other girls by bragging about traits which, in the big picture, aren’t all that unique for a girl to have.
Now, I’m not a girl, but I was treated like one for the vast majority of my life. I thought I was a girl and so did everybody else. I remember in Middle School falling into the same thought process as the girls I’m talking about. I thought because I rejected make-up, fashion, gossip, and other stereotypically “feminine” behaviours and interests that I was special. I thought I was a unique person, but most importantly, I thought I was better than all those other girls.
So often this happens, mostly with girls who are young (but someone may maintain this thought process until much later in life and perhaps for their entire lives). Someone who is aware of how patriarchy functions, and how competition between girls is particularly damaging to feminist ideas and movements, may find these girls obnoxious. It’s easy to roll ones eyes at their claims of being unique, better, and different over traits that one is well aware not only exist in many women, but can exist without conflicting with “feminine” interests and traits.
But I don’t think that’s particuarly right to do, as it completely overlooks the complex systems that tend to produce such behaviours. After all, in a patriarchal society, masculine traits are praised. Men are the top dogs and the more masculine a man is the more valued they are. It makes sense that women who find themselves naturally drawn to, or displaying, masculinity will start seeing themselves as better than their more feminine peers. They are basically saying “Look at me, I do all these things so I’m not weak like them. Therefore, I am worth more as a person and this should be reflected in how my peers treat me”.
Often the behaviour of the guys around a girl like this will actually provide reinforcement of that attitude, at least to some extent. Particuarly when both parties are younger (Middle School to early High School age), a girl with masculine traits may be treated with far more respect than her feminine peers. She may be praised and have the “privilege” of hanging out with guys and being apart of their recreational activities. More importantly, she isn’t seen as threatening. Her presence as a masculine girl doesn’t directly conflict with the guys masculinity.
(On that note, later on in life, the straight girls who hold these beliefs may find themselves being pushed aside in terms of romantic and sexual encounters for girls who are more feminine. In terms of straight partnership, a masculine girl is conventionally undesirable. As this person grows older still they may find guys growing even more distant as they become more and more intimidated by them. They may be called names like “bitch” and perhaps actively roadblocked in their careers.)
I feel like the irony in making fun of these girls is that it’s really no better than what those girls are doing to others. It’s still putting another girl down and creating tensions and abrasion between women.
I’ve found the best approach to be an indirect challenge of the ideas that person is putting forth. For example: Slut shaming is very common among those girls. This is the notion that because a woman sleeps with many people (particuarly men) they are bad, dirty, and undesirable. The girls who hold masculine traits often abstain from frequent sexual intercourse and brag about it as to make themselves seem more valuable. Slut shaming is something that many who are in feminist circles agree is very toxic and sexist. The very definition of the word slut varies wildly, with some people feeling that even sleeping with so much as more than one guy in a wide timespan warrants the usage of the word in its oppressive context.
When my childhood best friend started to slut shame I started asking her questions. Why would the nature of a woman’s sex life negate their intellect? Why would the number of partners a woman has been with erase her accomplishments? Why bother factoring in someones private life when talking only about their professional accomplishments? Furthermore, the amount of sex one has with different people doesn’t define ones personality. Someone can be kind and gentle and still like to have lots of sex, one does not negate the other.
Basically what I’m getting at is that bullying someone over a problematic belief, particuarly when that belief stems from ignorance, isn’t generally a great way to give that person a reality check. It’s certainly does not provide them with an alternate way of thinking, and instead aggravates them and makes them feel bad.
Now I’m far from being a person who can, with any authority, tell girls what they can and cannot do in order to foster a healthy community and a movement to obtain equal status to men. Furthermore, I understand that aggressive responses to oppressive ideas is often a valid response. People who are oppressed are so often expected to be educating towards their oppressors and it gets exhausting. Though in this case we have intra-group tensions, so I feel like it’s a bit more valid to be critical of aggressive tactics. At any rate, take my words with a grain of salt and understand that I do not wish to directly impose my beliefs. Rather, I simply want to get my words out there. Perhaps people will agree with my thoughts who can speak with that authority. Perhaps they will not and let me know.
Either way I really wanted to get this off of my chest and onto some kind of medium.