There was a point in my life when I hated Beyonce. I know, right? Who hates Beyonce?! But I also hated most girls I felt were prettier, smarter, and better than me. I also hated most girls, period. I hated the color pink. I hated “girly” activities like jumping rope. I hated dresses. I hated femininity. I hated being thought of as a girl.
“Girls are just as good as boys,” I’d proclaim, feeling indignant to the fact that I had to be a stupid girl.
To me, being a “girl” meant being the things most in society do not accept or appreciate. I’ve certainly grown out of that now – I embrace the fact that I’m a woman, I proudly proclaim that I’m a feminist, I love “feminine” items (like dresses and, yes, the color pink), and I make it a point to celebrate other women. This list of my lady-heroes is about a mile long, and Beyonce is right on top.
Yet I would be a fool to try to say I’ve always supported women. Sadly, I learned to carry disdain for all things lady-like from the world around me. While technically, men and women are “equal” under the law in that it’s illegal to pay men and women different salaries for the same job, it still happens.
And we see how women are undervalued in small things that unravel every day:
- We insult men by telling them they’re acting like “bitches” (a gendered insult).
- We hurt boys by telling them they “throw like a girl.”
- We cast things like fashion, makeup, and knitting aside as inferior hobbies.
- We judge women for their choices – to be a mom or not, to work or not, to sleep around or not.
- We pay women less than men.
- We overall pay less in careers that are stereotypically female-dominated, like teaching.
- We belittle the arts, which many women study.
- We call movies featuring women “chick flicks” or books by women “chick lit” and we scoff at it.
- We put down other women to make ourselves feel better.
When you’re constantly bombarded by this chatter – everything from Taylor Swift lyrics, where she’s making fun of a girl for wearing “high heels” and being a “cheerleader” to men in government who believe women are too stupid to be in charge of their bodies – it’s hard not to let it impact you. No matter how hard you try.
I definitely used to be someone who believed I wasn’t “like other girls.” I bought into the messages society often bombards young women (and everyone, really) with, telling us: strong, powerful women are divas and bitches; most women are catty and can’t be trusted; any woman who is open about her sexuality is a slut; any woman who isn’t open about her sexuality is a prude.
But I was able to change these attitudes and, in turn, also change how I felt about myself. Here’s how you can, too.
1. Don’t buy into blanket statements.
All women are catty. Women who sleep around are sluts. Women are dramatic. Women can’t be trusted. Women are backstabbers. Women are uptight. Women are bitches. All of these things are blatant lies meant to pit women against each other. It prevents women from building strong relationships between one another and paints men as the superior gender — which is totally untrue. Men can be catty, dramatic, backstabbing, and uptight, too. Blanket statements about any group can be harmful, but especially when it’s about women, since these attitudes feel so casual and accepted that we don’t even question it anymore.
2. Respect each woman’s decisions.
There’s no “wrong” or “right” way to be a woman. Some ladies are born women, some become women. Some become moms, some don’t. Some marry, some wear dresses, some shave their legs, some love the color pink, some wear bows in their hair, some enjoy baking. And some don’t. If we stop fretting so much about what everyone else is doing or not doing with their life, we can suppress some of those urges to judge other people.
3. Respect your own decisions – and don’t make yourself feel bad for them.
Your decisions deserve respect, too! Forget about the fact that it may feel like every other woman out there is settling down with a significant other and purchasing a home and focus on what you want. Do your best not to make yourself feel bad for your own choices.
4. Change your inner monologue.
This one’s so tough, but in order to stop judging other people, we also need to stop judging ourselves. Think about it: if you judge other women on whether they’re too fat, too thin, too tall, too confident, too whatever, you’re probably also judging yourself for these very things. Change how you feel about yourself and you can change how you feel about others, too.
5. Lift other women up, rather than tearing them down.
Given the choice between uttering a compliment or silently passing judgment, go for the former. Not only will you make the other person feel better, but you’ll feel better for doing something kind. Support other women whenever you can, whether that’s just trying to stick up for them in conversations or actively trying to work with women’s organizations. It doesn’t have to be big; it just needs to be a positive interaction with other women. Little things really add up. Lift others up, and you’ll simultaneously lift yourself up, too.