Mia reflects that feminism IS for everybody, and that includes ladies.
Confession: I used to be one of those girls who said she didn’t like other girls. Which wasn’t true, per se. I’ve always had close female friends, but my larger social circle tends to skew masculine. Even in college, where I got to bond with young women with similar worldviews and a similar penchant for sequined dresses, I firmly clung to this amorphous belief that, apart from a few extraordinary women, I just bonded more easily with guys.
What I knew then – and what I freely admitted to myself but never thoroughly examined – was that I held women to much higher standards than men. A girl really had to prove that she was cool and funny and smart before I would consider being her friend. A guy with bad taste? At least he’s funny at parties! A boring girl? Insipid – definitely not worth my time.
As you may imagine, my female friends were and are loud girls – girls who left me no time to consider how cool they were because they didn’t care if I thought they were cool. They’re confident and saucy (and sassy!) and wear their sequined dresses with pride. I like being around self-assured women – and maybe our personalities just mesh. But I can’t help but feel I’ve been a little unfair to my sex as a whole.
In Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks stresses that women, as well as men, perpetuate sexism. And I think my formerly dismissive attitude towards my female peers is a prime example of internalized sexism. I mean, fine, not everyone has to be friends. But there are a lot of girls I never gave a fair chance. And why was that? Well, a lot of them were too girly.
Yes, even I – the lady who’s trying to be in the running for Feminist of the Year or Another Prize That Would Probably Be Problematic If It Actually Existed – found myself wary of people of the female persuasion who betrayed that much-maligned trait called girliness. I can recall my distaste and not-so-gracious condescension when I overheard two female classmates, our freshman year of college, talking about how they had baked a casserole for their entire floor. “How disgustingly domestic!” I thought. But had the classmates been male, I probably would have just thought they were into cooking, and casseroles are kind of funny.
Through this haze of internalized sexism I couldn’t see that I was writing off anything traditionally feminine as less-than. And the weird thing is, I love a lot of things that are usually associated with women (and derided because of that association): fashion, competitive figure skating, Masterpiece Theatre miniseries. But maybe I saw those as safe, female-dominated spaces (at least on the surface) that men couldn’t judge me for liking because most of them just didn’t care enough to judge. Whereas when it came to music – that bastion of maleness and male opinions – I firmly resisted listening to female singers. In my self-conscious adolescent days, music was a way for me to prove that I knew what was going on. So I trusted those male opinions to judge for me, and that’s why I said – for years, mind you – “I just don’t like female singers.”
No one ever bothered to call me out on this. Because, of course, women are expected not to like each other. We’re expected to fight (cat fight, of course, because it’s so sexxi) and to backstab and to be consumed by jealousy. So when hooks calls female bonding “an act of treason,” she’s not exaggerating. For women to come together and to compare stories and to decide to work together against oppression is a real threat to patriarchy.
“Sisterhood is powerful,” hooks says, citing a phrase that became a slogan of 70s feminism. And while it initially sounded outdated and cliched to my young, jaded ears, I’ve come around to it. One of my nagging goals in writing this blog is to get more men involved in feminism. But if I won’t even attempt solidarity with other women, what’s the point?