This won’t be the first time I’ve written about empowerment. Oddly though, in my daily life, it’s not something I think about all that much. I don’t particularly feel, with regards to the educational, civil and employment opportunities afforded to me, that I am any less than equal to my male counterparts—I know this makes me luckier than a lot of women.
But I think there are still huge problems in the way women are viewed in society—often, by other women.
As high school teacher Ms. Norbury tries to explain in the popular teen movie, Mean Girls:
“You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. That only makes it OK for GUYS to call you sluts and whores.”
How can we expect respect from everyone if we don’t show respect from each other? I’ve noticed many women shamelessly judging each other for things they’d never want to be judged for themselves, by women or men. While respect should not have to be earned in this way, I still can’t help but feel that as a group we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.
When I read articles about how the media gives women an unrealistic body image for instance, it would be foolish not to agree. Seeing ridiculously photo-shopped images of women with “perfect” skin, slim, toned bodies and gorgeous hair that I will never have would probably not have the best impact… but as a teen I always found it quite easy to keep in my head the knowledge that these people are not real. This is not how I am supposed to look.
What did make me feel bad about my own body image were the comments from other girls. I suffered from acne which was always commented on. One bully in particular would make me feel self-conscious about my weight—which I can tell you now was actually nothing other than distinctly average—until I went through phases of feeling too guilty and disgusting to eat, and really disliking my body. Luckily, this did not last long. My mum was very blunt about the fact that skipping food would not make me healthy, and my good friends re-assured me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my weight. This did open my eyes to the fact, however, that girls who feel insecure about themselves will often bully other girls about the same things. In this way, we are creating divides within groups of young women who could be coming together to overcome adversity. How can we complain about men judging us by our bodies when we judge each other so harshly?
If you’re part of a group which you feel is marginalised, it is important to weed out judgement from within the group before looking to the outside.
However, the way not to do this is the way many people have been going about it. To place your group either on a pedestal or define the group as victims can only be detrimental.
Promoting a healthy body image for girls and women who might have larger frames or more curvy bodies does not need to entail Meghan Trainor referring to slimmer girls and women as “bitches.”
Promoting gender equality does not need to entail Natalie Bennett bringing every SINGLE political point back to the fact that she is a woman, and referring to all public service workers as “she” in a recent debate. (For future reference, that accepted form for gender neutrality would usually be “they”).
Promoting rights for LGBT+ people does not have to entail asking a straight person: “Yes but are you sure you’re straight?” and trying to get them to kiss someone of the same gender, just to make sure.
Equality and security in ourselves has to come from within before it can be promoted to the outside.